Marthe Montcho tells us how she set up her blog in Benin to showcase agricultural innovations and raise the profile of women in the agriculture sector.
I am a 26-year-old woman from Benin who holds a postgraduate degree in the agricultural sciences with a specialisation in animal resources management. I also have a master’s degree in sociology and anthropology. In October 2013, I became involved in sharing information on the activities of women farmers in Benin when I set up my blog, l’agriculture au féminin, or ‘women in farming’.
At the time, I had fairly limited knowledge about how to use social networks. But today I run a versatile online community that consists not only of agricultural professionals but also a network for sharing knowledge supported by Web 2.0 and sharing competences that independent or isolated individuals or institutions cannot obtain.
My role as a moderator of online discussion groups has given me access to a large amount of information. Moreover, it has enabled me to learn more about different agricultural themes and hot topics. I constantly have my finger on the pulse of agricultural news these days, at the national, regional and global levels. To ensure that the blog remains a success, I am always on the lookout for news and innovations in the sector. Keeping up to date makes it easier for me to facilitate and intervene in discussion groups.
Overall, the experience has enhanced my knowledge of networking tools and strategies, such as adaptive digital and social technologies, and also acquire solid experience of knowledge sharing via the internet and social networks.
Inspiration for the blog
I got my inspiration for creating the l’agriculture au féminin blog from my desire to fill an information gap and share a reality and an agricultural power the (the blog) with the rest of the world that not everyone is familiar with yet. This reality is the important contribution women to agricultural development.
There are many innovations which have long gone unnoticed in African countries, innovations which deserve to be widely disseminated and shared. One example is a tribute to the ingenuity of women, who process néré nuts into a finished product, a local mustard. Other examples include the technology to transform palm nuts into edible palm nut puree, packaged for commercialisation, or the processing of fonio to produce highly valued, or the agri-food production of sorghum as a Beninese vegetable yogurt.
The objective of my blog is to showcase all these and to raise the profile of women in the agriculture and agri-food sector.
They boost agricultural development, ensure food security and do excellent work. Their role deserves to be highlighted. I also believe that women and ICTs are well matched to support agricultural development, which is why I named my blog l’agriculture au féminin.
Impact of the blog on rural women in Benin
My blog has raised awareness among rural women in Benin that they are doing excellent work, and as a result they have more self-confidence. They want to do better and go further. Many of them have succeeded in packaging their products and now export their agri-food products throughout the sub-region. There are also groups of women engaged in the small-scale production of red palm oil who have benefited from gifts such as engine-powered palm nut presses. This has reduced their manual work and improved their output.
In my role as a female blogger, my presence in certain rural communities in Benin has enabled me to understand that there are women who experience on a daily basis the negative burden of tradition. For example, many of them are unaware of women’s rights, land rights, opportunities for accessing agricultural credit.
As some women in Benin are unaware that there is an International Women’s Day each year on 8 March, I organised a on 8 March 2015 with a rural community located in Toffo in the Atlantique department in Benin. It was a moment of great joy experiences and information on agricultural innovations. I plan to continue organising such events and helping women farmers through my blog.