ICCO, through its STARS program has introduced a new variety of onion to farmers in Senegal which could replace imported onions in the future.
The variety called "trophy", a white onion variety from the company Bejo, has been promoted through demo fields in Senegal and is very much appreciated by the peasants. According to them, it could replace imported onions thanks to it characteristics, among which its conservation capacity.
Trophy has had a huge success this season. According to the farmers, the yield, in terms of quality and quantity, has increased. Trophy, which was harvested in the period May-June, was sold up to twice the price compared to the harvest of the local onion in the period January-March (250-300 FCFA versus 150-200 FCFA per kilo). Besides, the farmers were able to reduce the duration of their crop cycle, allowing them to produce more crops on the same ground. According to the farmers, this had to do with the combination of good varieties of seed, good fertilizer and good agricultural practices in terms of nursery, transplanting and fertilization. Farmers now have the hope that trophy can be grown on a large scale during the next seasons.
Self-sufficiency in onion production
In Senegal, onion is the first vegetable in terms of production and also the most consumed vegetable by the local population. For example in the typical local dish called Yassa. The production is about 360,000 tons and could cover the need of the population. However, the production is not available during the whole year due to the lack of conversation of most cultivated varieties in Senegal.
The objective of Senegalese government is to be self-sufficient in terms of onion production. That’s why onion is one of the selected crops in the government’s program ‘Strengthening the Cadence of Agriculture in Senegal’, a national plan aiming to increase the production of onion. In fact, as a step forward in supporting local onion production and its commercialization, the government blocks the import of onion for approximately eight months every year.
However, due to a lack of quantity and quality of the onions, which also includes the conversation capacity, the Senegalese government also need to import onions for the other four months. In this period, most of the onions come from the Netherlands, the world market leader in onion production, of which Senegal is the biggest buyer. With the introduction of trophy, self-sufficiency of onion production comes a little step closer for Senegal.
Importance of storage
Good storage of onions is vital. Not only for the country to be self-sufficient in the onion production, but also for farmers. When farmers are able to store onions, they can bring them to the market later, for example when there is less supply. In that way they can influence the selling price of the onions, giving the farmers a higher income. People then also rely less on imported onions. ICCO therefore also introduces new models of storage facilities that can facilitate onion storage for 5 to 6 months. Storage also allows farmers to be able to finance their inputs for the next season, as the storage can give them a guarantee for a loan.
ICCO has introduced the onion variety trophy within the STARS program: Strengthening African Rural Smallholders. STARS is a program of ICCO Cooperation funded by MasterCard Foundation, which aims to transform the live of 210,000 farmers in rural Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Senegal by facilitating access to markets and agricultural services. In Senegal, STARS targets 39,500 farmers, of whom 8,000 farmers directly involved in the onion value chain. One way in which STARS supports the farmers in Senegal is by improving the productivity and storage of onions. In this context trophy has been introduced, together with the company Bejo.
Blog by Marinus Verweij ‘Dutch onions to Africa: yes or no’.