Notes to broadcasters
The story of farm co-operatives in Benin is very rich. From the colonial period (1910-1960) to the era that followed independence (1960-1974), the revolutionary years (1975-1989), and the democratic era, several farm co-operative movements were born. Among these, the Rice Farmers Coalition Council of Benin (CCR-B in French) was created very recently.
Born in 2006, the CCR-B received attention very quickly with its vision of being a dynamic and first-choice organization in the rice sector at the national scale. In line with that vision, the organization’s mandate is to:
- Represent rice producers in Benin in all acts of civil, administrative and political life relative to farming in Benin;
- Maintain and defend, with no exception, the interest of rice farmers in Benin and in all places; and
- Promote professionalization of rice producers and coordinate any actions in the context of rice production in Benin.
Today, the CCR-B incorporates six regional unions of rice farmers, about fifty community associations of rice producers, and hundreds of village groups of rice producers.
This radio script introduces you to the co-operative spirit within the Regional Union of Rice Farmers of the Ouémé and Plateau departments (URIZOP), which is a member of the CCR-B. The objective of this script is to show the importance and the need for a well-organized farm co-operative.
The script is based on actual interviews. You could use this script as inspiration to research and write a script on a similar topic in your area. Or you might choose to produce this script on your station, using voice actors to represent the speakers. If so, please make sure to tell your audience at the beginning of the program that the voices are those of actors, not the original people involved in the interviews.
Host of the show: Félix Houinsou
- Emile Houansou, rice farmer in Dangbo
- Albert Azon Gnadja, rice farmer in Adjohoun
- Jeanne Ahouangnimon, rice farmer in Dangbo
Dear guests, hello and thanks for responding to our invitation.
I’ll address my first question to you, Mr. Emile Houansou. Tell us the reasons that motivated you to form a farmers’ co-operative.
We formed a co-operative to help each other understand and manage issues such as labour, soil, finances, management and all the other things which are the foundation of rice production. We also needed good skills to better manage our post-harvest activities and the marketing of our rice.
You know that banks and microfinance institutions do not normally grant credit to farmers. Because the weather is unpredictable, these institutions believe that agricultural production is also unpredictable. So they are not certain that farmers will repay their loans. But when farmers work together and gather in co-operatives, banks and microfinance institutions have more trust in them. Consequently, farmers can receive credit. This allows us to acquire enough working capital to improve our farms. That’s another reason we were motivated to form a co-operative.
URIZOP incorporates 90 village groups. The 90 village groups are in the communities of Adjohoun, Dangbo, Bonou, Aguégué and Adja Ouèrè. In other communities, some rice farmers are organizing to register with URIZOP. Our door is open wide to welcome all rice farmers who share our ideals.
In the past, everybody used to gather on a communal plot to farm together. But farming communal plots did not create success for rice farmers and did not help them earn more income. So we stopped the old practice of farming on communal fields. With URIZOP, everyone has a separate field, but follows the guidelines of the co-operative. The co-operative is like a melting pot where rice farmer members exchange and share information to improve our farming activities.
URIZOP has a Control Commission composed of three members. That commission manages the businesses of the co-operative. URIZOP’s technical team takes care of the daily activities of the organization.
However, the community associations have considerable authority. These associations seek financial and material resources in their respective communities. For example, the associations take responsibility for collecting the paddy rice, which they send to processing centres.
To better motivate the rice farmers, URIZOP is currently making efforts to buy back their harvest. URIZOP is taking the rice farming sector seriously and will expand the area of rice farming in the upcoming season.
In 2010, there was improvement; production was over 2000 tonnes. During the farming campaign that just ended, we estimate the production at 6000 tonnes. These increases are due to the support of our partners. Today, the average yield is four tonnes per hectare. In the past, we barely reached three tonnes, but today, in the main rice farming areas, we can harvest up to seven tonnes per hectare, without fertilizer. This explains the improved overall yield.
I should mention that CAFROP is a new section of URIZOP. It was recently created in order to improve rice production in Ouémé and Plateau departments.
Thanks toAfrica Rice Center, we have access to high-yielding varieties of seeds. We also have access to new rice varieties and innovations in rice farming. Because of all that, it’s prestigious for me to be a rice farmer because rice farming brings me a lot of money. I don’t even envy civil servants. The income from my rice is clearly better than their salaries.
Unlike in the past, when I was working without knowing what I was doing, today I can calculate all the production costs for my rice. This allows me to calculate the price at which I should sell my harvest. At first, since I didn’t know these techniques well enough, my field was a little less than half a hectare. But since I joined URIZOP, my field grew to two hectares. And I earn a lot. My rice harvest is six tonnes per hectare. This allows me to meet the needs of my family. I used to have an old motorcycle, but I have bought a new motorcycle.
Contributed by: Félix Houinsou, Radio Immaculée Conception, Benin, a Farm Radio International broadcasting partner.
Reviewed by: John Julian, Director, International Communications & Policy, Canadian Co-operative Association.
- Ouémé and Plateau: The map of Benin is subdivided into 12 departments. Ouémé and Plateau are two neighbouring departments in southeast Benin. They both border on Nigeria. URIZOP is the co-operative formed by the merger of the rice producers’ associations in these two departments. It is one of six regional co-operatives that form the national organization called the Rice Farmers Coalition Council of Benin (CCR-B).
- CeRPA: Regional Centre for Farming Promotion. CeRPA is a state institution under the umbrella of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries. It is responsible for extension work, supervision, and technical support to farmers. CeRPA is a regional institution, hence departmental. In many principal towns, CeRPA has a branch called a Community Centre for Farming Promotion (CeCPA). CeCPA has direct contact with farmers, herders and fishermen who live in different villages.
Interview in March 2011 with Mr. Émile Houansou, Mr. Albert Gnadja and Mrs. Jeanne Ahouangnimon, rice farmers and members of URIZOP’s Board
Emile Houansou, President of URIZOP’s Board
Pascal Gbenou, President of the Rice Farmers Coalition Council of Benin (CCR-B)