Farmers See Major Growth with GREEN Project
With around 70% of Benin’s population dependent on income generated through agriculture and livestock production, and with 35.2% of the population living in poverty, increasing productivity and incomes in the agriculture sector is essential to improving livelihoods in Benin. Farmers in Benin, however, face many challenges including an inadequate supply of inputs such as fertilizers, post-harvest losses of 25% or more, limited market information, and little to no access to credit (USDA GAIN Benin, 2014).
To support Beninese farmers to address these problems, the USDA-funded Growing Resources for Enhanced Agricultural Enterprises and Nutrition (GREEN) Project helps smallholder vegetable farmers improve and increase crop production and expand the sale of their produce. The GREEN Project works directly with local farmers’ associations and organizations and individual farmers, providing them with the training and tools necessary to train farmers to overcome obstacles through improvements in cultivation techniques, increase understanding of value chains and market-driven production, and improve post-harvest management and business skills.
Tell me and I’ll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I’ll understand. –Proverb
As shown in the diagram above, the GREEN Model involves four major activities: 1. Hands-on, field-based training; 2. Access to credit; 3.Market information and access; and 4. Vegetable Market Information System (VMIS). Combined, these interventions have led to market driven production, increased revenue, higher yields, and improved crop quality.
Training: Our approach: learning by doing. PFD provides local organizations with resources, knowledge, and training on business, marketing, the value chain and new farming techniques. In turn, these organizations, with their newly acquired knowledge, deliver interactive trainings in the field, giving the farmers the opportunities for hands-on learning. This way, the capacity of local organizations is strengthened as well as the capacity of individual farmers. Through this approach, the GREEN Project has trained over 11,000 farmers in improved cultivation technologies and over 4,000 farmers in post-harvest technologies and value chain approaches.
For instance, working with the Agriculture and Food Technology Program, PFD held a week-long hands-on training focused on food processing and preserving. Processing food allows for farmers to sell their products throughout the year, increasing food security. Take tomatoes for example: by transforming part of their tomato crop into tomato purée, farmers are able to stock-up for the off-season when products become expensive and most families are unable to buy the vegetables needed for basic nutrition.
Market Access & Information: GREEN promotes farming decisions based on real-time information. In Benin, many farmers are solely focused on their crops and therefore do not fully understand the value chain. Some farmers have never visited the marketplace where their products sold and crop selection is based on what their family has planted for generations. GREEN’s trainings on the markets and value chain involve trips to the markets to analyze the demand and supply of different vegetables and produce. By actively engaging the farmers in these trainings, PFD and its partners help farmers understand the consumer demands, diversify their crops, expand their markets and ultimately, raise their incomes. For instance, working with the Agriculture and Food Technology Program, PFD held a week-long hands-on training focused on food processing and preserving. Processing food allows for farmers to sell their products throughout the year, increasing food security. Take tomatoes for example: by transforming part of their tomato crop into tomato purée, farmers are able to stock-up for the off-season when products become expensive and most families are unable to buy the vegetables needed for basic nutrition.
PFD, in collaboration with ESOKO a Ghanaian firm, developed a specific vegetable market information system (VMIS) that sends real-time SMS messages of local market prices to farmers, processors, wholesale buyers and sellers. While working in their fields, farmers can access the daily information and better negotiate the prices for their crops. PFD’s VMIS, recently featured at the Agri-Hub Benin Agricultural Finance Fair sponsored by SNV-Benin, registered hundreds of new users.
Access to Credit: The GREEN Project expands access to credit to farmers. GREEN partners with local Beninese banks and microfinance institutions and builds their capacity to loan to smallholder farmers. Vegetable Producers Without Bordersfaced real challenges when they began planting in 2009: from insufficient technology such as irrigation systems to an ongoing struggle to find good markets. Enter GREEN. PFD trained the group on how to develop detailed business plans allowing them to access credit which allowed the farmers to increased cultivation from ¼ hectare to two hectares and diversify their crops. Vegetable Producers Without Borders are now on their second loan and have installed an irrigation system allowing them to produce higher quality crops and expand their market to new Beninese towns and even into Nigeria.
By building capacity of both local organizations and individual farmers and by intensively involving farmers in trainings, PFD continues to plant seeds for sustainable and lasting growth in Benin. Through GREEN Project trainings, 96% trainees adopted the improved cultivations methods taught. Targeted farmers’ income also increased, with an over 220% increase in net sales revenue from their vegetables.