Success story allotment garden: Food supply and women's empowerment

To prevent malnutrition among young children and strengthen the role of women in their communities, Misereor, together with the local non-governmental organisation CEBEDES , is implementing a programme on integrated home gardens in Benin - a series of pictures.

Women farmers apply the knowledge they have learned about nutritionally sensitive agriculture. Photo: Klaus Wohlmann

Benin is a country with a population of ten million, almost half of which still lives in rural areas. It is reasonable to think that village life is a guarantee of good nutrition as there is the space to cultivate the land and keep animals. But in reality, poverty is more prevalent and malnutrition is a bigger problem in rural than urban areas. In south Benin, the farms are very small – how can five or six people feed themselves from two or three hectares? In central Benin, the farms are slightly larger, but rainfall is unpredictable and the villages are frequently cut off from the outside world.

Photo of a village in Ouinhi with a few houses and a housewife washing bowls. Rainwater is collected in large clay pots under the roofs. Photo: CEBEDES

A third of children between 6 and 59 months shows signs of delayed growth: Repeated nutritional stress and the delay in treating illnesses causes a child’s body to adjust to these conditions by reducing the growth speed. Delayed growth is the visible symptom but this stress often has other effects on a child’s abilities.

 

Before signs of delayed growth appear in children, they suffer from episodes of acute emaciation (significant weight loss). According to the report on the implementation of a government nutrition project in 2016, the percentage of acute malnutrition among the intervention areas is 2.7 per cent in Ouinhi, 4.2 per cent in Zè and 3.6 per cent in Ouèssè. Acute malnutrition can be quickly identified in children between 6 and 59 months by measuring the circumference of their upper arm (red = acute emaciation).

...

Pascaline Tononongbe’s experience

Pascaline Tononongbe is 38 years old, married and a mother of 4 children. She lives in the village of Zè, around 50 kilometres away from the capital city, where she has only been once in her life due to her limited funds. She never went to school. She stayed at home to help her parents in the field and to take care of her new-born siblings. When she grew up, she married farmer Benjamin Awede who inherited only one hectare and leased one hectare. The household has to sell part of its harvested maize, manioc and beans in order to cover the necessary costs for education, health, kerosene for the lamps, soap, salt and repairs on the houses. The rest is barely enough to feed the family for a few months; as a result, the quality of the sauces that accompany their staple food, as well as the amount and number of meals gradually reduce.

 

One day, Pascaline Tononongbe meets a field adviser from the non-governmental organisation CEBEDES, who comes to Pascaline’s village every month to weigh the small children. She recommends that she and the other women in the village add plenty of fresh vegetables, meat and fish to their diet in order to improve the family’s health by consuming more nutritious meals. However, this would prove difficult: She and many others in the village have only grown a few vegetables and do not keep animals. CEBEDES therefore suggested opening a teaching garden, where the techniques for cultivating a fruit and vegetable garden and keeping small animals can be taught and practiced. Pascaline and her husband were glad to take part in the project.

...
Breeding of giant snails in the school gardens of the Ouinhi and Zè communes. Photo: CEBEDES

 

The program of integrated garden allotments

MISEREOR supports the non-governmental organisation CEBEDES so that a technician can run and look after around 15 learning gardens with 15 to 25 participants each year. For one year, they cultivate an agro-ecological garden and learn all of the proven techniques such as composting, selecting species, making and using biopesticides, collecting rain to water the gardens and learning about mulch. Mostly iron-rich leafy vegetables are grown as they are used in traditional cuisine but some gardeners are also happy to try new vegetables. Each teaching garden selects at least one species of animal for breeding: Poultry in simple barns (normally they run around freely), giant snails or catfish in small ponds.

 

After no more than a year of training, the participants are given help to set up their own garden. 507 individual gardens and 45 school gardens in three communities have been set up after two years.

Snails are traditionally collected in wetlands in the bush and catfish are caught in rivers and ponds. These species are resilient. Researchers and producers have learned how to domesticate them and simple methods for keeping them are available. The number of snails and fish produced can be easily distributed so that the costs are covered by the earnings. Part of the production goes towards feeding one’s own family however.

 

Breeding of catfish in the school gardens of the Ouinhi and Zè communes. Photo: CEBEDES
...

Sébastienne Tolokin's experience

Sébastienne Tolokin tells us her experiences. “Last year, I took part in the training courses offered in the teaching garden in Lokossa in the Ouèssè commune. We learned a lot about agro-ecological horticulture and breeding chickens and snails. The harvest from the teaching gardens were used for cooking classes for the mothers of children in the village during the nutrition education courses and were also sold to support the members who has completed their training to set up their own garden.

 

I was also looking for a space for my own garden, which my father-in-law gave to me in the end. My husband helped me to build a fence around it with oil palm branches. I have dug 15 beds and grown a variety of vegetables. I use the harvest from my garden to prepare a variety of nutritious meals for my family and sometimes leftovers are sold. The income from this is used to help my husband cover the needs of our children in terms of education, health and buying staple foods. The garden is excellent because it has improved both the quality and the quantity of the food for my household and has made me happier. Next year, I am planning to expand my garden.

