NAFASO: A Beacon of Hope in West Africa Seed Industry

Abdoulaye Sawadogo, formerly a worker in a tire company is about to conquer West Africa with his seeds. After close to 13 years working as a laborer, he was terminated in the 1980s with just 300,000 FCFA (USD 600) as compensation.

Uncertain about what to do with this sum, he decided to go into agriculture by cultivating a hectare of a banana plantation. His first harvest earned him 1,200,000 FCFA (USD 2400). This is four times the amount he received as his severance package for 13 years ofwork. In the second planting season, he cultivated maize and the harvest generated 750,000 FCFA (USD 1500). These encouraging results convinced him that he had indulged in a sector where the outcome could only be wealth creation.

In 2002, Abdoulaye sowed 65 hectares. His harvest worth about 279 tons were sold to a company partly associated with the state for about 65 million FCFA. He hasn’t been paid as of today. A year later, he suffered another major setback. In under 24 hours, torrential rains flooded his farm almost killing any hopes he had. Still confident, he obtained a loan of 8 million FCFA (USD 16000) to restart his activities the following year. With all the experience accumulated, he created his firm in 2008 and opted for the production of off-season seeds. This was a winning strategy as Nafaso is today the leading company in West Africa specialized in the production and marketing of improved seeds.

Based in Bobo Dioulasso, Burkina Faso, Nafaso is active in rice, maize, sorghum and cowpea seeds. The new warehouse and machines and evidence of the company’s growing success. It has 40 permanent employees, ten executives, nearly 1,500 seasonal and more than 1,200 temporary workers.

“Our goal is to bring the seeds closer to their users and the small producers,” says Abdoulaye Sawadogo.

With more than 50 shops and nearly 450 retailers, Nafaso, which makes 5,500 tons of seeds per season, has an annual turnover of 2.5 billion FCFA (USD 5 million). Thanks to West Africa Seed Program (WASP), a program of CORAF, the company that operated mainly in Burkina Faso currently sells its seeds to Senegal, Nigeria, Guinea and across West Africa.

“Nafaso is well positioned in the sub-region market thanks to CORAF, WASP, and WAAPP. They facilitated our access to the regional market,” says Abdoulaye recalling the 2014 initiative to supply critical seeds to countries hit by the Ebola disease. During that period, Nafaso sold nearly 3 billion FCFA (USD 6 million) of seeds to the affected countries.