First group: programme completed
Amber helps with the selection
The selection process for the first group started as early as 2013. Intern Amber mapped out the issues and was present for the selection as well. The candidates' endurance and dedication was tested, and a panel of judges also looked for their motivation and agricultural passion during an interview.
Nine months of theory and practice
The carefully selected group of youths received professional education at the Songhai Center in Savalou from January to the end of September of 2015. This center has a good reputation for teaching organic and comprehensive agricultural techniques. The youths worked with various themes, such as vegetable cultivation, mammals (rabbits, pigs, etc.), animal feed, etc. Everyone was very enthusiastic and all obtained the certificate that proves they successfully completed the programme. Another great thing is that they, as alumni, can purchase their seeds and plants through Songhai Center. Intern Véronique followed up on this process and wrote her thesis about it.
Internship at the model farm
After the Songhai Center it was time for the second phase: in November 2015, the youths received a month's training programme at the Ferme SAIN model farm, our local partner for the 'intensive (ecological) rice cultivation' training programme. The friendly context and personal approach ensured that 'our' youths blossomed here completely. They were given the opportunity to ask questions freely and were taught how to begin with few materials how to handle what is available creatively. Some already visited again to ask additional questions or to buy resources.
The director of Ferme SAIN is Pascal Gbénou, who is very familiar with rice cultivation issues in West Africa. He is the chairman of a regional consultation body and is also a board member of the Board of Executive and Supervisory Directors of the AfricaRice research organisation. Our youths feel that Pascal, who adopts an experienced and personal approach, is a refreshing and inspirational person.
Not sitting still
The youths did not sit idly by after this second phase. In December 2015 they were trained by AfricaRice and were called upon to sell local rice at a trade fair in Cotonou. In the following period, the youths took control themselves. Some gained experience at the farm of Uniriz-C's chairman. Others started selling Riz de Saveur in their own commune in order to introduce the local population to the local rice as well.