Agriculture, the centre pillar of the Ivorian economy has various problems. One of these problems is the lack of genuine policy of revitalization of the sector. Even though a major hurdle has been crossed through the setting up of councils for the main perennial cultivations, it is very noticeable that these bodies lack in various aspects. Furthermore, crop cultivations are neglected in such a way that they are only abundant during rainy season, and finding these products offseason is a huge challenge rarely undertaken by the population. The main reason for this is poor practice in farming techniques which do not make it possible to cultivate such crops in dry season.
As a result of this, tomatoes, yams, bananas, plantains, eggplants, okras, cassava amongst other crops become extremely rare during offseason, and in effect prices are extremely high during these seasons. Another paradox of our agricultural system is the poor distribution of afore mentioned products. As a matter of fact, most yields are destined for major city centres, particularly Abidjan. It is not a rare occurrence for populations of interior cities to “import” these crops from Abidjan as the market gets saturated and prices become affordable. Setting up simple measures and conditions to enhance production of such crops in off season, and raising farmer awareness has a better effect in perception of cultivation. This will also have a downstream effect of establishing a better distribution policy.
Another problem considered as a plague on our agricultural sector.
ADVOCATING FOR FUNDING OF COOPERATIVES
According to the CEDEAO policies, agricultural cooperatives had to become cooperative enterprises. With this new denomination, farmers should have access to adequate equipment for their activities, by benefiting from financing, not only from the coffee – cocoa, and the cashew and cotton councils, but also be able to apply for bank loans.
This last condition should help these enterprises with provision of funding and also help create jobs. However, the sad truth is that very few cooperatives are able to apply for bank loans. The guarantee fund was also created to be able to fund cooperative enterprises. However, this is not the case. We instead witness multinational companies create cooperatives from scratch; employ product buyers and trackers in order to gain unfair competitive advantage against other normally created cooperatives. We have to salute the actions taken by President Ouattara to establish governing bodies to manage perennial crop cultivations.
It is also necessary to condemn the lack of funding for cooperatives and the failures of the Coffee – Cocoa council missions, a coffee and cocoa farmer called M.O. from Abengourou complains. According to him, farmers can only depend on themselves, thus cannot work over the long term without facing difficulties. In order to be sustainable, cooperatives need to benefit from midterm bank loans with affordable interest rates. This will be able to permit them to hire agents, modernise their activities and consider primary transformation of products, thus increasing added value and helping fight unemployment.
If this stage is crossed, the producers and co-operators we met are convinced that impoverishment will gradually disappear from the country, with an understanding that the primary sector is the largest employer in the country. Producers welcome the guaranteed fixed price for coffee and cocoa that is 60% of international price. However, they hope for an increase in agricultural budget in order to broaden opportunities for professionals in the sector. A more aggressive approach in modernisation and industrialisation of the agricultural sector is also expected. A centralised warehouse must be created in various regions in order to make ports less cluttered. In this way, products are only taken towards the ports to immediately load onto ships. These are endeavours that will create employment for youths. Public service is saturated and cannot employ all those in search of work, M.O. advices.
Another handicap of our agricultural production is production outflow towards neighbouring Ghana.
A PREMEDITATED PRODUCT OUTFLOW
The outflow of cocoa and cashew towards Ghana from the east of the country (South Comoé, Indénié-Djuablin, Gontougo and Bounkani regions) is an open secret. The phenomenon is even more outrageous as it happens in broad day light and also concerns trucks coming from other regions of the country. In open knowledge of everyone, convoys of trucks, packed with product cross the whole country. Various incidents were registered this year including one at Takikro at the Ghanaian boarder.
Here, young villagers attacked the custom officers who wanted to stop the trafficking. Their checkpoint was burnt. Another serious incident took place in Abengourou, whereby custom officers who wanted to board a truck transporting cocoa towards Ghana where singled out by a horde of youths. Without backup, the officers were forced to retreat M.O. complains, yet, cocoa outflow puts the economy of the country in grave danger. According to some sources of information in June 2017, an estimated 120 000 tons of cocoa left Cote D’Ivoire illegally for Ghana.
The slackness of the Ivorian government can be pointed out in this severe problem. As a matter of fact, in Ghana, the severity of sanctions levied on any cocoa trafficker deters perpetrators. This is so effective that even when the cost of cocoa is lower in Ghana than in Cote D’Ivoire, no one ever brings product from Ghana to be sold here. Whereas here, it is the authorities (administrative, village, customs, police officers…), trackers, buyers, cooperatives and youths who organise the shameful trafficking that compromises our country’s dream of emergence.
There is another looming danger in the country, which is directly linked to agriculture. Ivorian forests are decreasing at an alarming rate.
A FANCIFUL FORESTRY HERITAGE
The third issue that preoccupies M.O. is the depreciation of classified particularly those of the Indénié – Djuablin region. He takes the case of the Bossomatié forest which has been infiltrated by clandestine operations. Perceiving what M.O. means, clandestine isn’t the word here as all authorities know of the presence of these intruders in the forest. With active neighbouring population complicity and passive participation of governing authorities, notably Water and Forestry officers, these intruders undertake all sorts of activities in the heart of the forest.
They hunt and fall trees for logs and charcoal in open knowledge of everyone. The consequences are so severe that the population endure the adverse effects. Recently, an elephant most likely harassed by the acts of the intruders, came out of the said forest, killed two villagers and injured others. The scarcity and delay of rains are clear signs of looming danger and thus, measures must quickly be taken to remedy to the situation.
Many observers here remember era where the classified forest of Bossomatié in the Bettié department was managed by German company GTZ. This company haven left, the forest that once inhabited rare essences and animal species is now left at the mercy of these lawless coloniser, and has become unrecognisable. Thus, evictions have to take place urgently to be able to preserve what it left, otherwise, the country is heading straight for an ecological disaster.