...
Women are weeding their fields, which they have planted with legumes (Niebe + Goussi) to improve the soil quality. Photo: Klaus Wohlmann

 

The work of CEBEDES in allotments has also piqued the interest of the communal services. They are informed every quarter of the programme’s progress. In addition, CEBEDES organises field visits for the agricultural services and social and health services. This allows the pilot project to be replicated and expanded. The mayor of the commune Ouèssè is delighted with the approach to tackle malnutrition in his community and says: CEBEDES started providing nutrition education by giving nutrition advice to pregnant women and young mothers with children between 0 and 59 months old.

 

Since 2018, the non-governmental organisation’s integrated family garden project has been covering the need to provide certain foods for advising the communes. The consumption of fruit and vegetables and other animal products that the field advisers recommend for good nutrition during the nutrition education classes is not easy for the communes to implement as our rural households are poor and these foods are not available all year round.

 

CEBEDES supports households by educating them about agro-ecological issues and breeding small numbers of fish, poultry and snails. We visited the gardens several times and talked with the beneficiaries. We have seen satisfactory results and can only welcome and support this approach by making land that belongs to the commune available to women, so that they can expand their farms and the women who find it difficult to access land can also benefit from the fruits of the garden. We will continue to monitor the gardens that have been built with the agricultural services so that we can continue this work at the end of the project.

A gardener in her own garden. Photo: CEBEDES

 

CEBEDES aims to transition into standard operation after the current pilot phase. The developed approach enables farmers to begin producing vegetables with little investment. The gardens can be gradually expanded and include keeping small animal such as improved chicken farming and breeding fish and snails. The project technicians write technical data sheets and handbooks based on their experiences with the gardeners. These materials will be used this year to train other interested non-governmental organisations and operators so that CEBEDES’s approach can also be used more widely in other communes, for example in addition to the national nutrition education programmes.

...

Anne Floquet

Anne Floquet is an agricultural engineer, holds a PhD from the University of Hohenheim and has been working with the NGO CEBEDES in Benin since the 1990s. She also teaches at the university and conducts research in collaboration with farmers. Through discussions with women who are supervised by the NGO's nutrition animators, the idea for a programme for family gardens was born.

Nadine Babatounde

Nadine Babatounde, a trained agricultural engineer, has been involved in the fight against malnutrition for several years by implementing several projects to improve the nutrition of vulnerable target groups such as women and children. She started at CEBEDES as animator of the nutrition programme and quickly put her leadership skills to use as team leader, and later as JARDALIM project manager. She currently holds the latter position within the NGO.

MISEREOR

GIZ

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Human Rights, Land and Rural Development

A contribution by Michael Windfuhr (German Institute for Human Rights)

Land rights are no longer governed by the law of the strongest. That is what the international community has agreed to. Governments and private companies have a duty to respect human rights and avoid corruption.

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picture-alliance/Zentralbild

Land is Crucial for Development

A contribution by Roselyn Korleh and M. Sahr Nouwah (WHH)

The Liberian town of Kinjor is a picture-book example for what happens, if land rights aren’t protected, and it illustrates how to move forward from there. The keyword: Multi-Actor Partnership

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From Berlin to Yen Bai: 10,000 trees for Vietnam

A contribution by GIZ and BMZ

It began with clicks at a trade fair and ends with concrete reforestation: a campaign at the Green Week in Berlin is now enriching the forests of the Yen Bai Province in Vietnam. A chronicle of an education about climatic relevance to concrete action - and about the short distances on our planet.

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Quinoa could have a huge potential in Central Asia, where the Aral Sea Basin has been especially hard-hit by salinisation.

Planetary Health: Recommendations for a Post-Pandemic World

A contribution by Dr. Kathleen Mar and Dr. Nicole de Paula

Against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, health is receiving unprecedented public and political attention. Yet the fact that climate change is also affecting the environmental and social determinants of health in a profound and far-reaching way deserves further recognition.

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No rainforest for our consumption

A contribution by Jenny Walther-Thoß (WWF)

In the tropics rainforests are still being felled for the production of palm oil, meat and furniture. It is high time to act. Proposals are on the table.

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Biodiversity and agriculture – rivalry or a new friendship?

A contribution by Irene Hoffmann (FAO)

In this article, the author describes what we know about interlinkages, what role agriculture has to play in the sustainable use and conservation of biodiversity, and what the necessary changes in agricultural systems might look like, both on small and large-scale farms.

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The fight against illegal fishing

A Report

The oceans are important for our food supply, but they are overfished. To halt this trend the global community is now taking action against illegal fishing. Journalist Jan Rübel spoke with Francesco Marí, a specialist for world food, agricultural trade and maritime policy at "Brot für die Welt," and others.

