A few weeks ago, you had your first ToToT. How was the experience?
Annick: I participated in a previous training on organic cashew farming and production for my own benefit. However, the ToToT training has given me the toolkit I need to share information on the importance of organic to others. It is always interesting how we know about the benefits of farming ecologically but do not know how to properly share that information with others. I am glad that I had this training, it was a missing part that I can incorporate now.
Adje: Having done several trainings before, I was impressed at how diverse the content was and not too specific. In other trainings, I learnt how to make compost or organic fertilizers while in this training, we learnt how to train other people. It is such an important skill we need but don’t nurture. Being able to train others makes me think of the various ways to share my knowledge, especially with other farmers that I work with.
With such a realisation, what impact do you think the training has had on you?
Annick: I work with cashew farmers and producers who farm ecologically and do not use synthetic inputs. Sometimes you think you are alone and your efforts are getting lost in the wind. Meeting other organic farmers and supporters during the training affirmed that I am on the right path and renewed my belief in working together with nature. Through connecting with them, I learnt even more about the importance of certification through Participatory Guarantee System (PGS).
Adje: Oh yes! PGS is a wonderful form of certification that suits our reality and yields great results. I still remember the two trainings I had on the topic. I can only encourage all organic farmers and consumers to learn more about PGS. But I digress! We are passionate about organic. However, it is not easy to convince a conventional farmer to convert to organic production or even adopt a few organic practices. With the training, we learnt how to facilitate and share our passion in organic farming with anybody. Whether they are politicians, commercial farmers or even consumers. I am more than inspired to share my organic knowledge beyond my community and to other states in Benin as well.
You both are motivated and determined. How do you think you will apply what you learnt back in your community?
Adje: I am an entrepreneur in organic fertilizer production. Before starting out, it was difficult for me to train farmers on the benefits of organic fertilizer and how to use it. In this way, my customer base remained small made up of organic farmers who already knew the benefits. However, thanks to the training, I have the knowledge and skills on how to convey the same information to conventional farmers as well. In fact, this morning before our meeting, I was on a farm with conventional farmers and answered their inquiries on organic fertilizers. The training gave me the motivation and courage to do what we didn’t do before. That is really empowering!
Annick: I worked with farmers who don’t use chemicals in their production. I am a business advisor for 30,000 cashew farmers and producers. I will continue to encourage them to do so but also share about how we can improve our product price through getting PGS certification. To do this, I will select a pioneer farmer who has a great reputation and good relationship with the customers in their town, and I will do the training with them.
Why is organic important to you?
Annick: When farmers use chemical products or growth hormones to enhance production, there is great damage to biodiversity as a whole. This not only affects the soil, animals, plants, but also the humans consuming the products. It is necessary to have organic production to show us how to grow in harmony with nature and that it is possible.
Adje: Studying soil composition as part of my PhD program has opened my eyes to how we can destroy or nurture soil. When farmers use chemical fertilizers, they don’t get good results because the mineral particles are dead. So organic farming is a necessity for us. Not a choice, but a necessity. We can’t build good soil and improve yields without organic. Organic is part of the solution in keeping soil and biodiversity alive. That is why I decided to start making organic fertilizers to discourage the use of chemicals that damage the soil.
It was such a diverse mix of participants who were from the public and private sector, academics and Civil Society Organisations. This created an atmosphere of exchange and mutual learning. As a Facilitator, among others, I was impressed by the practitioners’ statements during the field visit. For many participants, health was the main motivation for going organic, followed by economic reasons.
Famara Diédhiou, Programme Officer for the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA) and trainer for the ToToT in Benin
Do you have a message for the consumers on how to support and promote organic?
Annick: Try and find out about the food you are consuming. Organic is life because it aims to promote biodiversity and not destroy it. Without organic practices, we will face even higher degrees of issues like food shortages, biodiversity loss and soil degradation.
Adje: I want to encourage farmers to look at alternative ways of farming that are sustainable or agroecological in nature. For instance, there are organic fertilizers that they can use without damaging the soil and biodiversity.
The Knowledge Centre for Organic Agriculture in Africa (KCOA) project, of which ToToT is a part of, is funded by GIZ and implemented through IFOAM – Organics International’s training program: The Organic Academy in partnership with the Organisation Béninoise pour la Promotion de l’Agriculture Biologique (OBEPAB).