onions being loaded on truck


Making markets work for smallholder producers in Niger

Resulting from action research, CDI and its partners organized dialogue processes and formulated 25 resolutions which support existing initiatives toward chain innovation in the highly important onion sector of Niger.

To enjoy onions you have to cry - as is said in Niger

With a yearly production of about 500.000 tons per year, Niger is the biggest exporter of onions in West Africa. The onion sector is an important pillar for the economy of this poor, land-locked and drought-prone country. For more than 100.000 farmers and for all the other actors in the chain (intermediaries, transporters and traders), onions are an important source of subsistence and income. For smallholders however it is not easy to make ends meet. They are confronted with several challenges: access to seeds of good quality, access to resources and credits, the need of increase of productivity, good storage and conservation of the onions, transparency of the markets, organisation of trade centres, etc.     

Peeling the onion

Centre for Development Innovation (CDI), Wageningen UR together with Agri-bilan, FCMN Nyia and SNV Niger, did an action research to “peel the onion” in the aim of supporting existing initiatives toward chain innovation. The project was oriented at problems and opportunities in real-life endeavours of small onion producers’ organisations. The activities focused on initiatives of collective actions that may improve economic transparency, farmer empowerment, stakeholder collaboration and coordination. The results of the action research project seek to contribute to questions of strategic importance in the aim of finding levers for a more competitive, inclusive and sustainable chain development.

Onions at the heart of the debate

After the field work, at the end of November 2010 the action research team organised a Dialogue in Niger to discuss the research results and to identify leverage points for pro-poor development interventions in the onion sector. Almost 100 chain operators and supporters in the onion sector participated in this interactive workshop: producers and their organisations (ANFO / FCMN), traders, businessmen, credit unions, research institutes, local and national authorities, and supporting organisations (e.g. SNV, IFDC), women, men, young and old, rich and less fortunate people.

Resolutions for concerted action  

The dialogue consisted of different rounds of discussions and feedback sessions, alternately in small groups and in plenary. This resulted in the formulation of 25 resolutions proposing improved action, relating to seeds, onion bags, differentiated sales, the level of organisation of farmers and traders, trade systems, and the scope for negotiation between traders and farmers: “Les 25 resolutions de Konni”.