BENIN | Growing more productive and competitive
To boost the potential of an agriculture sector that provides a livelihood for 70% of the working population, a new institutional framework focusing on territory-based agricultural development, through seven regional hubs, was adopted in October 2016. The new policy favours the “value chain” approach, promoting high-potential sectors (rice, cashew nuts, pineapple and cassava in particular) as a major pillar of economic growth and the fight against poverty. The objective is, in the words of the President, “to further promote key agricultural sectors by investing massively, so as to create real agricultural and industrial development hubs”.
Cotton spins a new success story
Since taking office the President has shown the extent of his determination to see an economic take off, especially with his measures to boost the stagnating cotton sector, the country’s main source of revenue. The government has placed the sector under private management once again. It had previously been under private management until April 2012 when the state took over again. The state also ended requisitioning of the Sodeco ginning factories and cancelled the sector’s 19.5 billion CFA franc debt. Contrary to past practices, the state has stopped subsidising and issuing sureties for private sector borrowing, but is continuing to support farmers. It also succeeded in ensuring the timely delivery of inputs to the farmers in 2016.
More raw material to process, more value added
These measures resulted in a harvest of more than 450,000 tons for the 2016-2017 crop year, a level that has not been achieved in twelve years. For the 2017-2018 crop year, an even higher level of between 500,000 and 550,000 tons is expected, due in particular to the increase in the area of land under cultivation. This, in turn, will keep the country’s ginning factories operating and improve agro-industrial production, the other GAP priority goal.
Determined state investment
In October 2017 the Beninese parliament ratified an 11.850 billion CFA franc loan agreement with the BOAD for the financing of four dams at Séréwandirou, Wéna, Sinaou and Bassini. These dams will enable the development of 169 ha for growing rice and vegetable crops, the construction of eight fish farm ponds and the stocking of dams with fish, and the building of drinking troughs and livestock markets
The talent of several entrepreneurs was recently recognised at the COP 21 and COP 22 Climate Initiative Awards.
Green Keeper, from Sô-Ava
to Gabon and even Algeria
David Gnonlonfoun and Fohla Mouftaou created Green Keeper Africa (GKA) in August 2014. Their project, presented at the COP 21 in 2015, turns the water hyacinth from an invasive plant species into a useful, eco-friendly product. The stem, leaf and root of the water hyacinth, once processed, have exceptional absorption capacities. Gnonlonfoun and Mouftaou harvest the hyacinth plants at the lakeside town of Sô-Ava, 35 km north of Cotonou, on the shores of Lake Nokoué, and process it locally into an organic absorbent powder, used to de-pollute industrial sites (hydrocarbons, food oils, etc). Their product has been marketed since 2016 and, through research and investment in their machine tool, they are continuously improving its quality. The two entrepreneurs are exporting their product to Gabon, Côte d’Ivoire, Togo, Ghana, and Nigeria and soon, perhaps, even Algeria. The company already employs 700 people, mainly women, who collect and sort the hyacinth plants, and now envisages supporting other entrepreneurs by helping them approach donors with whom they already have a relationship. The first project in the pipeline is manufacturing sanitary towels from hyacinth, as the shortage of this product keeps many teenage girls out of school every month. anyjazz.com
Green coal to preserve an endangered forest
The majority of households in Benin use charcoal for cooking, causing deforestation that could soon reach the point of no return, says Enoc Romeo Azonhoumon. This entrepreneur, who was once in the charcoal business himself, says, “We pay taxes for reforestation when we sell coal, but I think there is a shortfall between the number of trees chopped down and those that are actually replanted.” Since the beginning of the year his start-up, Almighty Service Plus, has been producing charcoal briquettes from organic waste such as coconut shells, peanut shells, cottonseed and, more often, sawdust, using plant lignin as a binder. The cooks who tested the samples were all pleased with the result. “The briquettes burn longer than wood and they don’t give off smoke.” After presenting the product at the COP 22, in 2016, Romeo will soon be marketing his green coal in 25 kg bags, at a price of 3,500 CFA francs. He says that “the big bags of wood charcoal sold on the roadside for 6,500 CFA francs seldom contain more than 50 kg of wood.”
From the June 2018 supplement to The Africa Report, INVESTING BENIN