22 Sep 2021
HortIvoire boosts local vegetable produce in Ivory Coast
The future of farming and food production is a shared responsibility. As a vegetable breeding company, we not only bring new and innovative vegetable varieties to market, but also recognise our responsibility to contribute to sustainable food systems worldwide. That is why we continue to engage with local growers and other partners in the food chain to help feed the world and stimulate vegetable consumption. This story about HortIvoire in Ivory Coast is an example.
HortIvoire provides students and young vegetable growers in Ivory Coast with better inputs and sustainable agronomic practices to increase their yield, income and economic position. Supported by the Dutch government and Netherlands Embassy in Abidjan, Rijk Zwaan is involved in this partnership, together with AGRIFER and Van Iperen.
Soilless growing on substrate
“Rijk Zwaan is a partner of HortIvoire to promote local fresh produce and vegetable consumption in Ivory Coast through this innovative project,” says Christophe Guiet, Area Manager West & Central Africa at Rijk Zwaan. HortIvoire has embraced vegetable cultivation on local coco substrate – a soilless technique that has many advantages. “It needs fewer inputs such as water and fertilisers. Moreover, growing on substrate reduces the use of chemical crop protection agents. And a third important aspect is the fact that it takes up less space and produces a better yield,” he adds.
Learning by doing
Soilless cultivation is a new concept for Ivory Coast. “Growing on substrate requires extra theoretical and also practical training,” says Fer Werheijm of AGRIFER. The first 17 growers completed their six-month training and received their certificates in August 2021. “These participants were all very enthusiastic and are now ready to start their own business or gain employment as a horticultural manager. Together with HortIvoire, we will train 200 students over the next four years,” Fer continues. Rijk Zwaan provided vegetable seeds of varieties that are especially bred for the challenging wet tropical conditions in Ivory Coast, shared technical growing information and worked with AGRIFER to train the students. Plus the company contributed to the new 250m2 demo station in Tiébissou.
Sustainable food systems
Ivory Coast currently meets only 30% of the nation’s vegetable demand itself, with the majority of the available fresh produce coming from Europe and nearby countries like Burkina Faso and Morocco. “Local produce has many benefits. It contributes to the year-round availability of fresh fruit and vegetables, which makes the diet of people in Ivory Coast much more diverse and nutritious, and it improves food security. It also stimulates local employment and the economic position of young people, women and growers,” conclude Fer Werheijm of Agrifer and Christophe Guiet of Rijk Zwaan.