I studied industrial chemistry in Conakry, but it’s not easy finding a job in this field. A friend’s parents owned land in Kindia, so my friend and I decided to farm it and to innovate, not just use the land for subsistence farming. When we spoke to people about our project, they said we were wasting our time; that agriculture wasn’t a priority for the government [in 2009], and we would end up going back to the city after a few months.
At the beginning, we grew vegetables, then eggplants and corn. But our production didn’t really take off because we didn’t know basic techniques. I asked for help on the internet and Max replied: he made us planting schedules, sent us seeds, printed us t-shirts and came up with the name and logo for our organisation, Kindi@venir. He has been motivating us for the past three years. He’s my mentor, and without him, I probably would have returned to Conakry.
Mohamed and his friends have two cows but only a basic plough.
Today there are around 10 of us participating in this project. We have five hectares of land but we’ve only cleared one hectare for farming. The remaining four hectares need to be cleared, but our only tools are machetes, which makes this difficult. Our main problem is that we have cows, but no real plough.
Our monthly production varies. Last month, we harvested 1,500 m2 of corn, but we only managed to sell each 60-kilogram bag for between 150,000 and 200,000 Guinean Francs [15-20 euros]. Once we took away our expenses, there was 30,000 to 50,000 Guinean Francs [3-5 euros] to be divided between four of us. The others were paid with bags of food because we don’t have the means to give them a salary.
One of Mohamed’s corn fields.
To make matters worse, researchers found a deposit of diamonds on the land where we grow peppers. They took that piece of land from us, and gave us another piece of land of similar size, but it wasn’t suitable for farming. We’re still waiting to be compensated.
The work isn’t enough for us to live on, but it’s our passion. We’re committed to it because it’s still in its early stages. In time, we would like to develop a project called “one pupil, one garden” to create awareness among Guinean children as early as possible and break with our country’s vision of subsistence farming.