NIGER is sub-Saharan Africa's third-largest producer of onions - only Nigeria and South Africa produce more - and its bright purple and red Galmi onions are preferred by consumers across west Africa.
ADF is helping the members of the Gaya Onion Producers Cooperative increase their production and sales of Galmi onions, and it is providing the cooperative with resources that will allow its members to store their harvests until regional prices peak during the agricultural offseason.
|Project||Location||Funding Level||Funding Period|
|Gaya Onion Production & Marketing Project||Gaya, Niger||$182,000||FY 2005-2009|
In the 1980s, the Egg Marketing Board of New England faced a crisis. Advances in refrigeration and commercial transport had opened the door to competition from big egg-producing farms in the Mid-Atlantic States, and New England’s family farms were beginning to feel pressure from the competition.
The Egg Board rose to the challenge by launching a creative TV and radio campaign that used a catchy jingle to tout the superior quality of the brown eggs produced by local breeds of Rhode Island Red hens. Soon school children and rush-hour commuters were singing, “Brown eggs are local eggs, and local eggs are fresh!” and sales of the ivory-colored eggs produced by legions of Leghorns in Maryland and Delaware fell dramatically.
Onion farmers in Niger don’t have the resources to launch a similar ad campaign, but they, too, have benefited from a key color distinction that sets their product apart from the onion offerings of large-scale European competitors. The Sahelian farmlands of southern Niger and northern Nigeria are renowned across west Africa for growing bright, succulent, red and purple Galmi onions that add just the right bite to traditional stews, soups, and relishes. EU producers, by contrast, specialize in yellow onion varieties whose color identifies them as imports and makes them a distant second choice among west African buyers.
Niger’s dry climate – which normally poses incredible challenges to local agricultural producers – also provides farmers who specialize in onion production with a distinct competitive advantage over their counterparts in other west African countries. Because onions thrive in drier soils and low humidity, they grow abundantly in the hand-irrigated farmlands that surround the Niger River to the west and south of the capital city of Niamey and along Niger’s southern border region with Nigeria. Niger has thus emerged as sub-Saharan Africa’s third largest onion producer, delivering 270,000 metric tons per year, and it is the primary regional supplier of onions to consumer markets in Benin, Togo, Ghana, and Cote D’Ivoire.
But Niger’s small-scale onion growers have long struggled to generate significant profit from their work because many cannot afford to hold on to the bulk of their harvests until prices peak at the height of the dry season in February and March. Producers living near the subsistence level often sell their yields just after harvest in August and September, when local markets are saturated with new produce and prices are extremely low. Farmers sell their crops to retire accumulated debts and purchase grain, medicine, and other basic necessities, leaving them with little cash to invest in tools, irrigation technology, hand-made storage shelters, and other inputs that would help them expand their production and profitability over time.
ADF is helping the 141 members of the Gaya Onion Producers Cooperative tap the profit potential of their crop by providing them with financing to assist individual members in acquiring inputs to expand onion production and to give the cooperative the means to purchase, store, and market members’ produce.
The cooperative was conceived in the early 1990s, when the director of a local agricultural development project decided to test how much more Nigerien farmers and onion resellers could earn by delaying the sale of their produce. He loaned five producers 50,000 CFA – the equivalent of about $95 each – to assist them in buying onions and storing them for four months. When the participants sold their stocks at the height of the dry season, they earned an average of 260,000 CFA and pocketed a 420 percent return on investment.
ADF funding in the amount of US $182,000 will help Gaya apply the lessons of that experiment and provide more farmers with the capacity to capitalize on local and regional marketing opportunities. A significant portion of the financing will be used to acquire agricultural inputs that will assist farmers in maximizing the production potential of their farmland. The cooperative will purchase:
50 portable 3.5 horsepower motor pumps to assist farmers in irrigating their holdings with water drawn from open water sources and wells.
50 yoking sets – consisting of harnesses, carts, plows, and pairs of oxen – to help members extend the total amount of land they have under cultivation; and
New Galmi onion seed varieties from central Niger that are extremely popular with west African consumers.
Gaya members will access these inputs from the cooperative through the services of an ADF-capitalized revolving loan fund that will disburse low-interest loans repayable over four years.
The cooperative willl also construct two 100-square-meter warehouses - each equipped with solar ventilation and a storage capacity of 31.5 tons - and ADF will provide Gaya with working capital so that it can pay its members cash on delivery. The onions will then be stored for several months and sold to international buyers during the lean season for a price range of 200-to-300 percent above the harvest season price. The additional profits from lean-season sales will be returned to Gaya members, and the warehouse operation will retain six percent of the revenues to cover its annual operating and marketing expenses.
Gaya management will receive training in business management, bookkeeping, and marketing, and the cooperative’s managers will also receive funds to conduct a study tour of the Galmi onion growing region of central Niger. In addition, every Gaya member will receive HIV/AIDS awareness training.
Training services will be provided by the staff of ADF’s Niger partner organization, Actions pour un Développement Intégré et Durable à la Base (ADIDB).
It is expected that the five-year project will:
Raise the incomes of participating onion farmers from US $50 per year to US $223, a figure that will be nearly double the average Nigerien income of US $118 per year;
Increase the cooperative’s net profit from $23,500 to $132,570;
Expand the quantity of onion produced by cooperative members from 1,965 tons to 3,929 tons; and
Expand the quantity of onions sold by the cooperative from 1,110 tons to 2,216 tons.