The Burkina Faso National Union of Rice Producers (UNPRB), a partner civil society organisation of the Voice for Change Partnership (V4CP) programme, contributed to increased production, sustainable sales and resilience in Burkina Faso’s rice sector. By developing solid arguments and strategies, they argued for national agricultural production and sustainable agricultural value chains, as well as for reduction in the country's reliance on imports.
Civil society identified the country's ideal customers: its government institutions.
This is their story.
Setting the scene: boosting national production for resilience
In 2008, a food crisis in Burkina Faso reminded the government to adopt both short- and long-term measures to reduce the country's dependency on imported staple food items.
The government decided to provide support to several key sectors, with the aim of boosting national production and reducing dependence on imports. In this vein, food items like rice, maize and cowpea received government support. For the rice sector, the government provided agricultural farms with a variety of improved seeds with a high output and which were adapted to the agro-ecological conditions of the country.
The results were immediate. In a decade, the national production of rice multiplied fivefold, going from 68,916 tons during the 2007-2008 agricultural season, to 350,392 tons in the 2017-2018 agricultural season.
A rapid increase in production, but poor sales
The figures speak volumes: the government's support clearly increased the national production of rice. Unfortunately, though, this support did not include selling the produce. The increase in local quantities of rice did not mean that consumers would necessarily by interested in buying it. Burkina Faso's rice remained less competitive than imported rice. The producers, therefore, quickly became less enthusiastic.
"The producers were not able to sell their own produce. Even when there were some market opportunities, they were challenged by the low prices, which would not enable them to make a living out of their job", said Souleymane TRAORE, Programme Manager of Burkina Faso National Union of Rice Producers (UNPRB).
The UNPRB had been advocating on its own to find a solution to the lack of market opportunities for local rice since 2014, and was convinced that institutions could provide an effective means to facilitate selling the locally produced rice: if government institutions like the military, hospitals, universities, public training centres and prisons, prioritised local products when placing their orders, the producers would not experience poor sales. Their convictions were strong, but on their own, their voice was just one among many.
Stronger together: civil society builds a coalition
UNPRB’s advocacy took a turn with the onset of the Voice for Change Partnership (V4CP) programme in 2016. Collaboration with SNV and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), as part of the V4CP programme, reinforced the CSOs’ work and enabled the UNPRB to have solid arguments for advocacy using synthesised policy documents.
According to UNPRB, V4CP’s most significant contribution was the strengthening and coalition-building among CSOs. UNPRB’s individual advocacy efforts were joined by three other CSOs working on food and nutrition security within the V4CP partnership, and later grew to a coalition of nine allied CSOs. All these CSOs share the same vision and work in tandem as part of the V4CP programme. Together, they got to work advocating for the purchase of local food at multiple levels.
They would stand stronger together.
Importance of evidence-based advocacy
"When the V4CP evidence based advocacy approach was introduced to us, we thought that it would strengthen our advocacy efforts," said Maïmouna OUEDRAOGO, Permanent Secretary of the UNPRB.
From 2016, the CSO coalition took on a series of activities that would lead to significant improvements in the purchase of Burkinabe rice and produce in the country. During this time, the Union's capacity to respond to public orders would expand beyond rice to products like maize and cowpea.
For example, in 2017, the CSOs, along with their allies, wrote to the Prime Minister, asking him to take local products into account during government-organised events. Soon after, the Prime Minister issued a decree obliging all government entities to order local food and drinks for meetings. To date, this decree has been successfully implemented. In 2017, CSOs through their advocacy calls and negotiation persuaded municipal councils to allow producers to supply food to schools within their localities.
This followed an earlier move in 2018, when the Ministry of Education decentralised school feeding, moving the responsibility to the municipal councils. The CSOs took this opportunity to convince several neighbouring municipal councils to prioritise local foods in their purchases. They did so by participating in sessions organised by the municipal councils, drafting a letter to the Ministry of Territorial Administration and Decentralisation, and by inviting key mayors to attend V4CP activities.
In 2019, the V4CP CSOs’ intervention resulted in several municipal councils awarding contracts to their constituencies, namely local producer organizations.
In 2019, V4CP funded a study on taking advantage of CSOs’ advocacy experience in the institutional market, which showed how investment in local food can improve family farm production and modernization. This study was disseminated and the Minister of Trade was very impressed, promising to develop this kind of approach which, for him, allows for true local development.
By 2019, these organisations delivered cowpea and rice to 31 town halls to supply their school kitchens with food items (rice, cowpea and cooking oil). Similarly, they supplied the Autonomous Pension Fund for civil servants in Ouagadougou (CARFO) and the Gold Operation mining company in Houndé.
This progress is summed up by Maïmouna OUEDRAOGO: "We used to act alone, but now, we are acting together".
Moreover, the UNPRB has also undertaken advocacy actions with the National Federation of Naam Groups (FNGN) through its Viimbaore Cooperative unit for town halls in the North region to buy the producers' cowpea for the benefit of school kitchens of the region. Even though this action has not led to the supply of the stocks, the newly established partnership is the result of collaborative advocacy and commitment of the two CSOs.
Souleymane TRAORE, Programme Manager, UNPRB
George KIENOU, Rice Producer at the Sourou Valley and President of the UNPRB.
Producers are rejoicing
"Institutions’ purchases, as they started in 2016, enabled the sector to easily sell its rice, and the consumers to have interest in Burkina Faso's rice. As the producers were reassured of the existence of opportunities, they started adapting new agricultural technologies [such as production in developed lowlands, parboiling of rice from residues (waste), special attention to the threshing of rice to avoid postharvest losses and pebbles and breakages, using of machines in the rice husking process.] And some have been enlarging their areas to harvest more and make more profits", says Abdoulaye OUEDRAOGO, Rice Producer at Bama.
There are still some obstacles hindering the CSOs’ efforts. As a matter of fact, the decentralisation of purchases of food items for school kitchens at the level of municipalities, which is no longer the responsibility of the Ministry of Education, has seriously affected tenders. With this measure, each municipality is free to choose its suppliers and food items. This situation limits the producers’ opportunities to have access to many important markets and to proceed in group selling. In addition, the 3% registration rights levied on every supply contract is disadvantageous for these social structures as they consider the CSOs as commercial enterprises.
Nevertheless, the benefits generated from the institutions’ purchases for agricultural farms in Burkina Faso are numerous. The financial autonomy of the agricultural producers has increased thanks to the ease in selling, and holders gradually have access to credits thanks to resource mobilisation with financial institutions and the signature of products purchase convention.
The CSOs are moving forward with the self-confidence and skills they need to continue advocating for resilient agricultural value chains in Burkina Faso.
Who we are
The Voice for Change Partnership (V4CP) strengthens the capacities of CSOs to foster collaboration among relevant stakeholders, influence agenda-setting and hold the government and private sector accountable for their promises and actions. It is funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Maïmouna OUEDRAOGO: "We used to go alone, but now, we are going together".