After a few years’ international experience in trading commodities and in the food industry, this young entrepreneur, 29, whose father is French and Lebanese mother, returned to Côte d’Ivoire where he was born and grew up, set out to cross the country.
“When I returned to the fold in 2017, I had the opportunity, for the first time, to take my car and explore the interior of the Ivory Coast,” said Sputnik’s microphone Alain Branger.
From this immersion in the depths of the country, he emerged captivated by the meetings he had and even more by the riches discovered.
“I have met a lot of people, mainly women, who transform the products of the earth in an absolutely incredible way. And when I saw the ridiculous prices at which they sold their production, I was shocked. I was keen to bring them together, exchange with them and offer them to make packaging and marketing around the products as attractive as possible locally, but also internationally, “he explained.
Alain Branger thus decided to set up a fair and united project by creating Mando Foods & Co. The name was chosen by the women themselves. In Ebrié, an Ivorian ethnic group, Mando means “family”.
Process agricultural products
The women with whom the entrepreneur collaborates are mostly specialized in the processing of agricultural products. For example, with regard to plantains, they manage to make five finished products: flour which is used in particular to prepare gluten-free cookies, crisps, cosmetic butter and finally wine.
You should know that plantains are widely consumed in Côte d’Ivoire, in various forms. The dishes derived from it –alloco, foutou or foufou– are also popular in Africa and are exported well to certain European countries such as France or Italy.
It is therefore not surprising to see the plantain wine – produced by the sisters of a monastery in Yamoussoukro, the capital – have a favorable response with Ivorians. And this atypical drink is far from being the only one of these nuns who also make wine with other exotic fruits such as pineapple, avocado or tangelo.
Prices that take into account women’s labor
In its shop in Abidjan, Mando Foods & Co, strives to promote and sell the items of its partners, all from natural products and made in an artisanal way.
“We don’t have a fair trade label yet, but we work as such. What we want above all is that the women we work with are paid well. If our prices are generally a little higher than those of products of the same type that we could possibly find in large surfaces, it is because of their quality, their artisanal design and the particular packaging “, specified Alain Branger .
For a little over a year that the company exists, spices, flours, cookies, sweets, honey, juice, wines, liqueurs and other products of this fair trade have constantly attracted an ever-growing and varied clientele Ivorians, expatriates).
“Women, by their labor force, are the main vector of development in Côte d’Ivoire. This is especially true in rural areas. They are serious and diligent in their tasks, in addition to carrying the responsibility of the family on their backs. And they are very often the guarantors of ancestral know-how and technical expertise in terms of agricultural production and processing, “Alain Branger told Sputnik.
Rural women, key players in development
In developing countries like Côte d’Ivoire, the contribution of rural women to the economy is undeniable. They constitute 67% of the agricultural workforce – agriculture representing almost 20% of Ivorian GDP – and ensure food security (60% to 80% of food production) and supply to large urban centers. food production.
And yet, around 60% of these women live below the poverty line, according to the authorities who have multiplied actions in recent years with a view to their empowerment.
FAO estimates that if women farmers have “the same access to agricultural resources as men, the production of farms held by women in developing countries could increase by 20% to 30%, which could reduce poverty and the number of hungry people in the world from 100 to 150 million people ”.
“The land, of course, requires a little training and technicality, but it never lies. Today, with industrial food that is very unhealthy, intensive farming with poor quality meat, the world aspires to a return to healthier things. And this is possible in Côte d’Ivoire with rational work on the land and women in pole position, “said Alain Branger.
Working the land, Alain Branger is convinced, can allow rural women to “realize their wishes, earn money but also benefit their families”.
“These women work a lot, so they have to earn a lot,” he concluded.