Celebrate World Environment Day
World Environment Day (WED) has been an annual call to action since 1974. WED is a widely celebrated event that allows individuals in over 100 countries to bring public awareness to the biggest issues affecting our environment. In just the past five years, this day has highlighted numerous urgent issues ranging from a greener global economy, raising awareness for climate change, reducing the growth rate and preserving the planet’s resources. Above all though, WED serves as the “people’s day” so we as individuals can be a representative of change and inspire our global community to take better care of our Earth.
Our name, “Partners for Development (PfD)” summarizes our approach of working with various groups of people to achieve sustainable change. We deliver those sustainable solutions by focusing on three key areas: healthy communities, economic empowerment, and agricultural development. PfD’s project in Benin is a great example of how our organization is not only raising awareness, but also bringing about change to improve our global environment. PfD is training local farmers to increase harvests through better growing techniques. Those strategies that coincide with WED’s vision of creating a more sustainable environment included decreasing harvest spoilage, appropriating the use of pesticides and improving water and soil resources. Through our work in Benin, PfD has accomplished the following:
● 60% of farmers participating now use pesticides in a safer and more effective manner by utilizing strategies such as proper dosage and eliminating unnecessary environmental health hazards.
● 21 solar dryers were used during cooking demonstrations with farmer groups to enable them to continue with eco-friendly post-harvest vegetable processing activities.
● We successfully tested two solar irrigation pumps that are able to reduce irrigation cost and pollution in Northern and Southern Benin.
PfD is celebrating this World Environment Day by continuing to make a difference in the world by improving the quality of life and collectively changing behaviors to support sustainable lifestyles. PfD envisions a more just, peaceful, and environmentally sustainable world and partners with local organizations to bring upon lasting change.
In Benin as many as 45% of children under five suffer from chronic malnutrition. This causes “stunting,” a condition and their weakened systems leave them more susceptible to other health problems, and worldwide, malnutrition is seen as a major contributing factor in half of child deaths.
Malnutrition is an immediate and serious health problem in Benin.
To combat this persistent health menace, Partners for Development (PfD) in Benin expanded the scope of activities to include practical nutrition education. This new area of intervention complements the GREEN Project, which focuses on vegetable production in southern Benin. To overcome this, both access to nutritious foods and health education are required.
Most Beninese children are fed pate, a corn-meal paste unaccompanied by fruits or vegetables. Pate alone is believed to be a source of strength. In response, PfD developed training materials on the importance of vegetables and fruit for both children and adults and hold community-based education sessions with vegetable farmers and their families.
PfD uses a variety of tactics to combat these threats to food security. Sanitation and hygiene trainings are conducted alongside those in nutrition. Culinary demonstrations show cooks how to preserve nutrients of their preferred dishes. Through the GREEN Project, PfD has developed and trained farmers and market sellers on techniques of vegetable preservation, such as drying and canning. While fresh fruits and vegetables are the most nutritious, proper preservation retains some nutritional value.
In addition to hands-on trainings at the village level, PfD has partnered with local radio stations to broadcast short public service announcements and longer educational programs on the importance of proper nutrition and hygiene. They also work in collaboration with GREEN’s mobile messaging system to send mass SMS messages on nutrition and hygiene to the thousands of farmers registered on it. This combination of mass media with grassroots education is at the heart of PfD’s effort to help end malnutrition in Benin.
PfD is committed to improving the health of children and families in Benin.
“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.
Meet Mr. Cyprien Hindeme, a vegetable farmer in the Allada region of the Atlantique Department in Southern Benin, who used the knowledge and skills he learned through the GREEN project to improve his pineapple production and sales.
The GREEN project (GREEN blog post) trainings taught Cyprien modern cultivation techniques and important farming skills, such as the proper use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Through the practical marketing workshops, he learned how to become market orientated in his production, and he continues to use the weekly vegetable prices he receives through SMS messages on his cellphone to negotiate sales of his vegetables even before they reach the local markets. This way, not only does he ensure he gets the best prices for his produce, but he also cuts down transportation costs and reduces post-harvest losses.
But vegetables are only part of Cyprien’s income, as he also has a pineapple grove. After witnessing the success of the GREEN project techniques with his cabbage, Cyprien decided to use this knowledge and skills to improve his sugar loaf pineapple production.
By modifying his use of fertilizers and insecticide to comply with GREEN recommendations, he grew larger, juicier pineapples. He also used his marketing skills to research the local and regional pineapple markets and diversify his clients. Now Cyprien delivers his higher quality pineapples to wholesalers in Togo and Burkina Faso, while still servicing buyers in his local market. He also now supplies his top quality fruit to three prominent hotels in the Atlantique Department.
With additional income, Cyprien was able to send one of his children to Benin’s agricultural technical college, ensuring his future and the continued success of his family’s farm. He was also able to buy laptop computers for both of his children attending university, who have now developed marketable computer skills. Cyprien attributes his success to the GREEN project trainings, and says, “now that GREEN helped me with my cabbages and pineapples, now I am ready to try other crops too.”