The project forms part of the 'Small Farmers, Big Deal' campaign. In a unique 10-year collaboration between Agriterra, De Groot en Slot and local farmers' cooperatives, the following successes have been achieved:
Successful in Niger
Back in 2005, with the concept of corporate social responsibility in mind, De Groot en Slot began working with Agriterra in Niger. Local farmers' cooperatives were given support to cultivate their own onion seed. Every year, some 10,000 hectares of onions are grown in Niger, around 65 percent of which are exported: this makes it one of the few sources of income for this poverty-stricken country.
"Without Agriterra we wouldn't have got this project off the ground. We want to work on the research of different varieties, cultivation and providing support with this cultivation. That's our area of expertise. How to set up and monitor a cooperative, that's Agriterra's forte. It's not one of our specialities," explains Martin Slot, head of Breeding & Production at De Groot en Slot.
With the excellent results achieved in Niger, focus has now turned to Ethiopia. Once again, Agriterra's knowledge and network is being put to use. De Groot en Slot team members will soon head out to Ethiopia to see whether they also recognise the potential for success in the project selected by Agriterra.
Martin Slot (head of Breeding & Production at De Groot en Slot): "This project is, in the first instance, another CSR project, stemming from our sense of social responsibility. However, we'll also be looking to see if we can develop a business case in the long term. We're expecting that Ethiopia will ultimately be a country of interest to us, from a commercial perspective."
10 years of action
The project in Niger is now slowly coming to an end, but one finger is still kept firmly on the pulse. People sometimes question whether ten years is too long for a collaboration project. Slot: "Don't forget that onions are cultivated on a two-year basis. The seeds are sown in the first year, then the following year you get seeds from the onions produced. It took a couple of cycles to transfer all the know-how and to coach the locals. It worked brilliantly and we're very proud." A second project is ongoing. Together with partner companies such as Rijk Zwaan and Bejo Zaden, De Groot en Slot delivers seeds to various school gardens around Niger.
Slot: Without Agriterra we wouldn't have got this project off the ground. We want to work on the research of different varieties, cultivation and providing support with this cultivation. That's our area of expertise.