(MENAFN- African Press Organization)
The INTEGRA programme at ITC provides cash, machinery and training to farm cooperatives in Guinea that improve women's incomes by growing their agri-businesses.
For years, Kébè Lamah has farmed rice in Guinea, specializing in long grains that are partially steamed before drying. Known as parboiled rice, the crop is labour intensive.
In 2010, the Women's Agro-pastoral Union brought together 25 women to form a cooperative that hoped to improve their yields, and their profits.
Now, with funding from the International Trade Centre's INTEGRA programme, the union's Group of Koulé works with 500 women agri-preneurs who farm almost 1,000 hectares in the Macenta, Lola and N'Nzérékoré regions of Guinea. The union not only helps produce parboiled rice, but also processes and markets rice products.
As leader of the union, Lamah learned new skills for herself and the members, taking trainings through the INTEGRA programme. They learned about health and safety, storage techniques, best practices, and sales to find new consumers in the country and internationally.
'My greatest pride is to be a role model in my community, because I have succeeded in building a company with a national focus,” Lamah said.“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 also supported the introduction of quality control equipment and stainless-steel production stations, with additional investment capital of $6,000. That enabled the women farmers of N'Nzérékoré to increase their production to 300 bags of parboiled rice and employ over 50 women.
Increasing production through training
INTEGRA has achieved equally striking results with other groups around Guinea. The Beekeeping Group of Sampiring integrates women beekeepers into the honey business. They engage beekeepers that own a hive, and then integrate them into the honey production process for local and international sales.
Women comprise almost half of the members and are learning to maintain and harvest organic honey.
'I am very happy to work in this group, I am learning and the salary I earn lets me send my children to school,” said Oury Barry, a member of the beekeeping group.
Through INTEGRA, the beekeeping group now has equipment to safely harvest honey. This gear, alongside working capital of $6,000 received from the programme, has helped boost productivity, said the group's vice president Abdoul Gadiri Diallo.
After undergoing trainings, the group tasked women members with ensuring good labelling and packaging for their products. The group is now exporting organic honey to the United States.
Another group largely composed of women in Labé took advantage of INTEGRA's trainings to increase their production capacity from 50 kilos per month to 60 kilos per day. The cooperative 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 also modernized 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. Other trainings included stock and production management, good packaging and labelling, as well as identifying and expanding to new markets.
'We have had capacity building and improved our work. Our fonio is free of stones and very clean, I am really proud of our cooperative,' said Ousmane Boiro, president of GFPPL. The group has also introduced delivery services to wholesalers by partnering with young motorbike taxis.
These groups are all primo beneficiaries, selected from across 11 sectors to receive food processing equipment to boost yields and improve end products.
As primo beneficiaries, each cooperative received machinery worth $30,000 and capital investment of $6,000.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of International Trade Centre.