Encouraging entrepreneurship: Planting the seeds of self-sufficiency from the bottom up

The Gabonese Initiative for Achieving Agricultural Outcomes with Engaged Citizenry (Gabonaise des Réalisations Agricoles et des Initiatives des Nationaux Engagés, GRAINE) is part of the government’s ambition to boost agriculture’s contribution to GDP from 5% to 20% by 2025, and, in the process, reduce the country’s dependence on food imports.


Launched in December 2014, GRAINE is designed to promote entrepreneurship in agriculture by helping small farmers to form cooperatives for the production of cash and long-cycle crops by providing start-up financing, equipment and training as well as buying their produce. The five-year project is being developed as a public-private partnership through SOTRADER, a joint venture between Singapore-based Olam International (49%) and the state (51%). The government will provide land rights, funding and logistics infrastructure, while Olam will develop and manage the project, and offer market access to farmers by either buying the products directly or helping them sell through distribution networks.

The government aims to transfer the rights to 200,000 ha of land across all nine provinces to the cooperatives, with each farmer receiving between 4 and 7 ha depending on the type of crop they will be growing: 7 ha for crops such as cocoa, coffee and palm oil, and 4 ha for cash crops including red peppers, tomatoes, cassava and bananas.

In the first phase 6000 farmers will be allocated land in the northern provinces of Woleu-Ntem and Ogooué-Ntem. As of April 2015, the first 105 cooperatives, representing 3650 smallholder farmers, had been registered in Ogooué-Ivindo, while land rights for 1458 ha had been transferred. Under the scheme, each cooperative signs a contract with SOTRADER for financing and supply of inputs to be reimbursed from the sale of its produce. SOTRADER guarantees to buy all produce at a rate based upon the local or international market prices depending on the product type.


GRAINE aims to build on the success and lessons learnt from other projects of the Gabonese Institute for Development Support, the operating arm of the Ministry of Agriculture, Husbandry and Rural Development. GRAINE has received financial support from IFIs, including the French Development Agency (Agence Française de Développement, AFD), and the private sector, as well as the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

The latest such scheme is the Agricultural Development and Investment Project, launched in 2012 with financing from the AFD as a follow-up to the 2004 Peri-Urban Agriculture Development Support Project in Gabon. This €20m, five-year initiative, which is 80% financed by the AFD, has focused on promoting the commercialisation of arable and pastoral farming in peri-urban areas through technical advice and training, as well as supporting larger-scale production via cooperatives, and the transformation of staple foods such as cassava. The project has been extended until end-2016.

Meanwhile, a project launched in 2007 by the IFAD to produce bananas, cassava and groundnuts in the province of Woleu-Ntem has been extended to March 2017. Further funding has been approved for the Agricultural and Rural Development Project to better market the crops and improve project results, which the IFAD admits have not met expectations as the small and dispersed plantations have yet to create the critical mass to attract business players, and there have also been issues with local management.

The FAO is also seeking to help smallholder farmers with the sale and marketing of their produce through the creation of cooperatives. A project launched in 2014 near Kango in Estuaire Province has grouped 650 farmers into four big cooperatives to help them boost production of bananas and cassava as well as to facilitate the delivery of produce to the market.