|Group selling empowers farmers|
|Group selling empowers farmers
We have all heard the saying that in unity is strength. The development of farmer groups is just one example. In Northwest Cameroon, farmers harvest kola nuts from the forests, for sale in regional markets such as Douala and Yaoundé. In the past, prices for the nuts have been very low, but things are improving. Zac Tchoundjeu of the World Agroforestry Centre, also known as ICRAF, spoke to Martha Chindong about work his organisation has been doing to improve the marketing of kola nut in the region. The experience has lessons for farmers everywhere.
IN: “What we did was really to group …
OUT: … Thank you very much.”
BACK ANNOUNCEMENT: Kuh Emmanuel Loh and Zac Tchoundjeu were talking to Martha Chindong. The interview comes from a resource pack produced by CTA.
Tchoundjeu What we did was really to group them and develop their bargaining skill and then sell to wholesaler who we bring from Douala, Yaoundé and put them together to really sell this product. And this bargaining skill really helped them to argue during the grouping sale and impose their own prices to the wholesalers. The first were very, very difficult because farmers were thinking that they are being cheated by the wholesalers and the wholesalers were thinking that the farmers were becoming very wise and trying to cheat them. So we had to go back to the farmer group telling them, ‘Well, you acquired a bargaining skill but you have to use this bargaining skill wisely.’ And we went back also to the wholesalers and said, ‘Well, can you reduce a bit your profit margin, so you give a little more to the producer because if you do not, if the producers are not satisfied they will not continue the chain?’ This is the matter of chain. Now we have succeeded to bring the 2 parties together, the buyers and the sellers, and the group sale is going on very well now.
Chindong And everybody is satisfied?
Tchoundjeu Everybody is satisfied because they have a kola group formed in the Northwest now, very well structured. We know that in some areas the big problem has been to bring the product on the market because of the bad state of the roads. But still farmers are trying to solve this problem by choosing where they will do their grouping sale, maybe near to the farm gate or in an area well accessible. So through grouping sale they solved a lot of problems. They do not go to the market individually. When you go there individually it is more expensive because you have to pay your transport fees with a small quantity but by grouping them, really they solve a lot of problems.
Chindong Don’t you think that when the farmers do not take their goods to city markets, for example, they may always have the idea behind their minds that these wholesalers are cheating them?
Tchoundjeu We did not realise this with the grouping sale because for example, farmers are not stupid, they know the prices. And they are aware because we feed them back with the prices in the city. The market information system is so well developed today because you have cell phones even in rural areas. This information, when we feed the farmer before the grouping sale, they are really aware of what is happening in the city. Let me give you one sample. For grouping sale to really take place we have to give some money to the farmers because imagine that you are a farmer, you produce 3kgs and you need money urgently, you will not wait for grouping sale to solve your problem. If you cannot wait we should be able to put some money at your disposal so you use it while waiting for the grouping sale and this fonds de garantie, we have called it fonds de garantie, really encourages farmer to accept the idea of grouping sale. But the most important thing is that fonds de garantie should be built up from the farmer sales, so they become more independent. So when ICRAF is not there they continue the process. So we have put the fonds de garantie. From the fonds de garantie farmers could sustain and accept to wait for the grouping sale.
Loh My names are Kuh Emmanuel Loh the Provincial President of the Farmers’ Platform in the Northwest province. Working in collaboration with the World Agroforestry Centre, we are trying to promote the production and marketing of kola which is a tree crop that generates a lot of income for farmers that have it. Together with ICRAF we are linking farmers with buyers. That is bringing buyers to farmers, having meetings, also taking farmers to visit market places to see how these produce are sold, how they are being packed by retailers or wholesalers. I for one, I visited Ngoundere market where the kola that is produced in Northwest and Western provinces is sold most and I saw what is happening to this produce.
Chindong So what is another advantage of visiting the market place?
Loh Another added advantage of visiting the market place is to bring the understanding of the farmer and buyer together so they can be able to negotiate prices, also taking into consideration the final market price.
Chindong What is the advice you think farmers can get from this?
Loh The first advice I will give to farmers is that they need to function in groups. They need to register to work under a platform because now, if somebody comes and says he needs 10 tons of maize, 10 tons of kola, 10 tons of rice, they are there in the houses; because they are not together they cannot sell. When farmers come as a group the bargaining power has some reinforcement. They can also talk about price issue and agree as one person, they act as one force and also the risk of going to the market as one farmer is reduced and the number of days to stay in the farm is gained and if they are together they can market. So my final advice is that in every domain, in every specificity, farmers should come together so they can do group marketing.
Chindong Thank you very much.
Loh Thank you very much. End of track