By Rogers Aghan, February 21, 2023, Crop producers continue to face significant challenges due to climate change. It is crucial that they are made aware of better agricultural practices that could help increase resilience and production in equal measure.
Young agricultural entrepreneurs, known as Entrepreneurs for Rural Access or ERAs constitute the Access agriculture foundation.
Access Agriculture, in Benin, is working to provide rural actors with relevant and practical information on food production, processing, and storage technologies. Through their newly discovered smart projector, these individuals intend to hasten information regarding different agri-based solutions.
The smart projector provided to the ERAs has all Access Agricultural videos which could be played offline, off mobile signal, and off-grid. It also comes with a solar panel unit, a battery, and a sound system that can serve up to 150 persons.
“Access Agriculture has utilized the smart projector to train farmers and improve their businesses.” Stated Albertine Zinsou, a farmer in her mid-forties who started rearing snails in Convè, in southern Benin, nearly a year ago.
The farmer said that the smart projector has enabled farmers like herself to grasp the different production techniques while embracing novel technologies. The smart projector has added to their background knowledge better farming methods and business skills.
The smart projector is a revolutionary and effective tool.
It allows Access Agriculture ERAs and volunteer ambassadors to give training to actors in the agriculture sector residing in rural areas thus enabling them access free access to relevant and practical knowledge.
“Agricultural Access videos have helped us put up a school vegetable garden in a school of 350 learners in Sangou, Natitingio department in north-western Benin,” said Maliki Agnoro, one of Access Agriculture’s ambassadors, “The students produce vegetables that are used in the school canteen.”
Like him, Cedric agbessi, an ERA, employs the smart projector to reinforce the capabilities of other ERAs in different municipalities.
“We provide training videos for snail farmers, groundnut snack processors, and soybean producers,” said Agbessi.
“These videos could enhance ecological and biological alternatives to chemical pesticides, which are not as eco-friendly as these alternatives. Thus, programs benefit nearly 30 individuals and currently, Access agriculture has up to 500 beneficiaries,” he said.
The smart projector has continued to spark interest and arouses curiosity among young agricultural entrepreneurs in sub-Saharan Africa. It has contributed to a healthy environment for agricultural practice, which has since been neglected by these individuals for a long time.
Many rural actors benefit profoundly from the video content screened by the ERAs and ambassadors of Access Agriculture.
Albeit, the beneficiaries find it challenging to pay for the screenings despite knowing and understanding the benefits of the smart projector and the cost-friendly nature of the tool.
“We are faced with the reluctance of beneficiaries to contribute to the travel of ERAs. Our farmers are not yet willing to pay for training. They don’t yet have the mindset and they need to be made aware of this,” pointed out Cédric Agbessi.
Other limitations encountered by ERAs and ambassadors include failure to provide all the videos in translated languages that most people in Benin use. Some videos exist only in French and English which makes it impossible for the beneficiaries to comprehend, and even when these videos are translated, the latter cannot fully capture the messages relayed.
Nonetheless, the smart projector is perceived by farmers as a critical empowerment tool that could bolster production.
Access Agriculture promotes agro-ecological principles and rural entrepreneurship through capacity building. It has set up a network of ERAs and ambassadors in several countries to share uploads with rural communities. In Benin, there are in total 13 ERAs made up of four ERA team members and one individual ERA, and 10 ambassadors.