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Celebration of the rice harvest in 2014 in Ouinhi and handing over of powertillers

January 11, 2014

The 2013 agricultural season was a tough year for farmers in large parts of Benin and Togo. The delay of rains and the following drought conditions resulted in loss of crops and reduced yields. Farmers participating in the SMART project, however, reported less effects of the drought and in many sites we could witness substantial yields. Farmers noticed that the water retention through levelling and bunding of rice fields assured that the rice plants were able to overcome the drought period.

In Ouinhi several sites have been developed using the Smart-valleys approach and also the mayor of the commune has noticed his area is becoming a more and more important rice production area. On January 9 the SMART-IV project organized a rice harvest celebration day and on this occasion also the first powertillers were handed over to farmer groups that have been successful in the development of their inland valleys.

For this event the Ambassador of Japan in Benin was invited to join the celebration and share a rice meal with the rice farmers. Other guests included the Deputy Director General of AfricaRice, Dr Marco Wopereis, the Director General of CARDER Zou-Collines, the Director of the Genie-Rural, the Mayor of Ouinhi and the Director of the Cabinet of the Ministry of Agriculture.

Dr Worou SoklouDr Worou explaining the Smart-valley development approach

Zoungo is a large development site where more than 11 ha were developed in 2012 using the Smart-valleys approach. This year the rice farmers expanded their site themselves using the approach that they adopted the year before. The site is located on both sides of the busy road going north from Benin’s capital Porto-Novo. For its good visibility a road sign was placed earlier this year that explains the 5 steps of the Smart-valleys approach. Dr Worou Soklou, the regional development coordinator for the SMART-IV project, explained the methodology to the participants and outlined its advantages over other development approaches.

The participants then moved to the development site of Ahicon located just south of Ouinhi. This site is partially equipped with irrigation infrastructure that diverts water from a natural spring. Rice planting started late and the farmers were in the midst of the harvesting activities. Several farmers clarified on their own benefits from the approach. Before yields were low and they have significantly increased. They will now also able to cultivate rice during the dry season thus greatly increasing their food security and income.

P1090992the Ambassdor of Japan amidst the rice farmers of Ahicon

The final stop of the day was the ‘Centre des Jeunes et des Loisirs’ in the centre of Ouinhi. The rice farmers of Ouinhi and the participants gathered for speeches, the official hand over of the powertillers and the shared lunch. A warm welcome was provided the mayor of Ouinhi who claimed that Ouinhi is going to the major rice producing municipality in entire Benin. He also thanked the contributions of AfricaRice and Cellule Bas-Fonds and expressed that he is hoping on continued support to achieve his goals.

The DDG of AfricaRice explained that the Smart-valleys approach is an alternative to traditional interventions, which are usually expensive and time-consuming. Contrary, Smart-valleys is low-costs and participatory thus creating ownership with the farmers and making it easy to replicate. An example is Zoungo where farmers have already expanded their site. He finally thanked the people of Japan for their long-term support for this project as well as other projects at AfricaRice.

The Ambassador of Japan in Benin congratulated all involved in the SMART-IV project, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, the AfricaRice researchers and notable the rice farmers with the achievements witnessed during this day. Food security and the development of the agricultural sector and making it more dynamic is one of the priorities of the Japan development cooperation. “For this reason AfricaRice will always remain of the development partners”, explained the Ambassador.

Finally, the Director of Cabinet of the Ministry of Agriculture handed over the keys of the powertillers to the leader of the farmers of Ouinhi. The powertillers will be introduced to farmer groups that have shown genuine interest in the development of their inland valley. The powertiller will support them to expand the rice cultivation areas and facilitate transport of inputs and the yields. The leader of the farmer expressed his gratitude, but also stressed the necessity for continued support to further develop the rice sector. In many sites the introduction of partial water management has had great impact, but the area is rich in natural water sources that can be exploited to achieve full water management which will allow them to cultivate rice twice or thrice a year.

The day ended with a shared meal prepared by the women of Ouinhi, of course with rice produced on the development sites of the project!

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