Holland Greentech in Benin
Miriam Belhaine and Jelila Blalogoe from Holland Greentech support farmers in Benin through dissemination of growing techniques, high quality seeds, irrigation, basic greenhouses and promoting farming as a business. “Conditions are becoming more extreme, the climate is changing,” says Jelila Blalogoe. “Some areas in the north are becoming arid, while others in the south are faced with soil salinisation. A poor harvest can cause problems with food supply, while population of Cotonou is rapidly growing. Supplying Cotonou with healthy food is a challenge. It’s great that providing high quality vegetable seeds to farmers can help achieve this.” Holland Greentech supplies Rijk Zwaan seeds in Benin.
Rijk Zwaan breeds vegetable varieties that are more resilient and coping better with factors such as drought, heath and salinity. A variety that thrives in the Netherlands will probably grow less well in Africa, for example. Rijk Zwaan develops varieties specifically for the various climate zones.
Farmer Field Days
Tomatoes, hot peppers, cucumbers, carrots are all grown in Benin, mainly on small plots. But how do you further increase the production and incomes of farmers? Through training. “Farmers will not adopt new growing techniques or inputs if they cannot see the results with their own eyes” Jelila notes. “That is why Holland Greentech sets up demonstration plots with lead farmers and organises Farmer Field Days.” These events are organised to for example tell farmers about irrigation, growing seedlings in small trays, how to spread plastic film over beds, and that spacing may mean that you have fewer plants on an area, but you get far more fruit.
Consistency in food production
With improved inputs and service, the yield of growers increases. Next to that, it also contributes to the consistency of production throughout the year. Farmers that make the step to drip irrigation can produce during dry seasons and get much better price for their products on the market. Simultaneously they contribute to increasing the availability of nutritious vegetables throughout the year. This creates a commercial business case for African vegetable growers that increases nutrition and is climate smart. “We have set up our office in Benin at the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak. More than ever, the importance of local food supplies has become clear. By accompanying our lead farmers along the way, Holland Greentech hopes to contribute to local vegetable production in Benin. And with our climate smart inputs, we hope to be able to do so for a long time.”
Holland Greentech cannot achieve this without others. They are working closely with partners throughout the value chain that are active in post-harvest, processing and retail reduce post-harvest losses and helps farmers selling their vegetables for a fair price on the market. According to Miriam, the latter is especially important as “high-quality inputs and increased yield do not mean much to a farmer if his / her produce cannot be sold on the market for a good price”.
Jelila and Miriam are confident that the harvest of lead farmers in Benin will double in value and that the agricultural productivity and incomes of small-scale food producers will increase.