Trias increases efforts for recovery in Guinea

14-02-2017
Trias Guinea is recruiting 9 members of staff to manage 2 extra programmes. 'One year after the Ebola epidemic, Guinea can really use our support', says country director Vanmullem.

 

As a result of the Ebola epidemic, Guinea’s fragile economic growth came to a complete standstill. Construction sites fell silent and borders closed. The epidemic ended a year ago, but the national government and international institutions’ large-scale recovery programmes are not yet running at full speed.

'Happily there is increased business activity in the towns and cities. New shops and hotels are opening, and things are going in the right direction. But for small-scale farmers and entrepreneurs little has changed. Falling into a deep pit is far quicker than crawling back out', remarks Lies Vanmullem.

Dismal yields

The source of employment in Guinea is the agricultural sector. Farmers work on small plots with primitive tools and there is a lack of irrigation and transport infrastructure. 'The average yield of a farm is so limited that it is cannot provide a single family with a decent quality of life,' Vanmullem continues.

With limited budgets, the government is trying to provide farmers with fertilisers and crop protection. Unfortunately, most farmers lack the know-how to use these in a professional way. However, in regions where farmers received support, they made good progress.

Collaboration pays

'Working for Trias Guinea, we can see that things are changing on the ground,' says Vanmullem, citing an ox cart project as an example. 'Whereas in the past you needed two or three people per ox cart, the technology has improved to the extent that the farmer no longer needs any help. To Western eyes this seems archaic, but it isn't. It is important that farmers' organisations provide training, as ox carts lighten the workload and allow bigger areas to be farmed.'

In Upper Guinea, farmers know enough about working with ox carts that they no longer need support from Trias. In Lower Guinea, meanwhile, the farmers are so enthusiastic that they are financing part of their training themselves. 'They are not waiting until Trias provides the cash, which is very motivating', says Vanmullem.

Female emancipation

Trias is also making efforts to integrate women's activities into the local economy. Spearheading this initiative is the cooperative Coprakam, which is specialised in the production and sale of shea butter, peanuts and honey. The 3,200 members recorded a small profit in 2014 and 2015 for the first time, but last year they took a step back as a result of internal problems.

'Most of the women on the board are illiterate, and in the past they lacked the self-confidence to manage the cooperative well. But I can see that they are gradually realising that it is now or never for their organisation. They are finally taking the fate of the co-op into their own hands, but only time will tell if this is a definitive turning point for Coprakam,' Vanmullem says.

Political tension

One factor that can always throw a spanner in the works is political stability. In recent years, Guinea has been quiet again but there are constant tensions in the background. Teachers are currently on strike over an evaluation system introduced by the government. This system meant that teachers awarded an insufficient score were sacked immediately, leaving many pupils without a teacher.

A bigger threat is a potential delay to local elections. Last year, France acted as an intermediary which resulted in plans for elections to take place this month. 'We have to hope that it remains calm,' Vanmullem says. 'As soon as there is turmoil on the political stage, the small-scale entrepreneurs are always the first to suffer.'

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