Taking Vegetable Production 2SCALE
52-year-old Bernadette Sossou is a vegetable farmer and member of the of Green Fingers Farmers’ Cooperative (COMADOV) in Grand Popo, Benin. She is the head of her household and mother of six children.
“For me and for many vegetable growers in Benin, the biggest challenge is access to land, and to quality inputs, such as seeds and fertilizer. To access fertilizer, farmers must produce cotton, and cotton is almost exclusively men’s business.”
2SCALE has been working in the region to provide technical assistance to farmers like Bernadette, to broker partnerships with financial institutions and to identify local businesses able to supply agro-inputs to the community.
Bernadette took part in a 2SCALE training scheme that taught good agricultural practices on a learning plot. She received a credit of 2 million CFA francs (EUR 3,050), without any guarantee and with a reasonable interest rate of 12% per year. The credit allowed her to grow 1 hectare (ha) of onion and 1 ha of tomato. By selling her products to merchants that 2SCALE linked her to, she was able to repay the loan and make a profit of nearly 6 million CFA francs (EUR 9,152). On this new basis of trust with the microfinance institute, this year Bernadette received a credit of 5 million CFA francs (EUR 7,627), which allowed her to install a sprinkler irrigation system.
“Three or four years ago, I could not imagine such changes,” says Bernadette. “The sprinkler irrigation makes my work easier, reduces the cost of production and allows me to expand the land I rent from 3 to 5 ha. Previously, my six children and some five other young people from the village were my main workforce. With these modern facilities, work is less strenuous, and my children have more time to devote to their studies.”
“As head of my household, it is with this money that I feed my family. For example, for my eldest son, the university fees are more than 300,000 CFA francs (EUR 457) a year. I am not speaking of those who are in high school. I do not count the money that goes into health care. All this comes from this garden. If the land were to be sold to investors to build villas, what would I do?”
BERNADETTE’S CALLS TO ACTION:
- I would ask the state to set up an agricultural bank to enable growers to own their land. Cities are rising and land has become much more expensive; one hectare can cost up to 18 million CFA francs (EUR 27,444). Banks require collateral, such as a land title before lending us money, but only one out of 100 producers owns the land they cultivate.
- I would ask the state to work with the private sector to make fertilizer available and accessible to small producers. This fertilizer should be suitable for gardening. Currently, the little fertilizer available on the market is directed to cotton farmers, who are men.
- I would ask NGOs to echo our voices at the government level. Without tomatoes, onions and other vegetables that we produce, how can we fight against hunger? The government thinks only about cotton. But the world must know that before thinking about getting dressed, people first think of eating.