Thursday, July 24, 2014

Following the goat cheese chain in Ouagadougou, when nothing is also a result

In one of my last post i reported from my trip to Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso to look at the small ruminant value chain of the Livestock and Fish Research Program. After having visited the small ruminant market and having eaten the best goat cheese pizza at the Verdoyant (a restaurant you should not miss would you ever go to Burkina) i decided to investigate where the goat cheese comes from.

During the stakeholder meeting i was co-facilitating on site selection, i got the chance to talk to many people who know the local situation and i was told, that the transformation sector in Burkina Faso has a huge potential for improvement...

Food for thoughts, I decided during my free day to try to understand what they meant and decided to follow the goat cheese from the producer to the end consumer. I heart of a place not far out of Ouagadougou, a place called Capri di Loubmila. I heart it was not only a restaurant but also a farm that produces the goat cheese.

 We arrived, but there was not a single goat, but just huge construction work and some other interesting livestock...

So we ended up calling some one you could help us and some minutes later, Herman showed up on a motor bike. He explained to us that they are rebuilding the hotel and for the time being they have moved the goats and the whole production to another place that would not be accessible by car because of the rain. 

Herman explaining why there were no goat
As adventure and making the impossible happen spirit and taking up new challenges quickly did not seem to be part of the strengths set nor of my driver nor of Herman, i decided that it might be better not not ask to go there, despite of our very good looking 4 wheel drive... 

So i was a little bit disappointed to not see the goats, but delighted to visit another project that tries to link agriculture and tourism. I really hope i will get a chance to stay there once the hotel is finished. It is an attractive site, where one can even learn how to make goat cheese... when the goats will be back. In the mean time i just admired the Karite nut, a tree i had heart about a lot but never seen with my own eyes.
Karite nut tree
Yet, I learnt that capri di Loubmila sells its cheese for 700 franc ( about 1.4 USD) to a local supermarket chain. This is not the farm gate price, but the one they get when the cheese is brought to the redistribution point. The supermarket takes the risk of unsold. As i never give up quickly, i decided to go to the one of these supermarket. And guess what, when i asked for the local goat cheese, they did not have any. Only the expensive imported goat cheese from France. However i learnt that the cheese is sold to the end consumer at 800 francs, so with a margin of 100, which is about 20 cent. So at least for the cheese it seems that the producer gets a fair share!

The plenty of imported goat cheese from France
The French products in average go for 2000 francs so more than double of the local one. I had a quick chat with the responsible for the cheese aisle. He found that he was very happy with the local goat cheese and there is no issue with it, he just could not get more and had sold it all... i am probably just too entrepreneurial to see a lost business opportunity here...

I left the supermarket convinced now that i understood what the stakeholder meant with "the transformation sector has a huge potential for development", i would add "and the retailing sector too", or at least in the coordination of the value chain. I haven't seen anything of what i wanted to see in the whole day, but on this way i learnt a lot, and seeing nothing is definitely a result!

A walk through Ouagadougou's livestock market

It is mid of July in Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso), it is Ramadan, a spiritual time in a country where 60% of the population is Muslim. Everyone gets prepared for Eid Al-Fitir, the celebration of the end of Ramadan. It means lots of meat and slaughtering animals. I guess it is the best time to walk on the Ouagadougou livestock market, called Sougr-Nooma. 

Entrance to the market "Marche du betail Sougr-Nooma"

The first thing i was explained was about the very high feeding cost in Ouagadougou. Therefore, sellers want to sell quickly. The feed on the livestock on millet they prepare with water and grass that a seller sells just outside the market place.
Millet preparation
The grass seller outside of the market place
Being there with ILRI colleagues, you can't avoid to talk of breeds. But as an economist and gis analyst all these discussion sometimes sound quite chinese... So what i understood is that in Burkina you have 3 breeds of goats and i am afraid i did not follow the discussion about the sheeps.

One is coming from the North and East of the country and is a dwarf. It is very well suited for the harsh in conditions.
A baby dwarf goat
Then there is a very huge breed that is more sensitive. But it is pretty productive and attractive as a it is sold by size.
The very big breed
Then there is a third breed which i unfortunately did not follow the whole story.

My colleague and i, no geneticist, decided to call this one just "le barbu" (the bearded)
Not that i was not listening, but i ended up having a good chat with a seller, and respectable old man. I was first a bit afraid to talk to him, he was obviously Muslim, and i was obviously an uncovered woman. But quickly i discovered the openness of the Islam in this country and had a good chat with him. I discovered that a baby dwarf goat goes for about 30 usd, a dwarf goat between 80 -100 usd, and the giant goats can go up to 400 usd. Now we understand why they all want to have the big breed. At the end of our discussion he wanted to know is there are Mosques in my country and if we could practice Islam. I told him that in my country there is freedom of religion and there were Mosques where he would be welcome to pray. I obviously felt ashamed of the fact that Switzerland has a law in the constitution the explicitly forbids minaret (a type of architecture that could be anyway limited by land use law, unless in industrial zone)  and the general negative connotation of Islam in my country. He was so welcoming to me, i felt that he should feel welcome in my country too, so i did not tell much.
The white goats
On the other side of the market I had a chat with a much younger seller who was selling the white goats. He explained to me that the value of a perfectly white goat can increase the price up to 40 usd, just because of the color during this particular week. Remember it is Ramadan, and you are supposed to make an sacred offering of the animal to God, and completely white is more sacred than one with black dots...
The value of this goat is lower, because of the black dots around its eyes

When you walk out of the market you see the trucks with which the goats and sheep arrive into Ouagadougou. If the animal comes from the pastoralist zone, then it has passed in at least two markets: a collecting market (marche de collecte) and a regroupement market (marche de regroupement) where buyer and seller try to make profit, often at the cost of the pastoratlist who remains poor.
Trucks arriving from the regroupment markets 
The program livestock and fish i am working on will look at this value chain and find way to improve the production of small ruminant for and by the poor in Burkina Faso. I hope that this walk through the market has convinced you that it is a fascinating task!

And a great thanks to my ILRI colleagues who made this visit possible!