Zoe told you about our visit to Songhai Agricultural Project, which has been running for about 30 years. This place inspired BBI to start their own agricultural program for their students, a dream they've had for years now. BBI purchased land about a 1.5 hour drive from Cotonou, where BBI is located. It's a beautiful site, and Dominique is a former BBI student who spent 18 months at Songhai studying their agricultural methods.
This dream of having an agricultural program has been unfolding for years now.
- 11 years ago, they purchased 4.6 hectares of land near Oumako
- 8 years ago, Bonaventure (BBI's director) planted trees around the property, including fruit trees like mango, papaya, and banana
- 3 years ago, Dominique started to study at Songhai
- 10 months ago, Dominique moved onto the land to start creating an operational farm on the land
|Dominique with a tree seedling|
|looking at day-old rabbits|
|2 week-old rabbits|
|holding the big rabbits|
|Dominique and Bonaventure|
|aromatic leafy plant, good for making sauce|
|Dominique pumping water at the well|
Dominique talked about how important it is to build relationships - to establish healthy "human ecosystems." And now that he's been there for 10 months, people in the village are getting to know and trust him. Many women from the village come to the farm to get fresh water from the pump, or pick vegetables to sell in the market. The women pay Dominique for the produce they pick, and this money is used as income for BBI. This provides financial support for BBI, and helps them to keep their student tuition rates low enough so that they are affordable.
|a woman from town picking chili peppers|
|a family from the village coming to the farm for water and vegetables|
|Dominique holding a tiny red fuzzy creature that Eden found|
- to provide a teaching/training place for BBI students to learn valuable agricultural skills
- to provide an income stream for BBI
- to extend BBI's reach to villagers in various communities through the teaching of sustainable agricultural practices
- to nourish bodies and souls
Because Benin is a tropical country, there can be multiple growing seasons in one year.
As we often experienced in Benin, there are immediate plans and bigger dreams. Some of these dreams include:
- finishing the water tower. This will create a way of irrigating the plants in the dry season. Right now, much of Dominique's time in the dry season is spent carrying water from the pump to the plants. With an irrigation system set up, this will free up his time to expand various other projects on the farm.
water tower, currently under construction
- creating a pond for raising fish. Dominique is engaged to be married next year, and his future wife specializes in fish/pond management. These will be very useful skills as they create a fishfarm on the property.
- creating a snailery for raising snails. Both fish and snails would be sold at the local market for food, just like the chickens and rabbits are now.
- purchasing a pick-up truck. We experienced the ride from Cotonou to Oumako. To say it is bumpy is a HUGE understatement. The road is not paved, and in the rainy season the potholes are MANY. BBI has dreams of purchasing a vehicle to use for trips into the village of Oumako, as well as trips to Cotonou.
- purchasing more land adjacent to this property to expand their crops and farming practices. Land is quite costly for them, at about $10,000 per hectare.
- building a small residence for BBI students on the property
- expanding their "cash crop" of plants that can be sold for more income, like the laurel plant (sold at a good price for perfume, soap, etc.), and a forest of trees that provide valuable woods (like teak, eucalyptus, acacia) for building furniture
- expanding their training. People in the nearby village have been asking Dominique for training on how to use these agricultural methods themselves.
"tree of life" tree seedlings
|local and imported varieties of chickens|