760 children from Benin will rejoice in being able to go to school. As part of the project “Cotton for sustainable education”, initiated by the Aid by Trade Foundation and its partner Tchibo, five school buildings are now inaugurated. The project is also supported by the German Investment and Development Company (DEG), the German International Cooperation (GIZ), and local representatives of the cotton farmers.
Despite efforts to improve the school system by the Benin government, the poverty that is rampant in the country makes it difficult to establish a well-functioning school infrastructure including equipment and maintenance of many school buildings. Roughly one in every three children drops out of elementary school and can neither read nor write. This is due to the cost of schooling that many small farmers in rural areas often cannot afford. This is where the Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) initiative and Tchibo comes in.
Together for a better school infrastructure for children
CmiA works to improve the incomes of small farmers through training in sustainable and efficient farming methods as well as passing on business knowledge. The initiative also invests together with partners in the public and private sectors in building school infrastructures, such as in Benin. “Education is the driving force behind sustainable development. It is a pleasure to be able to contribute to this development with our partners and to provide a total of 762 children of CmiA cotton farmers even in remote areas of Benin the opportunity to receive an education through currently five new school buildings. Thanks to the project, the children no longer need to travel the long and tiring routes to school,” said Christoph Kaut, Managing Director of the Aid by Trade Foundation.
In addition to the construction of schools, 11 newly constructed school cafeterias and gardens for growing mostly local vegetables provide children with regular meals. Light that is key to learning in the evenings or in the early mornings comes from solar lamps that replace costly and hazardous oil lamps. They are distributed through a local company and are certified by “Lightning Africa”, an initiative of the World Bank. Since both school supplies and school uniforms are lacking, the students are provided with a total 10,000 books and 30,000 school uniforms. Students also receive much needed school supplies, such as English and French dictionaries, pens, notebooks, solar powered calculators, and solar lamps for home in the form of a scholarship.
„The most effective way of support is giving children as well as adults the opportunity to learn,” Achim Lohrie, Director Corporate Responsibility at Tchibo explains. „By helping people to help themselves, the initiative contributes particularly to an increase of education and infrastructure in Benin. Tchibo is one of the biggest purchasers of Cotton made in Africa cotton. We will continue to support the initiative and offer Cotton made in Africa labelled products — this is how we take responsibility for people and nature,” Lohrie comments further.
“Education helps make a farmer be a better farmer”
Through radio broadcasts, posters, and meetings in the villages, more than 30,000 cotton farmers in rural areas of Benin learned about the importance of education for their children and about the school project of the Cotton made in Africa initiative. “Education helps make a farmer be a better farmer” I did not have the opportunity to go to school, but I realize that education means progress,” says smallholder farmer Orou Yaya, who at 90 is regarded in the village as a wise man and was initially a critic of the school project. Barikissou Yinongui, cotton farmer and mother from Benin adds, “I send my children to school so they do not become “blind”. I am illiterate and unfortunately never went to school myself. I do not want my children to remain “blind”. I hope my children will grow up to make a difference by going to school.”