Valorisation of cowpeas in Burkina Faso


Context and objectives of the research project: 

The animal and vegetable protein supply issue is one of ISTOM’s concerns as regards research.

The choice of studying vegetable proteins was made a priori for the sake of taking into consideration accessibility to those products by modest or even poor categories.

The competition resulting from the needs of different potential users of those proteins (farmers, housewives, industries) is to be taken into consideration to understand the effective accessibility of the raw materials containing them.

As soya has become, in this sector, a paramount cultivation worldwide, the choice of a potential competitor, cowpeas, originating from developing countries was retained as a subject of study. Besides, cowpeas is commonly grown and eaten in Sahel and the Sudanese savannas. Burkina-Faso was chosen, as landlock country, in order to study a situation with extreme tensions as regards those supplies.

In order to make this questioning more comprehensive, the study attempted to understand whether processing it was likely to modify its importance on the market.

We endeavoured to study the main cowpeas-processing ways countrywide and identify the main substitutes (whether processed of not). The point was to find out the companies with a processing activity, whether within domestic units or a industrial level, which are potential drives for those changes.



First results  

Cowpea is a cash-crop production, a sub-regional market item intended for coastal countries (over 50 % of the production are exported outside Burkina): very-well organised, dynamic market, facing extreme competition and speculations.

This particular position is concomitant with an agricultural revolution of some countrysides (Samatenga) characterized by the abandonment of cotton growing. It was surprising to discover countrysides with rural populations that are often in what we call a precarious food supply situation turned into cowpeas-exporting areas (and also sesame) to remote markets. On the other hand, we did not observe any exports to more lucrative markets (Europe), most certainly due to the product-certification requirements which have been reported to us (Florent THIES, GTZ).

Within the framework of a Junior Expert Mission, students and researchers conducted a field survey.

The mission did not observe any processed form at the level of upstream stages in the cowpeas sector, but innovations took place at the level of the storage of this product which is known to be relatively perishable. New technologies are offered and being adopted (the triple bag). This gives evidence of the dynamism of this sector.

The mission could only confirm little if not inexisting industrial use in Burkina. 

More surprisingly, cowpea does not seem to be the most appreciated or “performing” vegetable protein among the more modest categories in town. Nitta (via its processed form known as soumbala: nitta seeds cooked, shelled, fermented, dried) pourrait occuper this place tout comme le poisson fumé en miette. These two products are still eaten by households that consider cowpeas as not affordable. During the mission, a protocol to conduct the survey among housewives to get a more accurate idea of that trend was tested.

As regards soya, the reference product, the production and imports do not show sustained growth (which was initially expected) in Burkina-Faso. Yet, the production and uses of it are developping in the southern area of the country, led by APME2A and CIDR (and in the same neighbouring coastal countries such as Ghana and Togo) taken over by the agricultural services; the significance of these trends and their consequences are difficult to apprehend today. Monitoring the further trends within the framework of this study may be advisable.

Bréhima DIAWARA, Manager of the Department de Food technology (IRSAT – CNRST) said: “the investigation into the processes in town is a simplistic approach of the diversity of local kown-hows for which references remain in the rural areas”. The inventory and characterization of cowpeas processing methods and consumption in rural areas seem to be a necessity.


Stéphanie REGNAULT and Marc OSWALD

ISTOM - 4, rue Joseph Lakanal - 49000 ANGERS
Phone : (+33) 02 53 61 84 60 / Fax : (+33) 02 53 61 84 61 / E-mail :


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