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(c) Nina Schroeder/World Food Programme

Policy against disasters

Interview with Thomas Loster

Insurance companies could provide protection during droughts in Africa. How exactly this could be done is what the industry is currently trying to figure out. First experiences are available. An interview with the Managing Director of the Munich Re Foundation, Thomas Loster

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Is the international community still on track in the fight against hunger?

Interview with Miriam Wiemers (Welthungerhilfe)

The Global Hunger Index (GHI) 2020 shows that the world is not on track to meet the international goal of “zero hunger by 2030”. If we continue at our current speed, around 37 countries will not even have reached a low hunger level by 2030.

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School Feeding: A unique platform to address gender inequalities

A contribution by Carmen Burbano de Lara (WFP)

Besides the well known impacts of Covid19 lockdowns for the adult population, the associated school closures led to 90 percent of the world’s children with no access to schools. However, school meals are in often the only daily meal for children. Without access to this safety net, issues like hunger, poverty and malnutrition are exacerbated for hundreds of millions of children.

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Not waiting for a savior

An article by Lidet Tadesse

While Africa is the least affected region by Covid-19 so far, the number of confirmed cases and deaths on the continent is quickly rising. Despite the challenges many African countries continue to face, the African response to the coronavirus pandemic displays innovation and ingenuity.

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Good health is impossible without healthy food

A contribution by Heino von Meyer

Corona makes it even more difficult to achieve a world without hunger by 2030. So that this perspective does not get out of sight, Germany must play a stronger role internationally - a summary of the Strategic Advisory Group of SEWOH.

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"Agriculture can become a job engine"

Interview with Reiner Klingholz

How can agriculture modernise Africa? And does the road to the cities really lead out of poverty? Dr. Reiner Klingholz from the Berlin Institute for Population and Development in conversation with Jan Rübel .

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Africa's rapid economic transformation

A report by T. S. Jayne, A. Adelaja and R. Mkandawire

Thirty years ago, Africa was synonymous with war, famine and poverty. That narrative is clearly outdated. African living standards are rising remarkably fast. Our authors are convinced that improving education and entrepreneurship will ensure irreversible progress in the region even as it confronts COVID-19.

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An opportunity for the continent

A contribution by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Africa’s population is young and ready to take its destiny into its own hands. Agriculture offers amazing opportunities in this regard. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation wants to support the next generation in this way.

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The Life of Their Dreams - What Children Want

Interview with Gnininkaboka Dabiré and Innocent Somé

Later on you want to become a farmer yourself, or would you prefer to take up another profession? Two young people from Burkina-Faso talked to representatives of the Dreyer Foundation about their parents' farms, the profession of farmer and their own plans for the future.

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"Soy can be made into more than just flour"

A report by Johanna Steinkühler (GIZ)

The soybean is a natural crop that can be used to make a lot of food. So, Tata Bi started a small processing business first on her own, then with a few other women, which provides the women with an additional source of income year-round besides selling the soybeans.

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It all comes down to the young population

A contribution by Jan Rübel

What happens when young people leave the rural areas? How can the region achieve what is referred to as the demographic bonus – and how can it reap the benefits of the demographic dividend? A look at demography shows the following: What is most important is promoting women’s rights and education.

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Frank Schultze / Agentur_ZS

The communicator

A contribution by Jan Rübel

What do electrical engineering, telecommunications and agriculture have in common? They arouse the passion of Strive Masiyiwa: Thirty years ago, he started an electrical installation company with $75, later riding the telecommunications wave as a pioneer. Today he is committed to transforming African agriculture.

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MarkIrungu /AGRA

Spiritual mortar for the young generation

A contribution by Jan Rübel

Fred Swaniker is working building a new era of leaders. And what about agriculture? ‘It needs to be more sexy!’

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Reference values: A building block on the road to social equality

A contribution by Friederieke Martin (GIZ)

A quick and cost-effective method calculates living wages and incomes for many different countries. The GIZ together with Fairtrade International and Richard and Martha Anker have developed a tool that companies can use to easily analyse income and wage gaps.

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Quinoa could have a huge potential in Central Asia, where the Aral Sea Basin has been especially hard-hit by salinisation.

Supermarket Scorecard on Human Rights

A contribution by Dr. Franziska Humbert (Oxfam)

Oxfam’s supermarket scorecard, which is in its third year, shows one thing in particular - it works! Supermarkets can change their business policies and focus more on the rights of those people around the world who plant and harvest food. However, this does not happen without pressure. 

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KLAUS WOHLMANN / GIZ

Wanted: German investment in African agriculture

Interview with Stefan Liebing

Stefan Liebing is chairman of the Africa Association of German Business. The manager calls for a better structure of African farms. Jan Rübel asked him about small farmers, the opportunities for German start-ups and a new fund.

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Africa's face of agriculture is female

A contribution by Beatrice Gakuba (AWAN-AFRIKA)

Africa has a huge opportunity to make agriculture its economic driver. However, the potential for this is far from being made exhaustive use of, one reason being that women face considerable difficulties in their economic activities. The organisation AWAN Afrika seeks to change this state of affairs.

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