On the occasion of the 40th anniversary of Fert, organized on September 22 and 23, 2021 in Paris, five exchange visits in different French regions were proposed for Fert partners from 8 countries. A delegation of four Burkinabe and one Ivorian was welcomed by Accir, Fert’s partner in Burkina Faso, to discover the agriculture of the Champagne region and to exchange with professionals from the agricultural sector.

The Association champenoise de coopération interrégionale (Acccir) is an association of agricultural professionals whose aim is to support agricultural development in Africa through exchanges with farmers in the Champagne-Ardenne region. Accir has been a partner of Fert since 2007 to support cowpea farmers’ organizations in their development.

Discovering the Champagne region

During 5 days, a delegation composed of technicians and farmers from Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast and France visited four farms, a cooperative and two experimentation sites and met several farmers – cereal growers, market gardeners, wine growers – and agricultural technicians of the region. Champagne’s agriculture mainly concerns large cereal farms (more than 100 ha), sugar beets or alfalfa, and wine farms.

In spite of a radically different context, the visitors have drawn rich lessons from these visits.

I discovered many things, I learned a lot. I met a farmer who does direct sales. I had this idea in my head. Now I know that it works, he convinced me to persevere.

For example, thanks to the passionate explanations of Jean-Marie, member of the Accir and retired winegrower, the delegation discovered the whole history of champagne and how the winegrowers organized themselves to defend their interests against the traders.

To exchange on the profession of farmer and the dynamics of solidarity between farmers

Each visit allowed the French, Burkinabe and Ivorian farmers to share their experiences. The delegation was impressed by the mutual aid and mutualism between farmers. Like Cédric, an apple producer, who has set up a win-win exchange with his neighbor, a sheep farmer. The sheep can come and graze in his orchards, so he doesn’t need to weed and his neighbor saves on food. Similarly, the delegation was surprised to discover a common organization between three farmers of different generations. Jean, Thomas and Hervé each have a cereal farm but manage the crop rotation and the equipment together.

Discover the organization of French agriculture

After a visit to the seed station, the delegation visited the Esternay cooperative. This cooperative is far from the reality of Burkinabe and Ivorian farmers, as it represents 18,000 hectares for 200 members. However, the latter were very interested in the functioning and membership mechanisms of the cooperative.

I was impressed by the mutual help and organization among the farmers. I understood that it is not the number that makes the cooperative, but the commitment and trust of the members.

A focus on agricultural experimentation

To meet the needs of partners, Accir has devoted several visits to the theme of agricultural experimentation. Indeed, the Fert team in Burkina Faso conducts experiments in the field to advise farmers but wishes to improve its method. The delegation was therefore welcomed at Accir headquarters for a presentation of the basics of experimentation by Jean Louis Garnotel, a member of Accir, and Gérard Briffaut, a former employee of Arvalis and Fert.

Exchange visits are an integral part of the Fert agri-agency’s approach. The dialogue between farmers and technicians is a powerful lever to advance thinking and implement projects.