2014 was the International Year of Family Farming. In Switzerland, the SBA and SWISSAID jointly organised a farmers’ wives’ dialogue. Eight women from four continents were able to take a Tour de Suisse and discuss their situation.

The “My farmer – my farmer’s wife” campaign also enabled various farming families from Switzerland and around the world to use a Facebook page for a year to introduce family farms to the population.

This year, the International Day of Countrywomen is an opportunity to hear from these women and families. The SBA and SWISSAID have collected interviews and photos and compiled various dossiers.

Interview with Dorcas Ndigueroïm from Chad

How has your situation changed since 2014? What has improved, what has developed negatively?

I was impressed by the way compost is produced in Switzerland. But since I can’t do this exactly the same way here in Switzerland, I have adapted the process to local conditions:

I transport the manure from my animals to the field after it has been stored in bags at my home for a while. At the time of spreading, just before planting and sowing, the decomposition is already well advanced. Leaves and crop residues are also placed in the pile and I add ashes from my kitchen, then I spread the compost before ploughing. Thanks to this procedure, my harvest has increased. I used to harvest 4.5 bags of peanuts per hectare. Now there are 7 sacks (one sack of shelled peanuts corresponds to about 80 kilograms. The amount harvested is therefore 0.56 tons per hectare. This is an increase of a good 50 %).

Part of this harvest is eaten, from the other I extract the oil that I sell. This enables me to pay for the children’s education, medical care, part of the household costs and hygiene products. For example, for the school year 2017-2018, I was able to cover the full costs for six children, including two girls:

– Supply: 30’000 Francs CFA;
– School uniform: 35’000 Francs CFA;
– School fees: 57’000 Francs CFA

This is a total of 122,000 francs CFA (= 222 Swiss francs).

I have three sons who study at the university, two in Chang (Cameroon) and one in Bitkine (Chad). Their father takes care of them.

I have also made adjustments in animal husbandry. I keep goats and have improved their feeding. Before I left the animals to their own devices. But with what I had seen in Switzerland, I was able to change a lot. Today I feed the goats with sorghum and hay, which consists of harvest residues (beans and peanuts). So the goats get some food every morning. They have become much more trusting and no longer run away. I have already been able to sell two goats for 40,000 francs CFA each. With the money I could buy clothes for my children, they were very happy.

Another important point that motivated us is the processing of local products. We women were used to processing local food, but we did not attach importance to it. For us, products from other countries were the best. After returning from Switzerland, I informed the women about milk processing, which encouraged the women to attach importance to their locally processed products, especially the shea butter. This provides us with several products, including skin and hair creams, soaps and edible oils. The waste products that are produced during processing can be used to fight termites that destroy fences.

Thanks to the awareness we have raised among women about access to land, some women have been able to take over land either from their husbands, the village chiefs or even as heirs from their fathers. The woman had no right to inherit land from her husband or father.

What is problematic here are the conflicts between farmers and shepherds, caused by animals running free. These conflicts even lead to deaths and make it difficult for people to live together. This has a direct influence on the food production of women.

What are your wishes for the future?

I would like to experiment with mulch sowing as I have seen it in Switzerland. I would also like to see better equipment for processing and packaging our products. This would make sales easier.

It is also very important that the women are literate, so that everyone in my organisation can at least read, write and do arithmetic. I think this is very important for their various activities.

What are your wishes for the women farmers in Switzerland?

I would like to renew relations with Swiss farmers’ wives in order to continue the exchange of experience and also to exchange processed local products.

We would welcome support in obtaining better equipment for processing local products from our region, as well as other development projects.

Interview with Momini Serrobé from Chad

How has your situation changed since 2014? What is better, what has changed negatively?

A school for women farmers has been created where specific issues are discussed. Important issues affecting the development of women in agriculture are the financing of agriculture in general and access to and control over land, access to credit and means of production or equipment in particular. After the establishment of this school, 50 hectares of land were given to women by traditional village chiefs after the women had committed themselves to it. However, the situation of the women farmers is still critical, as their status is not recognised.

What are your wishes for the future?

  • The promotion of a diverse exchange between farm women.
  • To provide technical and financial support for the establishment of an agro-ecological farm in the province of Mayo-Kebbi with the aim of deterring women farmers from bad farming practices that affect the health of the rural and urban population.
  • For all SWISSAID partner countries: an increased focus on improving the production of family farms.
  • The creation of a framework for consultation and exchange between women farmers in the countries where SWISSAID is active.

What are your wishes for women farmers in Switzerland?

  • A continuation of the discussions held in the Year of Family Farming on the occasion of the International Day of Countrywomen.
  • An invitation from their female colleagues to gather and exchange further experience.
  • An expansion of agricultural schools so that young women can be trained in agro-ecological farming.