In the Worodougou region of Ivory Coast, young farmers visit pilot farms for training in agro-ecology. The aim is to transform crop-growing methods to better respect the environment and deliver enhanced profitability.

In Ivory Coast, the limitations of the current agricultural model are clear to see: yields are poor and continue to fall, thanks to an agriculture based on the use of fertilizers and pesticides, destruction of the forest, land clearances and the effects of the climate emergency. With its reputation as West Africa’s leading producer of agricultural commodities, it is in the country’s interests to increase the sustainability of its existing farming systems. Agro-ecology, which aims to maintain acceptable yields while mitigating environmental consequences, is one of the more promising possibilities.

It was against this background that CIDR Pamiga answered a call for tenders from AFD and the Worodougou region, seeking to develop agro-ecology across the region and raise awareness of more environmentally sensitive practices among a new generation of farmers. 

Changing the farming model

Launched in 2017, the 1.3-million euro project enabled the creation of four pilot farms that establish and distribute agro-ecological guidelines. They host young farmers (already with a farm or with plans to establish one) who are given training in alternative growing methods, primarily for cocoa, but for other crops too.

The idea is to move away from traditional practices that are over-reliant on chemical inputs, and to guide farmers to an agro-ecological approach with the goal of increasing income for growers,” says Eric Levoy, head of Projects and Partnerships at CIDR Pamiga.

It is important that the transition delivers positive benefits to farmers as this will encourage them to adopt new practices. Eric Levoy explains that “we use the farms to test alternative growing methods, showing that they are, at the very least, just as profitable as traditional techniques.” 

“Our results are convincing” 

One of the farms is testing growing cocoa using understory cultivation, a technique that avoids destruction of trees. “Our results are convincing: by planting in the understory, farmers can increase their profitability and protect the forest,” says the project’s delighted leader. Trials are also in progress with other crops, including cotton, as well as with alternative animal-rearing techniques.

The idea is to offer solutions that are simple to deploy and, most importantly, to replicate: plants that act as bio-pesticides or fertilizers, leaving land fallow, crops that feed the soil, etc., in order to win over as many farmers as possible. Worodougou regional council then provides financial assistance to help young farmers, women in particular, to get established.

And there’s a further dimension to the programme run by CIDR Pamiga: in-depth analysis of shared land governance mechanisms, in partnership with SAFER Ile-de-France. The overall aim is to deliver lasting uplift to regional attractivity hand-in-hand with improved living conditions for local people. 

The project in figures

213 villages concerned, each with a local correspondent

> 4 agro-ecological farms

> 347 farmers were trained in 2019, 135 of them women

> 98 have transitioned to agro-ecology

End-of-project goal

> 400 to 500 young farmers trained annually

The other projects