Project GREEN turns Beninese Farmers into Agricultural Entrepreneurs
“Thanks to the GREEN Project, I sell lots of really good vegetables,” says Bonaventure Odoubiyi, a farmer near the city of Allada whose high quality vegetables have earned him the exclusive clientele of a prestigious hotel in the area. Before his introduction to Project GREEN (GREEN blog post), Bonaventure was a typical vegetable farmer in Benin who grew only local vegetables and followed traditional cultivation methods by using large amounts of cheap, ineffective fertilizer, overcrowding his small plots, and relying exclusively on rain for irrigation. With little bargaining power, Bonaventure sold his produce at the nearest market to whomever he could at whatever price, earning only around 30,000 CFA ($60) a month.
Wanting to develop his business, Bonaventure began attending GREEN trainings, where he learned how to improve the quality of his vegetables and increase crop yields. Through GREEN’s market and business management training, Bonaventure learned about market-driven crop production and how to approach local markets when looking for new clients, leading him to discover the Royal Palace Hotel, an upscale French-owned resort just outside the small city of Allada. To provide for the hotel, Bonaventure began to grow vegetables such as eggplant, radishes and beets, which are not sold on the local market but have a strong clientele with foreign restaurants and hotels like the Royal Palace that tend to pay more for higher quality produce.
Bonaventure engaged the finance and business skills he learned from GREEN to successfully apply for a small loan of $1,000 (500,000 FCFA) from the Federation of Savings and Loans Institution, GREEN’s micro-finance partner. After purchasing a nearby field, he bought a motorized pump to irrigate his crops, and his hard work and investment began to pay off as he saw an improvement in the quantity and quality of his produce. Bonaventure then decided to bring samples of his new crops to the Royal Palace Hotel. Impressed with the quality and variety of his selection, the hotel immediately purchased all of his produce and even offered Bonaventure a contract to continuously supply them with his vegetables.
Bonaventure’s business with the hotel grew rapidly, but despite his larger and more productive fields, he still could not meet the demands of the Royal Palace. Consequently, Bonaventure reached out to other GREEN-trained vegetable growers to help him meet the demand. Now, Bonaventure is a farmer, as well as the head of a vegetable supply business. His own crops supply about 30% of the Royal Palace Hotel vegetables, while the rest comes from his network of GREEN farmers. The hotel has been so impressed with the quality of Bonaventure’s weekly deliveries that over the past year they’ve recommended Bonaventure’s produce to another upscale hotel that also offered him a contract for his vegetables.
Bonaventure is proud of his accomplishments, new business and increased income. Thanks to GREEN’s support and training, he now makes nearly $300 USD (150,000 FCFA) each month, five times more than he used to earn. Every time he adds clients to expand his business, he contracts GREEN-trained farmers to help meet the demand. Bonaventure is becoming a successful entrepreneur, and he credits part of his achievement to all of the help and support from the GREEN Project.