“In the past, our parents used to cut down hardwood trees such as Iroko or Makoré to make furniture. The trees began to die out and the species to disappear. This led us to rebuild and revive these tree species, which could also bring us financial independence. That’s how we got involved in tree nursery production”, says Rodolphe.
Rodolphe’s business is one of 30 beneficiaries of the “Entrepreneurship for the development of a green economy on the surroundings areas of the Taï National Park” project, jointly run by IDH, the Office Ivoirien des Parcs et Réserves (OIPR) and microfinance institution UNACOOPEC-CI. The project has been launched in 2021 with overall funding of 188,952,928 F CFA (€ 288,032 ), including 167,063,520 F CFA (€ 254,670 ) from IDH and 20,485,568 F CFA (€ 31,228 ) from OIPR and its partner SPARK. It aims at contributing to the preservation of the TNP by promoting the empowerment and employment of young people and women in cocoa-producing communities. The selected entrepreneurs thus benefit from financial support and training from UNACOOPEC-CI in order to acquire the technical, managerial and commercial skills needed to initiate and ensure the sustainability of their activities. For UNACOOPEC-CI, this project is of paramount importance, the microfinance institution’s primary objective being “to create the conditions for the inclusion of all social strata (…), to provide financial services to young people excluded by the conventional system, by offering them microcredits that will enable them to make a living”, says Mr. Kouamé Koffi André, regional manager of UNACOOPEC-CI in Guiglo.
“Before I started the company, I tapped rubber trees for a living. As for the women shareholders, they helped their husbands in the fields or stayed at home to do the chores. Today, the project has given them an occupation and a better source of income”, explains Rodolphe. In its first phase, the project trained 30 entrepreneurs in business plan development techniques. Project partners are currently supporting beneficiaries like Rodolphe in their transition to a formal income-generating activity, notably with the registration of their businesses in the national trade register.
Between 2021 and 2022, project funds enabled OIPR to purchase nearly 20,000 seedlings from Rodolphe’s company, which were distributed to cocoa farmers on the surrounding areas of the TNP, generating nearly 8,000,000 F CFA (€ 12 195) in profit for Rodolphe and the company’s shareholders. In total, almost 69,000 seedlings (in 2021) and 23,500 seedlings (in 2022) have been purchased from project beneficiary companies in the Cavally and Nawa regions and distributed free of charge to cocoa producers in the TNP peripheral zone.
In 2023, the 30 companies set up under this project will receive loans to develop their activities. Rodolphe tells us that he has opened an account with UNACOOPEC-CI and is looking forward to receiving his loan to “buy a machine to evacuate the plants and also to buy seeds to increase his production”. In addition, a geo-referencing of the seedlings distributed to cocoa producers will be carried out during this second phase of project implementation, in order to assess the survival rate of the seedlings and ensure that they grow in the best possible conditions.