Immersion trip to Benin

Jan Robberecht, ambassador for one of our Benin projects, will be leaving halfway through this month on an immersion trip to "his" projects. He will visit the West African country to see the various projects up close.

One such project is Solar Without Borders, which produces sustainable solar-powered lighting. Another project is Riz du Benin, Riz de demain: a rice farming project that trains young people to set up new agricultural companies.

"I will start my journey in Natitingou, where they set up a new Solar Without Borders unit", says Jan. "I want to become more familiar with the project and then report on it back in Belgium. I'll be joined by a camera man who will shoot videos for social media. Hopefully we can help the project gain some fame that way."

Internship at Solergie

Starting in November, student Tessa Lismont will also be focusing on Solar Without Borders. She studies International North-South Collaboration at UCLL, our partner in the projects in Benin. Tessa will be interning at Natitingou for six months.

"I will be working for the company Solergie Benin, which collaborates with Solar Without Borders. The goal is to make the company self-sustaining so it will no longer need outside financing. To assist this, I'm coming up with a financial plan, and I do market research. In addition, I will be setting up training in entrepreneurship for the kiosk owners. These are the people who rent out the solar lamps and take care of the kiosks."

Young people in rice farming

After his trip to Solar Without Borders, Jan will travel on to Glazoué to visit Riz du Benin, Riz de demain. "This is an agricultural training project for young people", says Jan. "We are seeing that the younger generation is leaving for the cities. Rice farming and agriculture are in danger of becoming neglected. To prevent this, there is the programme at the agricultural school Songhaï, where ten young people participate each training cycle. People hope this will lead to a core group that inspires other young people. This would ensure that rice farming in Benin can keep up with the new market developments."

The young people are chosen from families of rice farmers that together from the cooperative Uniriz-C. But that might change soon. "We also want to attract young people from other families and sectors", says Jan.

Combating rural depopulation

This project also benefits from the help of a student. Thibault Geerardyn, who, just like Tessa, studies International North-South Collaboration, has been staying in Glazoué since late October. He is working at Uniriz-C for six months.

"I assess and select the young people who are taking the Collibri project's training. I'm really interested in the project because it helps out the young people and combats rural depopulation. These are both issues that help improve sustainability, which I am very interested in."

Follow the journey on Instagram. And read more about our projects.

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