Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?
Almost 54 percent of Burkina Faso's population lives below the poverty line and only 33 percent are formally employed. Most rely on subsistence agriculture for food and income, with almost 90 percent of the population engaged in agro-pastoral activities. However, the region's arid conditions and the dominance of cotton production make crop farming difficult. Thus, livestock rearing is ideal for maximizing both production and sustenance. In fact, the Sahel region as a whole accounts for 25 percent of the cattle, 33 percent of the sheep and 40 percent of the goats in sub-Saharan Africa. Given the slow but steady decline of the cotton industry, which at one point accounted for 60 percent of Burkina Faso's exports, there is room for livestock-related products to significantly contribute to a more diversified formal economy. More specifically, leather production and tanning are ideal due to the large number of cattle and a history of these practices in the region. This labor-intensive industry could also be a source for much needed employment. Despite the sheer number of animals, livestock are underutilized and many countries in the Sahel still import animal products. Indeed, although 10 percent of the world's cattle are in Africa, the continent produces only 4.5 percent of the world's bovine hides. Africa's contribution to worldwide leather and leather goods supply has, in fact, declined from 4 percent to about 2 percent in recent years and its tanning capacity has similarly decreased. However, this pattern can be reversed. The leather and tanning industries are currently unrealized sources of economic value that, if unlocked, could contribute towards increased incomes and improved quality of life for many.
Kaya, the capital of the Sanmatenga province, is known as a hub for leather production and tanning in Burkina Faso. Knowledge of the trade is usually passed down through family knowledge and it is estimated that about 21 percent of the population is connected to leather and tanning. The components of the leather industry, in fact, form a supply chain that starts with animal husbandry and often ends in high-end clothes and accessories. There are many actors who contribute to the value and production of leather and a drop in quality at one point in the chain has ramifications on the final product's value. For example, cattle branding by the farmer results in scars on the hides much later on in the process or, poor cuts made by the butcher result in lower quality and cheaper hides. Thus, integration and communication across these stages is essential in ensuring high quality products that fetch significant prices in the market. In Kaya, and much of the Sahel, most livestock belong to smallholder farmers as opposed to large commercial farms. Since knowledge is passed down through the family, each producer has his/her own methods and practices resulting in inconsistencies in products from one farmer to another. Often, the butcher gets low prices for these already damaged hides and skins and so s/he has little incentive to care for them well. Even at the end of the chain, artisans producing leather handicrafts have little access to larger markets and the poor quality of skins at the start of the chain limits the prices they can charge for their products.There is very little in the way of integration or communication between these actors and as a result, the full potential value of these hides and this industry are unrealized.
Rasmane understands that without a cohesive vision for this industry and clear connections across the various stages, leather and tanning will never realize its full potential. He sees the need to reorganize the sector and address these issues, to better connect buyers and sellers and to improve overall productivity. Previous solutions designed to address these problems did not involve all the stakeholders and instead worked with each target group in isolation. Thus, these failed to provide integrated solutions to address issues that carryover from one stage to the next or that require the participation of other actors in the supply chain.
When Burkina Faso identified the diversification and intensification of agricultural, pastoral, forestry, wildlife and fishing activities as part of its Rural Development Strategy, Rasmane decided to intervene and address the issues that limit the success of the leather and tanning industries today. His goal is to make the leather and tanning industries levers for endogenous and sustainable local development in Burkina Faso.
Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!
Rasmane is transforming the existing local knowledge, production and trade of leather and leather products into a lever for regional economic growth in Burkina Faso. Through his organization (JEDES), he is reorganizing the leather and tanning industries of the Sanmatenga Province in order to boost productivity and the quality of products produced. By mobilizing all the actors in this value chain in an effort to address existing industry challenges, he is ensuring integration across the sector and localized, bottom-up ownership of the transformation of this region's historic trade and craft. These actors work together to define a brand, quality control standards and potential new markets and buyers for their products. The partnerships that form between them also lead to higher value products (as each actor understands his/her role in adding value up the chain) and helps to match sellers with new and larger markets. A large event is held once every two years to bring together these actors and draw visibility to the sector. Between these events, Rasmane organizes trainings for members based on their role in the value chain and the problems identified by the collective group. Rasmane also facilitates capital flows to the sector, specifically to modernize production techniques, and connects local actos with relevant government partners. He is now working to create local centers for economic development that transform a region's cultural assets and existing trade into levers for broader economic development in Burkina Faso.
Rasmane has seen improvements in the quality of leather produced in Kaya as well as an increase in the incomes of local producers, craftsmen and traders. He has been able to rally the administrative, political and technical authorities of Burkina Faso to his cause. Kaya has become well known for its leather and tanning industries at a national level and international partnerships, specifically with regard to access to new markets, are in the works. Other communities have seen this initiative and realize that they too can transform their local resources and knowledge into a valuable source of job creation and economic development.