Silue Bakary is part of the COOPAGA cooperative in Gabiadji, Côte D’Ivoire. Siriki Diakité hears his story.
Siriki Diakité: Hi Bakary. Did you grow up here in Gabiadji?
Can you tell me about your farm?
I have a cocoa plantation of five hectares, and I’ve been in the UTZ program for five years. Next to that I also grow rice, maize and cassava.
I’m also involved in the cooperative. I’m part of the spraying team. We have special training and personal protection equipment, so we apply pesticides when necessary for different farmers in the community, always being careful to keep a safe distance from protected areas like rivers and settlements. Before UTZ, it was done in a way that was dangerous for children.
And what kind of changes have you seen on your farm?
Before, I was not reaching 2.5 tons but now I reach 3 tons. The farmer field schools have changed the way I manage the plantation. Before, we did not prune the cocoa trees, we just watched the leaves and we were happy. But when it rained, brown rot invaded all the planting and the harvest was lost each time. It is only today that we are doing real cocoa farming. By pruning the trees, we make sure more air can circulate through the plantation. So, we find fewer brown rot problems and there has been a big change in production.
What did that mean for your income?
The premium we get with our UTZ certified cocoa is like a breath of fresh air that comes to relieve our costs and meet other needs, like investing for the future. With the premium I could start my home construction project, a dream I have always had but did not have the means to achieve.
Do you have a big family? Have they seen any changes in the last 5 years?
I have 4 children and all of them go to school, thanks to the project and premium.
In fact, the project helps us a lot in the education of our children, and in health care. Through the project, we have the college at the cooperative, which allows us to educate our children here on site and no longer have to send them to the city. And in my spare time I can sit together with my children and read with them. We like to read the bible together and discuss the verses.
There is also a health center that allows us to take care of people here in the village, and an ambulance to evacuate our patients in an emergency. As a parent that gives a lot of peace of mind.