Three Questions

‘I’d like to become the leading rice producer in Niger’

Three questions for Nigerien rice farmer, Rakia Madougou. After discovering her entrepreneurial spirit, she’s now achieving success as a woman in the male-dominated world of rice farming.

Text: Sofia Shabafrouz Illustration: Julian Rentzsch

When Rakia Madougou started growing rice five years ago in Niger*, the men in her village laughed at her. She showed them what women are capable of. With support from GIZ, Madougou formed the company ‘La reine des rizières’ (Queen of the Paddy Fields). She has opened up new sources of income, doubled her turnover and created jobs for three people.

How did you come to be a rice farmer?

My grandfather and father were both rice farmers. It’s usually just men who grow rice, even if the land belongs to their wives. Five years ago, I decided to start doing it too, when my father gave me some land to use. But he and my four brothers, and the men in the village, none of them believed I’d succeed. I made my first attempt on a quarter of a hectare and I harvested 30 sacks of rice. I gave one of them to my father. I’ve been producing, processing and marketing my own rice ever since.

Did anyone help you to set up the business?

My husband did from the outset. Since then, I’ve also been able to convince the other men in my family. The GIZ project ProEMPLOI II organised a training course and job coaching between September 2022 and April 2023. I benefited a lot from that. I learned how to draw up a business plan and do my bookkeeping. Then I registered my business, which had just been informal before, under the name ‘La reine des rizières’. I started to sell the bran, broken rice and straw as well. I invested the profits in machines for husking and weighing, and for stitching the rice sacks, as well as in a storage and sales point. And I was able to employ three people – an assistant, a guard and a seamster – as well as ten seasonal workers, that I want to provide with long-term perspectives. My plan is to become Niger’s biggest rice producer, and to export to Nigeria too. I only want to employ women in the future.

How do you support other women to do the same as you?

Where I live, men are very dominant. There’s a lot of domestic violence. I always tell the women: Grow something, and then process and sell it. They should contribute to the household budgets, open their own accounts and organise themselves into groups. That way, they are better able to care for themselves and their children. Financial independence and being good at what you do is the best way to counteract violence. This is something I always emphasise, as chairperson of the agricultural federation Women’s Courage.


The employment promotion project ProEMPLOI II has empowered 25,000 young people and women and strengthened 730 micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) and cooperatives in Niger. The project is cofinanced by the European Union and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). Its objective is for MSMEs to formalise their operations, modernise their management systems and improve their visibility. In this way, they can raise their turnover and create new jobs, which in turn improves people’s health and wellbeing (SDG 3).

In its three regions of intervention, Agadez, Tillabéri and Zinder, the project has already assisted 524 MSMEs since January 2021. 70 per cent of these companies have increased their turnover by more than 25 per cent and recruited new employees. In the community of Kollo, where Rakia Madougou lives, 30 entrepreneurs have benefited from the support of GIZ’s SME Loop approach, nearly half of them women. Today, all 30 have a business plan in place.

* Rakia Madougou was interviewed before the military coup in Niger. In July 2023 the army assumed power in the country, after which Germany suspended bilateral cooperation with the central government until further notice.