It is now a priority to contribute improving the place of women in society, in particular by enabling them to gain autonomy. It is clear that in the field of plant propagation, whether in the in vitro multiplication laboratories or in the horticultural nurseries, women – faster, more efficient and more meticulous – are omnipresent in all positions. The coffee seed sector is no exception. Another observation is the difficulty for small growers to have access to genetic progress, both for lack of information on the varietal catalog, for lack of accessibility to nurseries – they often live in remoted regions – and finally for lack of means. The promising new varieties are often not within the reach of their purse. It seemed to us possible to respond both emergencies at once by bringing out new organizations exclusively run by women.
Thus, as part of the BREEDCAFS project (European Horizon 2020 project), CIRAD coordinated in close collaboration with its local partners the NicaFrance Foundation (NFO), the Dutch development organization (SNV) and the ECOM group, a women’s entrepreneurial initiative to produce Arabica F1 hybrid coffee plants and forest trees for small coffee farmers in the area. The aim of this initiative is to set up a local distribution network of high value-added coffee plants in the Matagalpa region and allow access to this material at a lower cost for small producers with the final aim of ensuring the large-scale dissemination of improved genetic material more resilient to current changing climate.
Inspired by the « farmer seed » systems set up in Africa with the production of seeds, the initiative created three years ago in Nicaragua is based on the establishment of rural nurseries for coffee and forest tree plants obtained by innovative horticultural propagation methods comprising rooted mini-cuttings and hypo-cotyledonary grafting onto Robusta rootstocks. CIRAD in collaboration with the ECOM group actively participated to the technological transfer of these two vegetative multiplication methods and in the technical training of the women group. We strongly believe that, the creation and strengthening of farmers’ capacities at the local level are essential to the development and transformation of the coffee sector in Nicaragua.
Concretely in Nicaragua, a group of nine women was selected at the beginning of 2018 and was trained during several months by CIRAD and ECOM staff to the different technics of micro propagation (horticultural grafting and rooted mini-cuttings). Then, SNV and Nicafrance Foundation, with the technical support of ECOM and the methodological assessment and certification of the National Coffee School, developed a 180-hours work qualification course (theoretical and practical) to train and certificate the 9 women. The final graduation was awarded on October 2018 with the presence of several Breedcafs partners (SNV, NFO and CIRAD) and the National Coffee School, which delivered a diploma, recognized at the national level.
During the last year, the women group produced and sold 23,000 plants (17 000 hybrid plants and 6000 forest tree) by rooted mini-cuttings. ECOM paid for these first plants and make a new commit of 160,000 plants for the year 2020.
For 2020, one of the objectives of the BREEDCAFS project will be to formalize the legal organization given to the group of women. In the coming months, NFO (Nicafrance Organization), SNV, ECOM and CIRAD will continue advising the group of women. We expect that when the European project ends in 2021 the women group’s enterprise will be sustainable both technically and financially to be able to operate on its own. This initiative should improve the quality of life of this women group and their families.
This first experience successfully carried-out in Nicaragua paves the way to up similar current initiatives in Cameroon and Vietnam as planned in the frame of BREEDCAFS. We hope in the future that such cooperatives held by women will be replicated on a large scale.
– Frédéric Georget (CIRAD researcher): firstname.lastname@example.org
– H. Etienne : (CIRAD researcher and Deputy coordinator Breedcafs H2020 project) : email@example.com