HAS University of Applied Sciences explores Benin in West Africa with Nuffic project focusing on substrate training
HAS University of Applied Sciences is structurally involved in international projects centred around knowledge transfer, supply chain thinking and educational innovation. Together with our partners we regularly explore new countries and cultures.
We’re currently working with Holland Greentech and UCCM Calavi on a Nuffic-project in French speaking Benin, West Africa. Lecturer at the HAS, Janneke Grit, is directly involved in the project and explains that HAS has worked together with Holland Greentech for a long time. Holland Greentech is a company with an extensive portfolio in horticultural products and services from Dutch suppliers focusing on the African market.
Launching the project
“Miriam Delhaine from Holland Greentech got in touch with HAS with a concept to write a proposal together, for a Nuffic project focused on providing a tailor-made training programme. This would be a great combination for them alongside the marketing of their products”, explains Janneke. “The proposal was approved and has since been launched.”
Responding to the seasons
“During this project we train growers to cultivate cucumbers, tomatoes and sweet peppers in substrate. This means not growing in the soil but in a type of pot: plastic bags containing coconut substrate. Growers in Benin have to cope with both a rainy and dry season. Growing this way makes it possible to accurately regulate water and nutrient use and to respond to seasonal changes.
Learning to grow and be entrepreneurial
The training programme lasts for five weeks in total but is spread across a period of six months. Lessons are given by HAS lecturers Janneke Grit and Marjo Baeten in Cotonou, Holland Greentech and independent consultant Marc de Ruiter. “The training is free for growers. The training programme not only includes lessons on growing crops, but also covers entrepreneurship: consider the creation of a business plan, market entry strategies, maintaining records and expanding your network."
Janneke continues: “We offer both theory and practice, such as seed trials and research into substrate. There are three demo farms in Benin and there is an excursion to these companies planned during one of the weeks of training."
Young and female
Twenty five growers are participating in the training programme, of which a significant proportion are young and female. “It is a mixed group", clarifies Janneke. “Some growers are already experimenting on substrate, others are exploring the options available to them. Part of the group is affiliated with a cooperative: it was this cooperative that initially asked Holland Greentech for training."
Janneke has recently returned from a week teaching in Benin. “It was a really enjoyable experience. As everything is in French, it took some getting used to. I spoke English and a coach from Holland Greentech translated everything. And the female growers brought their children along to the classes. That made it a very special and unique experience.”
Introducing new concepts
"Personally speaking, the most challenging aspect was preparing the lessons and gaining an understanding of the local circumstances for growing . There was a lot of prior planning and preparation involved, but once completed, it was a relaxing experience."
“The reactions of the growers up to now have been really positive: they are so motivated and willing to learn, and have so many ideas they want to put into practice. It’s really great to see. We're introducing new concepts and that is really valuable”, Janneke concludes.
Putting ourselves on the map
The growers continue to receive coaching, even after completing the training. Holland Greentech functions in Benin as an advisory bureau and in this capacity keeps in touch with the growers. For HAS University of Applied Sciences, it is a fantastic way to share knowledge and expertise, and incorporate these experiences into our own education and teaching methods. It gives us a platform to demonstrate so much of what we have to offer, and provides a platform for communication with the local agricultural council and embassy. We're putting ourselves on the map.