Perspectives Volume 40, Number 1 | Page 19

from DEBPEA Project “In truth we are not poor ...” It is the deep cry of the heart for Ténin Koné, widow and head of household of 11 people, including six teenagers. Ténin is a member of Jigi Cooperative (Hope) of the Defina community, where IFDC’s Grassroots Development of Agribusiness Clusters (DEBPEA in French) project supported development of an agribusiness cluster (ABC) for fonio, a grain mostly grown in regions of West Africa. After a long, meditative pause, Ténin picked up a clod of dirt, effortlessly crushed it in her fingertips and sighed: “See, really, it is our land that became poor.” Just like Ténin, thousands of smallholder farmers face the burning question of soil impoverishment, of access to inputs on time and, more generally, of sustainable land management and access to market information. In the course of 2012, Ténin increased her yields by 260 percent. Increased productivity is not enough; better sales drive development. Networking with Agribusiness Development Company (AID-SA), which had previously provided her (and the 38 members of Jigi) quality seed and fertilizer, Ténin now sells fonio to a business partner for 50 percent more than before. From 2010 to 2014, the DEBPEA project strengthened Ténin’s capacities – and those of 25,700 other producers – on ISFM and other agricultural practices. These farmers are part of a portfolio of 91 ABCs covering 28 agricultural products. At the producer organization and corporate member level of the ABC, training has focused on technical and organizational issues, business strategies, quality standards and the development of business plans. By December 2014, DEBPEA had impacted more than 200,000 rural households across Mali, with 86 ABCs becoming operational. Over half of these are now autonomous or trending toward empowerment. IFDC Magazine 19