Strengthening the Onion Value Chain in Niger

IRD and its partner organization SNV are implementing the $3 million onion value chain improvement project in Niger. The aims are to improve the competitiveness of the onion sector and the amount and quality of onions produced, improve access to basic financial services, improve irrigation in target regions, and create jobs and increase incomes of smallholder producers.

The project is known locally as PRODEX, which is the name of the Nigerien government agency created to implement World Bank funding for value chain development. During the program’s first phase, the focus is on onions; subsequent phases are addressing cowpeas and livestock.

The World Bank chose Niger for this project because it leads West Africa in onion production, producing more than 600,000 tons per year, about five times the amount produced by neighboring countries and generating over $90 million annually in export revenue. There is also an active local industry, experienced technical and financial support, and a stakeholder community that could benefit from a strengthened value chain. While the onion sector generates substantial income for poor farmers, the sector faces growing competition for export markets, so it is important to continue strengthening the capacity of different sector actors in the production, storage, and marketing of quality onions.

IRD’s initial assessment of the sector found that the onion crops were generally of poor quality and could not withstand long storage periods. As a result, there was often a loss of more than 50 percent of the potential value of the crop due to spoilage. One consequence was that smallholder producers were unable to store their onions while waiting for an advantageous market price.

To address this problem, IRD and its partners are building the capacity of over 2,000 organizations to improve practices related to the production, conservation, and storage of onions. The organizations have been grouped into regional “colleges,” eight for producers, eight for traders, and two for processors. Each region has an inter-professional committee that facilitates dialogue between producers, processors, and traders within their respective regions.

The project’s primary targets are onion industry organizations, service providers (including local NGOs and government extension services), and priority targets include small farmers, women, and youth. To date over 2,600 people (at least 15 women) have been trained in over 15 subjects on different links in the supply chain as well as in the development of business plans. In target areas, onion production has increased by 15 percent or more compared to baselines, and more than 90 percent of beneficiaries are reporting improved incomes from onions and other garden vegetables.

The PRODEX Onion Value Chain Project is funded by the World Bank and managed by IRD. It is scheduled to run from September 2010 through April 2014.