By Issouf Ouedraogo, business advisor Burkina Faso
Facilitating a training is always a great challenge and at the same time a real passion for me. The recent training in Benin will definitively remain in my memory. Not only because of the atmosphere, the very peaceful city of Grand Popo, but also because of the results achieved. I am thinking especially about my youngest participant who was very happy to receive his certificate of participation (a baby of 6 months). I will also remember the training because it was our first training in Benin since we left this country in 2015.
This training has been part of the activities in the HORTI BENIN project that Agriterra is committed to implement with other partners in a consortium financed by RVO and led by Holland Greentech which is present in Benin. The project started in 2021. After a landscape study and several quick assessments, we identified five cooperatives to work with in 2021.
According to the objectives of the project, these coops will be strengthened throughout a professionalisation trajectory to better develop and implement new ideas of sustainable enterprises to improve the productivity of horticulture products, but also to ensure a good marketing of products.
Last week, we started with a My.coop training. The cooperatives’ objective is to strengthen their governance and develop business experiences to better serve members. And for that, they are to know the needs of the members and analyse the options to either provide the right services oneself or choose the best service provider.
During this training, the needs of the members were identified and prioritised. As such, the cooperatives realised that quality seed for a good crop yield, the availability and accessibility thereof, are most important to the members. Now where to find the right seeds?
Fortunately, we invited Holland Greentech during this training and Miriam Belhaine, the manager of Holland Greentech in Benin, directly interacted with the cooperatives by presenting seeds, irrigation systems and other products. She also promised advice to the farmers when using these seeds. This link with the cooperatives is one of the concrete results of this training.
Other important member needs and challenges are marketing, guaranteeing delivery contracts, good prices and understanding how the market works. Agriterra will continue to support the development of marketing plans. Actually, Agriterra has been asked by the other members of the consortium to focus on this part and we have already mobilised a local consultant to do a market study in order to identify the different buyers and their requirements in order to adapt the offers of coops and link them to the demand throughout a B2B workshop. This study and the linking workshop has already been planned and will definitely put the coops and the main buyers at the same table in order to create a business relationship. This is another good result achieved.
Unfortunately, we will not have enough time to accompany the coops and provide advice in this project after they have each realised their concrete activities in terms of action plans at the end of the training.
It was also very good to meet Holland Greentech in Benin to discuss the results already achieved, as well as the challenges, and how to adjust our different strategies.
Finally, the clearly expressed need for cooperative specialists, such as Agriterra, to work on business development not only within the framework of the HortiBenin project but in the development of farmer-led enterprises in general is a very interesting option for Agriterra’s expansion in West Africa.