A group of modestly-dressed women are busy in their village of Dassa Tré, more than 200 kilometres from Porto Novo, the capital of Benin. All day—and sometimes into the night—they collect and process cashew nuts. Their co-operative Egbélayo transforms the nuts into juice to sell in the market.
It’s difficult to process their bounty in the dim light, but this is the situation where Colette Dalale and her friends find themselves. Mrs. Dalale explains: “We are right in the bush. And sometimes snakes visit us at night. You cannot see a scorpion lying near you in the dark. For example, one day one of my collaborators slipped on a pebble she had not seen and almost fell into the boiling juice on the fire.”
But when the women acquired solar panels, their production tripled. The solar panels arrived thanks to a civil society organization called the Association Béninoise pour l’Éveil et le Développement and the Institute of the Francophonie for Sustainable Development. The panels now hang over the production facility and the power functions until 2 a.m.
The women of the Egbélayo co-operative were trained on how to install and maintain the solar panels. The training took place over a one-month period, after which the women installed the panels on the roof of their factory.
Pauline Alalle is a member of the co-operative, and proudly welcomes her role as a resource person. When asked, she and her colleagues can help others in the community install their solar panels, thereby passing on the torch.
Beatrice Koba is another member of Egbélayo. She says with satisfaction that the women have already turned what they learned into money. She adds, “As a woman, when your work brings you money, you are happy.” She says that her well-being has improved, and that of her family.
Mrs. Dalale is still amazed with the new technology that lights their workshop, and how it improved their production. Before, the co-operative produced up to 150 bottles of cashew juice per day. Now, they produce 300, and sometimes more.
This story is adapted from a video titled “Solar women,” originally published by AgribusinessTV. To watch the video, go to: http://agribusinesstv.info/en/benin-solar-women/