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benin

Bienvenu’s success inspiring his community

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For many years Bienvenu and his wife Justine have been farming chickens, turkeys and rabbits.  After attending workshops at Zakpota Epicentre in Benin, they learned how to expand their business.  They have applied for credit from the bank and have since purchased more poultry and the necessary food to provide for their livestock.

“I already knew everything about poultry farming,’ says Bienvenu, ‘but my workshops in the Epicentre in Zakpota increased my knowledge in that area. So now, I know even better what my chickens and other animals need to stay healthy. I also learned to read, write and do my own book-keeping. I know what my company is about and through my improved understanding of accounting, I am better able to grow with it.”

Bienvenu has bought a larger farm and he has built barns to keep more chickens.  He has two permanent employees and hires casual staff when he needs help with the construction of his barns. He is already thinking about expanding further, so he can save money by growing food for his livestock himself.

“I need 500,000 cfa (approx. $1,175AUD) of credit per year, especially for the feed of my poultry. If I can grow that food myself, I’m one step further. I now earn net 2.1 million cfa (approx. $4,940 AUD) per year. I make the most of my profits during the holidays when people come to buy chickens and turkeys. I sell the eggs throughout the year… It is my goal to eventually become so big that I can deliver to catering. “

I make sure my animals have enough space in the barns, so that they stay healthy and I can continue to deliver quality. I now have 5,000 birds (including 3,500 chickens, 250 turkeys, 1,000 guinea fowl, 250 ducks and 100 rabbits. In the future, I want to grow to at least 12,000 poultry. “ Bienvenu’s extraordinary vision and business skills have earned him awards and visits from local politicians. He hopes to attract more visitors to the region through his work, and thus stimulate more economic activities.

People in his community are inspired by his abilities and subsequent success.  He is a big thinker who likes to share the knowledge and skills he learned with other farmers in his village.  He employs young people on internships and is happy that others are benefitting from his success.

Meet Emilienne

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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. 

Empowering women with financial freedom

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Microfinancing programs provide a powerful platform from our village partners can transform their lives. They are empowered with knowledge and training about effective savings and credit practices, before they’re given access to microfinance loans that traditional banking systems usually deny those living in developing areas.

With as little as $60, we can provide one woman, who is currently living in poverty, with a microfinance loan and financial literacy training that will change her life. With the money she borrows she could start a small business, earn an income and provide for her family.

Microfinance loans are critical to ending hunger and poverty, as they result in sustainable change that benefits the whole community. Through the loans, small trade businesses are created, farming and agricultural practices improve, crop levels and storage capacity increases and a sense of economic independence evolves. As the economy improves and communities head toward self-reliance – nutritional, educational and healthcare practices also improve. Families can eat more nutritious food, illnesses are treated and prevented and children are able to attend school to become confident leaders of future generations.

The Hunger Project places women at the centre of our microfinance programs, not only because they account for 70% of the worlds’ hungry, but because when women are empowered the whole community benefits. They focus on the important issues, share their knowledge and they look for solutions to the challenges that face them.

Pictured: Emilienne from Benin. Emilienne runs a successful peanut cookie business.

Photo credit:Johannes Odé

Louise Langi – Helping women of Benin realize their dreams

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Louise Langi is a 42-year-old woman from Benin, who is committed to helping women in her village realise their dreams.  Louise and her husband farm and deal in fruit, corn and peanuts to provide for their 6 children.

Through The Hunger Project’s Vision, Commitment, Action (VCA) workshops – Louise has learned financial literacy and healthcare skills that she uses to empower women of her village to create better lives for themselves and their families.

She was elected by her community to lead the Women’s Credit Group because she is a powerful communicator with strong ideas and vision for the future.

She helps to distribute credit made available through the bank and advises women on how to run more effective trades. She calls the women of her group together twice a month to discuss the issues they face in their trades and how they can overcome them. She takes great pride in representing their interests and uses the meetings as an opportunity to pass on other valuable information learned through her VCA training, such as;
• How to prepare healthy meals for children
• The importance of good nutrition
• Disease prevention and vaccination
• Good hygiene practices

Preparing the meetings takes a lot of time and she guides those who need extra support individually. Louise runs weekly literacy classes, where they can learn to read and write, and feels great joy from seeing the women, and her wider community, develop.

“In the VCA workshops I have learned to have more confidence and my whole attitude has changed. I also learned to read and write in the literacy course of the Epicentre. I want to pass on that knowledge.  That is why I also give a group of women a weekly lesson in reading and writing. I would like to accompany all these women to achieve what they want. To realize their dreams…This way we will continue together as a community!”

Before her involvement with The Hunger project, Louise says her voice was not heard in village discussions. Now, she can communicate her ideas with confidence and is increasingly involved in other decision-making processes within her community. As a village council member, improving the health of her village and the facilities available to them is one of her priorities.

How Louise’s life has changed in five years

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When we first met Louise five years ago, she shared with us how The Hunger Project had given her the confidence to be a leader in her community. Thanks to a microfinance loan, she had just started a business selling fruit, corn and peanuts and had big dreams for the future.

Five years on, when we arrive in the village of Dotan, Louise is waiting for us with her women’s group. They are dancing and singing when they meet us.

