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Emilienne is from a small village in Benin; one of the poorest countries in the world, where more than half of the population live on less than $1.90 per day. Debilitating hunger is widespread.

Emilienne didn’t go to school – her parents couldn’t afford the fees and they needed her to work on the family farm. Like many of her friends, she never learned to read or write. Before The Hunger Project came to her village, life was incredibly hard for Emilienne.

“I was working on the land. My earnings weren’t enough to feed my children.” Her children were malnourished. Every day was a struggle to survive and the future looked no different. “Saving money wasn’t possible. The thought of it didn’t even cross my mind.”

When we last visited Emilienne earlier this year, she was full of joy as she proudly showed us her thriving peanut cookie business. The eight women she employs were busy grilling peanuts, treating the peanut dough and frying cookies.

Emilienne was given an opportunity to change her life through The Hunger Project’s programs in her village. She received business skills training, literacy and numeracy education as well as a microfinance loan.

“I learned how to draw up a business plan and the importance of saving.”

She used the loan and skills she learned to start the peanut cookie business. Today, business is booming.

“I’m still applying the knowledge I gained in The Hunger Project’s entrepreneurship workshops” she says.

She has increased production and invested in new machinery to improve efficiency. When she first started, Emilienne was selling a small number of peanut cookies at the local markets.

“Now, I sell cookies in large quantities to other women who sell them individually. I also process 10 bags of 105 kg of peanuts a week, from which I make 5 large baskets of peanut butter and 250 litres of peanut oil.”

Emilienne is also determined to help others.

“I am a volunteer for the agricultural bank and I run leadership training in my community. I like to be active in my village. My children now attend school.”

Empower women like Emilienne today.