Antoine Sombié

Ashoka Fellow
Banfora, Burkina Faso
Fellow Since 2010

Citation

This profile was prepared when Antoine Sombié was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2010.
The New Idea
An integral requirement for Antoine’s Association Wouol is that each member is entrepreneurial. Antoine believes that his venture must not only connect the distribution skills of his joint venture partners, but also facilitate the abilities of individual producers seeking new ways to produce, process, and sell the food they grow. He began experimenting with this approach by establishing the first women’s producer company in Burkina Faso in 1994, and then in 1999 pioneering another network of small producers, primarily women. The successes of this producer program enabled women’s associations to be active producers of organically certified produce in Burkina Faso for the first time.

In these programs, Antoine gained experience exporting products and acquired a deep understanding of necessary product quality standards. As a result, he has implemented a system that requires association members to meet certain performance standards by designating them with specialized jobs and responsibilities. This process both provides members with the opportunity for professional development as well as ensures the highest possible quality of the final product. Beginning in 2001, Antoine transformed this association into the equivalent of a cooperative production company owned by the farmers. Integral to this approach is that every member of the producer group understands each step in the value chain, why it is important, and who is responsible for its successful operation.

Association Wouol successfully operates because Antoine uses consumer trends, and current knowledge on the functioning of worldwide organic supply chains to direct the association’s operations. He assures his buyers that the association’s products are approved directly by European organic certification institutions such as Ecocert, as opposed to locally conceived organic certification programs. Because he guarantees certification by legitimate European programs, he gives his producer members a marketable competitive advantage compared to producers using illegal methods. Through this network of European certified small producers, Antoine has shifted production from solely domestic markets to international buyers who offer higher prices and viable opportunities for producer members.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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