Kébè Lamah is a rice farmer in Guinea. She specialises in long grains of parboiled rice, which is a labour-intensive crop. In 2010, Lamah and 24 other women formed a cooperative, the Women’s Agro-pastoral Union, in the hope of improving their yields and profits.
With funding from the International Trade Centre’s INTEGRA programme, the union’s Group of Koulé now works with 500 women agripreneurs, who farm almost 1 000 hectares of land across the Macenta, Lola, and N’Nzérékoré regions of Guinea. Not only do they produce parboiled rice, but they also process and market rice products.
Guinea is located in West Africa, bordered by Guinea-Bissau, Senegal, Mali, Ivory Coast, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. The country’s agriculture sector is the largest employer in the country, employing around 80% of the population.
The main crops grown are rice, cassava, maize, sweet potatoes, and peanuts. However, the sector faces challenges such as low productivity, poor infrastructure, and limited access to credit and markets, hindering its potential for growth and development. Additionally, the country’s political instability and periodic Ebola outbreaks have also impacted the sector’s performance.
As the leader of the Group of Koulé, Lamah has taken advantage of INTEGRA’s training programmes to learn new skills, as have the other members of the cooperative. They have learned about health and safety, storage techniques, best practices, and sales, enabling them to find new customers in the country and internationally.
Lamah takes great pride in what the cooperative has achieved. “My greatest pride is to be a role model in my community,” she says, “because I have succeeded in building a company with a national focus. Currently, we help women and youth gain employment, which contributes to the development of the country by employing local workers, particularly in the rice sector.”
INTEGRA has provided support in the form of cash, machinery, and training to farm cooperatives across Guinea, resulting in significant improvements in the lives of the women involved.
The Beekeeping Group of Sampiring is one such example, which has integrated women beekeepers into the honey business, engaging beekeepers that own a hive and then integrating them into the honey production process for local and international sales.
Another cooperative, GFPPL, has learned to improve production of fonio from raw seeds to fine grain, using an illustrated guide to the processing and quality control equipment. The group has also modernised its production processes, replacing mortar and pestles with machinery and other equipment, including a new refractometer and test tubes to measure concentrations of liquids and translucent solids.
Thanks to INTEGRA, these groups have been able to increase their productivity and improve their products. As primo beneficiaries, each cooperative received machinery worth $30 000 and capital investment of $6 000.
Lamah is grateful for the opportunities that the INTEGRA programme has given her and her fellow farmers. “We have had capacity building and improved our work. Our rice is of higher quality, and we have expanded our markets. I am really proud of our cooperative.”