Flowers and Food Security

Do you know what the national flower of Hawaii, Haiti, Malaysia and South Korea is?

The delicious tea made from its flowers can lower blood pressure and cholesterol, boost the immune system and help weight loss. In some countries it's used as a vegetable and as a natural food coloring and is used to make paper. Wearing it can also denote if a woman is married or single.

© Lavanya Kurup

These are all the various uses of the beautiful and highly versatile hibiscus, which is also one of the crops that is part of the IFAD-supported Agricultural Value Chains Support Project in Senegal. The project, together with  farmers’ organizations, put in place a financing scheme for agricultural inputs such as certified seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, and small tools, farmers also have access to extension services. This has allowed, crop yields to significantly increase in project areas.

For example, in the last five years, hibiscus yield increased from 200 kilograms per hectare to the current 650 kilograms per hectare. This is an impressive 225% increase! As a result, smallholder farmers have been able to produce enough for their own consumption, as well as for sale on the open market. A number of international tea/herbal companies have expressed interest in the crop which illustrates its potential on a number of fronts.

One of the main reasons for the success of the Agricultural Value Chains Support Project is  the Market Operators contractual arrangement which has created the necessary  linkages between farmers' organizations and market operators. This arrangement has helped to integrate farmers into the value chain allowing them  to deliver valuable and high quality products and services to the market across the entire value chain, starting with cultivating, processing, packaging.

The project has set up four value chain fora  for hibiscus, millet/sorghum, cowpea and sesame. The fora are a platform where every value chain actor (producer, transporter, input provider, trader, processor, banker, etc.)  can meet, share information, plan together activities, and mediate among actors (i.e. between producers and buyers).

The project has had a significant impact on the local economy and has helped to reduce food insecurity, increase incomes and create jobs, especially for women and young people.