Empowering women by strengthening agricultural institutions

Sustainable agriculture
Around 70% of Benin’s working population are employed in agriculture – a sector which is growing steadily and has a lot of potential. On the flip side, however, the country faces major challenges such as low agricultural diversification, severe soil degradation and vulnerability to climate change. In northern Benin, Swisscontact is helping to improve the working and living conditions of the rural population – particularly women – on a lasting basis.

The producer associations and organisations that are affiliated with the project have employed various agricultural techniques and implemented a range of measures in order to create a more favourable economic and social environment for women. For example, fens secured by barbed-wire fences and equipped with solar pump systems have been created and drip irrigation systems have been installed to make this difficult task easier for the women who have to do it. In addition, training has been given in the use of environmentally friendly production methods, organic fertilisers and biopesticides for crop spraying.

Market gardening in Kalalé, north-east Benin

The PASDER (Programme d’Appui au Secteur du Développement Rural) project – which is financed by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) – has set itself the goal of helping to bring about a sustainable improvement in the living conditions of the rural population in 27 communities in northern Benin by reducing poverty and food insecurity. Direct beneficiaries include women’s vegetable production cooperatives, which have enjoyed proven success in the market since the start of the project and are making an important contribution to women’s empowerment and independence.

Increase in both quantity and quality

The locations, which are farmed by 101 women in multiple communities in northern Benin, have an area of between one and three hectares – roughly the size of three football pitches. Today, they are reference points for how to deliver fresh paddy rice or maize during the rainy season and then fresh, high-quality vegetables (aubergine, chilli, tomato, okra, lettuce, etc.) in the off season.

Baguiri Gnanki is happy about the salad sale.

“Thanks to PASDER, our production has increased and our annual income has risen from 45,000 CFA francs (CHF 75) to 240,000 CFA francs (CHF 400). I can now ensure that my children get better access to healthcare and they are able to go to school.”

Baguiri Gnanki, Women's Association in Kalalé

As well as helping to increase production, the expansion of vegetable cultivation capacities has also contributed to an improvement in product quality. The women supply the large, important markets as well as hotels and restaurants with some 610 tonnes of vegetables per year, thereby helping to reduce the national and, above all, the local supply shortage. Together, they generate annual revenues of around 320,000 Swiss francs, which makes them economically emancipated female entrepreneurs.

"Our living conditions and those of our families have improved thanks to the additional income generated by the marketing of our products. We have also become more confident and have gained the courage to take part in important decision-making processes within our families and express our opinions publicly."
Zimé Dafia Maria, member of the Tankongou women’s group
Zimé Dafia Maria on her vegetable farm

The project (PASDeR) is funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and implemented by the Swisscontact-LARES consortium.

Entrepreneurial ecosystems
Rural Economic Development Support Programme PASDER
The four departments in the northern part of the country (Alibori, Borgou, Atacora and Donga) cover almost three quarters of the country's surface area and are home to just over a third (33.9%) of the population. According to the Human Development Index (HDI) of 0.485, Benin will rank 167th out of 187 countries in 2016. Poverty has increased at...