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Smart projector -- a revolutionary tool for rural actors

Farmers are increasingly facing challenges relating to climate change. It is vital therefore to make them aware of good agricultural practices that can help them increase not only production, but also their resilience.

Having understood well such problems, Access Agriculture is working in Benin, West Africa, to provide rural actors with practical and relevant information on food production, processing and storage technologies, thanks to the smart projector made available to Access Agriculture young agricultural entrepreneurs, known as Entrepreneurs for Rural Access or ERAs.

The smart projector, which is provided to the ERAs after a competitive call, contains all the Access Agriculture videos available to play off-line, off-grid and off mobile signal. It comes with a solar panel unit, a battery and a sound system suitable for up to 150 people – all contained in a hard case.

Albertine Zinsou, who is in her forties, started raising snails in Covè, in southern Benin, about a year ago. Her once traditional business is now growing well, thanks to training by Access Agriculture through one of its young entrepreneurs with the use of the smart projector.

"Before, we thought that all snails are the same, but thanks to the training of Access Agriculture, we now know that there are different types of snails. We learned how to feed the snails and the safety measures to take against pests, such as ants" she said.

An effective and revolutionary tool

The smart projector allows Access Agriculture ERAs and volunteer ambassadors to provide training to agricultural actors in their villages and helps the rural communities to have free access to relevant and practical knowledge. And it is already bearing fruit.

"Thanks to the videos, we were able to set up a school vegetable garden in a school of 350 students in Sangou, Natitingou department in north-western Benin. With our support, the students produce vegetables that are used in the school canteen" says Maliki Agnoro, one of Access Agriculture's ambassadors.

Like Mr. Agnoro, Cédric Agbessi, an ERA, uses the smart projector to strengthen the capacities of his peers in the municipalities of Zè, Covè, Kétou, Malanville, and Bohicon departments in Benin.

"We organise screenings of training videos for snail farmers, processors of kluiklui (groundnut snack), and soybean producers. These videos offer ecological and biological alternatives to chemical pesticides, which are not environmentally friendly. On average, each of our programmes benefits around 30 people and today we already have more than 500 beneficiaries," said Cédric Agbessi.

Beyond its primary role of training rural actors in good cultivation and processing practices, the smart projector arouses curiosity and awakens the interest of young people in the agricultural sector. This creates a healthy environment for the benefit of agriculture, which is increasingly neglected by young people in sub-Saharan Africa.

"Recently, we screened videos for seven young unemployed youths, who were looking for an occupation. This allowed them to start gardening and we supported them. They set up nurseries and were able to find an income-generating activity," said Clémence Assongba, an ERA working in the Zou and Collines departments in southern Benin.

Question of sustainability

Like these young people, many rural actors benefit from the content of the videos screened by the Access Agriculture ERAs and ambassadors. However, the beneficiaries find it difficult to pay for the screenings, although they are aware of the advantages offered by the smart projector and agree that the contribution requested is minimal.

"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.

The other difficulty encountered by ambassadors and ERAs is that although a number of Access Agriculture videos have been translated into the local languages used in Benin, there are still some videos, which are available only in English and French. Although the ERAs and ambassadors try to translate them, the beneficiaries have difficulty in capturing the whole message. Nevertheless, the smart projector is seen by farmers as an important tool of empowerment for increasing their production.

As part of its mission to promote agroecological principles and rural entrepreneurship through capacity building and South-South exchange of quality farmer-to-farmer training videos in local languages, Access Agriculture has set up a network of ERAs and ambassadors in several countries to share its videos with rural communities. In Benin, there are in total 13 ERAs (composed of four ERA team members and one individual ERA) and 10 ambassadors.

Note: André Tokpon is a communications specialist on agriculture, Cotonou, Benin.

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