In June 2019, the French Development Agency entrusted us through Tero an assignment, for the Union of the Comoros: a feasibility study of a 4 year project for the development of cash (ylang ylang essential oil, vanilla and clove, mainly) and vegetable value chains on the two islands with the most population: Ngazidja and Anjouan (Nzwani).
As development socio-economist, Pierre Johnson did the diagnosis of those value chainsas well as a plan for their development in quality and quantity. With the rest of the team (3 international consultants and an agronomist consultant, contracted by Tero), he interviewed the actors of all these value chains, as well as by the representatives of institutions, NGOs, companies and other organizations
A workshop presenting provisional results was held on August 2nd, and a validation workshop on September 2nd, 2019. The project is currently being studied at the French Development Agency, and will start early 2020.
The expected value chains are products “traditionally” exported by the Comoros, and for which the country has a comparative advantage. These three value chains survived from the time during which French settlers exploited more than 34 different species of plants for export. However, the stakes of the development of ylang ylang essential oil, vanilla and clove represent very different issues:
With around 70 tonnes exported every year, Comoros is the world’s leading producer of ylang ylang essential oil, mainly used in perfumery. One major challenge of the development of this sector is its environmental impact, because of the energy-wood required for distillation. Our previous study specifies the issue of this impact. A second challenge is the balance of the sector, from picking flowers to exporting and importing essential oil. Finally, the exported product is not always free of adulteration.
Thanks to the local terroir, Comoran vanilla is also of excellent quality, perhaps the best in the world. But vanilla plants are victims of viral and fungal diseases. The production of healthy lianas and the cleansing of infected land thus appear to be a priority over the next few years, even before production has recovered, which was divided by 5 or 8 over the last 15 years due to a drastic fall in prices which started in 2003. A vigorous action plan will get young people interested in this culture which can be profitable, and loosen the concentration of exporters.
Clove is the main export income of the Comoros, but the product is not valued enough (average quality not documented for producers), and the harvest conditions are dangerous on trees never pruned 10 to 15 meters high. The development of this value chain requires a lot of work on product quality and producers organization.
The stakes of market gardening, were women are mainly engaged, are quite different, even if these crops are complementary to cash crops. Access to water, small tools, and local markets are necessary.
Other crops represent significant potential in the Comoros, both for their local uses (cultural, as food or cosmetics) and for export. Recommendations in this regard were relayed as part of the project preparation.
An action plan, a logical framework and a detailed budget for the project have been proposed to the French Development Agency and the Comorian Ministry of Agriculture for implementation early 2020.