The power of proud farmers

We encourage entrepreneurship in rural areas. We are doing this by providing training, support and coaching for young people. Bernadin and Sofie are boosting passion.

The power of proud farmers

In Benin, farming is decreasing in popularity among young people. They prefer to move to the city, but there is not enough work there. In order to reverse this trend, Collibri Foundation and UC Leuven-Limburg University (UCLL) are working together to encourage entrepreneurship in rural areas. We are doing this by providing training, support and coaching for young people. Bernadin Djossou is boosting passion in Benin and Sofie Van Pelt of UCLL is raising interest in Belgium.

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Sofie Van Pelt (left) and Bernadin Djossou (right) in Benin

Living and working with dignity

Benin is one of the most stable democracies in Africa, but that does not guarantee prosperity. There is still a lot of work to be done in the areas of poverty reduction, literacy and sustainability. Bernadin coaches young agro-entrepreneurs and teaches them new techniques for agriculture and farm management. "In Belgium, it is easy for a young farmer to get a loan. You have access to a lot more information and the weather forecast tells you when it will rain. But for young farmers in Benin, there is often no work and therefore no livelihood." Sofie: "Those young people come from very poor backgrounds, they are unskilled and do not have any access to subsidies. Our project gives them a chance to live and work with dignity."

Encouraging the sense of pride

The young people are being educated at the Songhaï agricultural education center, followed by an internship at the model farm Ferme SAIN. They are supported in managing their new farm, which must be as sustainable as possible. More young people working in the agricultural sector means less unemployment, less rural to urban migration and greater food security. However, agriculture has an image problem. "For us, it's considered the last resort, not a real activity. But a farmer should be proud of what he does: after all, he feeds people. If all African farmers were to go on strike, the whole world would be talking about us after just three days."

A group of students in Benin

Sustainable agriculture

Bernadin visited Belgium for an internship on climate change and sustainability. "I learned a lot of new techniques that our young people can use. For example, composting kitchen waste, the use of micro-organisms and improving soil quality using bio-charcoal. We must take a more organic approach to agriculture, otherwise everything will be destroyed for the next generations." The training offered by Bernadin and his colleagues in Benin is being integrated by UCLL within the International North-South Cooperation advanced bachelor degree programme.

: Sofie Van Pelt

Investing in young people

Sofie teaches French and Inter-cultural studies at UCLL and - as part of the advanced bachelor programme in International Cooperation - supervises Belgian students every year who go to Benin for 6 months to do an internship in the Collibri project and work with young farmers. "The students have noticed that the mindset of the young farmers undergoes a change. This means that the training is having a major impact. In Benin, young people are not as visible as here in Belgium, they are not involved in anything and that has an impact on their motivation. We raise their morale and show them that they can make their own decisions. The training they receive gives them the confidence to speak up and other farmers even come to ask them for advice. In this way, they share new agricultural techniques with their community."

But for Bernadin, the work isn’t over yet. " There's a lot of progress. But the big results won’t be visible for another 5 years from now, when their sustainable techniques will bear fruit and their knowledge is more widely spread. Just as many hands make light work, more people need to invest in our young people to improve their outcomes."

Bernadin Djossou

Would you like to use your talents for a development project like the one in Benin? Then perhaps the advanced bachelor degree programme International North-South Cooperation is what you are looking for. Read more

Collibri Foundation

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Colruyt Group
Edingensesteenweg 196
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