Thanks to the Rural Skills Development support programme in Niger, agricultural vocational training and production areas were established in rural parts of the country. These so-called Integrated Agricultural Training Sites (Sites Intégrés de Formation Agricole, SIFA) offer short-term training which allows youths to develop professional skills. It enables young people to quickly master and implement new agricultural activities on their family farms in order to diversify and secure the family's income.
In spring 2021, Swisscontact conducted a survey to identify the local market trends, the products of the SIFA graduates as well as their distribution networks. As the demand for agricultural products is greater than the supply in both Dosso and Maradi, there is a potential market for all of the products marketed by the young graduates. However, there are some challenges such as the commercialisation of products.
To address this, Swisscontact plans to facilitate access to markets for these producers. The initiative targets 300 young producers who have graduated from the SIFAs. The graduates will gain better access to the market as they will be directly connected with the market actors. Additionally, an online database of actors, a WhatsApp group, and a mobile rate plan, will be created so that market actors can share information such as prices of vegetables, livestock, etc.
To improve the quality of agricultural products, young producers leaving the SIFA will be assisted in choosing crops, planning according to market needs, acquiring good quality seeds and complying with production standards. They will also be trained on the concept of contractual agriculture, which will help them to elaborate production and purchase contracts.
Young graduates, retail traders, wholesalers and importers will benefit from the better market linkages. Some of the local actors at the centre of the system were interviewed to find out what these improvements mean to them.
Abdou Salissou from Mafalia, Maradi region, used to sell his products through his relatives, friends and acquaintances who would advertise his products at family ceremonies in their respective villages. He views credit purchases as the main cause of problems between producers and traders, especially for products like potatoes, which expire quickly.
The situation improved when a local cooperative provided him with a visible and accessible point of sale for the products, and a scale for him to better organise his sales. Today, thanks to Swisscontact, he has been able to contract directly with wholesalers. These wholesalers are committed to buying the majority of his production at a guaranteed fixed price.
The Farmers' Organisation Taimakon Yan Daka Cooperative Union was founded in 2008 and manages the SIFA in Mafalia. It will establish the connection between graduates and market actors. The president of the Farmers’ Organisation, Sadissou Saidou, is convinced:
“Thanks to this experience, the young graduates will be guaranteed to sell their products at a correct price. They will hence increase their income, improve their purchasing power, be more autonomous, and all this will have an impact on the local economy and the reduction of the exodus. For the Farmers’ Organisation, it is about retaining members. When the young people leaving the SIFAs improve their economic situation, it will also encourage other young people to join the training.”
Maman Achirou is a 43-year-old trader and producer living in Maradi. He has been working in market gardening for over 25 years, selling mainly potatoes. Thanks to Swisscontact, he was connected with young producers in the Maradi region.
“I am very interested in this approach because I will no longer have to travel outside the country; I can buy locally and therefore increase my gains. Local production will be higher, and there will be better business opportunities.”