“I have become much more independent. My life has expanded, with the support of The Hunger Project. Before, I mainly traded in corn, now I also have a shop with homewares and clothes.”

Louise is also a volunteer health leader for her community. If residents have concerns about their treatment at the health post, they talk to Louise. She makes sure that their concerns are addressed.

“I give advice on the importance of family planning. I help deliver polio vaccines provided by the government. I’m also active in a committee that monitors the work of the public health post.”

Louise’s incredible work doesn’t stop there. She has taught more than 80 women in her village to read and write, to ensure that everyone can become socially independent like she is.

“I teach a small group of women to read and write. I would love to help all these women to achieve what they want, to realise their dreams. In this way our community advances.”

“In five more years I hope to be living with my children in a new, bigger house… I want to expand my business even more. I am also going to buy additional farmland to farm maize with the help of seasonal workers. The income from this will be my retirement plan, for the future when I can not work anymore.”

Story from Mariken Stolk.

Fathimath and Justin save lives at their health clinic

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At Lahotan Epicentre in central Benin, The Hunger Project-Benin is working with the local community to staff and expand a small health clinic and to promote its services among community members.  

Fathimath Omighessan, 28, is an epicentre midwife who has worked at the clinic for a year, alongside two assistants and a guard. At regular intervals, a doctor is present at the clinic as well. Before she arrived in Benin, Fathimath had a job in a private clinic in Togo, a neighboring country. Her previous clinic was equipped for surgery and she is accustomed to providing complex care. When people are in the epicentre clinic for more than two days, Fathimath knows when to refer them to a larger hospital.

At first, patients were slow to come to the clinic. “Not many people believe they will find quality care so close to home. Most people wait, hoping their medical complaints will disappear, or until they are very ill. When that happens, they are often beyond our help. This is really sad,” said Fathimath.

To change the community perception of the Epicentre Clinic, Fathimath partnered up with Justin Dividé, the Chairperson of the Health Committee at the Epicentre. All six committee members are volunteers at the clinic and are educating their own villages on the importance of prenatal care.

“Justin truly is my right hand. Or, no, really, he is my right arm! He often accompanies me on house calls, for instance, because the people around here tend to take him more seriously than an outsider, like myself. Last year we visited every surrounding village to explain what we offer in the clinic,” said Fathimath.

“It’s for the well-being of my village, so Fathimath can always call on me when she needs my help. I am glad I have been able to convince people of her qualities,” Justin adds.

Today, more and more people are beginning to use the clinic, which is making a significant impact on the surrounding villages. Community members can deliver their children and be treated much closer to home. By using the health clinic instead of driving to a larger hospital, community members are also able to save money. In addition to requiring less gasoline to get to the clinic, community members don’t need to purchase food during their hospital stay, being close enough to cook at home and bring food to the clinic. Newly pregnant couples are now asking the clinic to acquire an echo-scanner, so they can find out if they are carrying a boy or a girl.

As her second half-year contract draws to an end, Fathimath is uncertain if she’ll be offered a permanent contract to remain with the clinic. However, when asked if she would like to stay at such a small clinic, Fathimath said, “Yes, I really hope I will be able to stay. I have a nice house here, where I live with my son. But more importantly, when people start visiting the clinic, I feel I can really make a difference here, for instance, by advising mothers on food for their children.”

Report by Evelijne Bruning

Photo credit Johannes Odé

COMBATING VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN IN BENIN THROUGH COMMUNITY LEADERSHIP AND EDUCATION

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Violence and discrimination against women remains a pervasive challenge in Benin. In fact, a study in 2013 showed that 75% of women in Benin are victims of violence and more than 44% are sexually abused. To tackle this issue, The Hunger Project-Benin works with community partners through the Women’s Empowerment Program to raise awareness and empower local women through education and training. In 2016, these efforts included the establishment of village councils specifically dedicated to preserving children’s rights and preventing violence against women using educational sessions and plays.

Before establishing village councils, The Hunger Project-Benin helped coordinate a series of discussions with community and religious leaders and local officials. Participants listened to presentations and testimonies from one another and brainstormed solutions. A total of 41 participants attended these discussions and addressed issues like the consequences of gender inequality and the types and impact of violence against women, including child marriage. After the discussions, participants established village councils composed of community notables and local leaders.

In addition to the creation of village councils, the Women’s Empowerment Program hosted seminars in nine priority epicenters. The seminars included capacity building sessions to empower women and girls economically, socially and politically, and informational sessions on the impact of violence against women. In total, the seminars were able to reach over 400 people, including more than 160 women.

As a part of these initiatives, The Hunger Project-Benin began a targeted project called “Her Choice” in 2016, a project with the goal of ending child marriage and female genital mutilation entirely. Project organizers recruited a professional comedian to write and stage a play illustrating the negative impacts of child marriage, titled “Unchained Destiny.” The performance group, Le Baobab, trained 10-12 young girls and boys in each of the three initial epicenters to produce the play and perform it for a large audience of local officials and community members.

The plays were incredibly successful, eliciting emotional reactions and applause from the audience. Many community leaders committed to joining The Hunger Project-Benin in combating child marriage and encouraged project organizers to bring the production to other epicenters and partner villages. It’s only with the active commitment and participation of community members that we can reduce the incidences of violence against women and gender-related inequalities.

Credit: The Hunger Project Global Office