February 2008: Investor Leadership Trip to Benin
A total of 17 participants took part in the Benin Investor Trip from February 3-8, 2008. Among those present were two members of The Hunger Project-Belgium, 13 Dutch investors, one member of staff from The Hunger Project-Netherlands and one Global Office representative.
During the trip, three epicenters were visited: Avlamè, Ouissi and Zakpota (which was inaugurated). Throughout the trip, a high level of media participation was noted. The Beninois National TV network covered each day of the trip, and members of other national press were present at the opening ceremony and inauguration. There was also an impressive presence of local and national government including: the Minister of Literacy and the Promotion of National Languages, a representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, members of parliament, the mayor of Avlamè and Zakpota and the King of Ouissi.
The Welcome Ceremony took place in the facilities of INFOSEC in order to accommodate the large number of participants from all sectors of society. All members of the National Council and 19 partners representing all Hunger Project epicenters in Benin, a representative from the National Assembly and all The Hunger Project-Benin staff were present. In addition to speeches from Country Director, Pascal Djohossou, and the Minister of Literacy, the group heard from the President of the Avlamè Epicenter Committee. Children from a local folkloric dance troop also animated the meeting to welcome the investors.
Immediately following the ceremony, M. Djohossou gave a presentation on the overall principles and strategies of The Hunger Project and its intervention in Benin. Investors were then offered the opportunity to visit the The Hunger Project-Benin offices and meet in small groups with The Hunger Project staff (accounting, African Woman Food Farmer Initiative (AWFFI), Monitoring and Evaluation, Health and Education). This facet of the program was very well received from the investors as it gave them the opportunity to go into more depth in program areas of their choice.
Later, during the Welcome Dinner, the group had the unique opportunity to see the National Ballet of Benin perform traditional dances. Photo: Dutch investors at welcome dinner in Cotonou.
In addition to a guided tour of all epicenter facilities, investors were able to take part in the following activities which occur at the epicenter and village level:
- Child nutritional monitoring
- Meetings with HIV/AIDS animators
- Meetings with Vision, Commitment and Action (VCA) and AWFFI animators
- Cheese processing and interaction with women
- Literacy classes
- Child nutritional formula preparation
- Child vaccination and weighing
- Preschool class
- Discussion with food bank committee
- Cassava transformation (washing, peeling, processing into tapioca and flour, storage)
- Food conservation
- Inaugural activities including tree plantation, ribbon cutting
- Visits to stands of women’s income-generating activities (Klui Klui-snacks made from peanuts harvested in the region)
Inauguration of Zakpota
The inauguration of Zakpota was a festive celebration marked by the high level of mobilization of the epicenter population, particularly the women of the community. The investors were greeted by a unified Epicenter Committee who exhibited strong leadership, ownership and enthusiasm for their epicenter. The president of the Epicenter Committee announced the program and introduced the members of the committee and their functions.
The President of the Epicenter Loan Committee gave a particularly inspiring speech in which she expressed the community’s “resolute commitment to strengthen actions taken to win the fight against illiteracy, hunger, misery and poverty”.
Others present included, the mayor of the community of Zakpota, the member of parliament and a representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs accountable for decentralization. Members of the national media also attended the event.
Investors participated in a symbolic tree planting ceremony as a testament to their commitment to their partners in Zakpota. In return, the partners agreed to tend to the growth of the trees in the same way they will take care of their epicenter. The two leaders of the group along with the representative of the Global Office cut the ribbon symbolically opening the epicenter building to the community.
The epicenter building itself was a text-book example of a fully equipped epicenter capable of meeting the needs of the population. The food bank was stocked, and the maternity ward, health center, and preschool were fully furnished.