Nelly Bassily | March 17, 2014
Ten women work on Nakounon Farm, performing various tasks. Some labour in the fields of maize and rice, or in the vegetable patches. Others tend the fish ponds and the rabbit hutches, or take care of the goats, sheep and ducks.
Laure Nakounon is the owner of the farm, located near the town of Zè in southern Benin. She is passionate about agriculture.
Ever since she was a child, Mrs. Nakounon has had a feel for the land. She remembers: “It really was a pleasure for me to work in the fields and tend to the animals.” As a schoolgirl, she dreamed of a career in agriculture.
Unfortunately, Mrs. Nakounon failed her Baccalaureat [school leaving exams] on three occasions. But these failures were not enough to stop her from achieving her dream. She explains, “I enrolled in [the Songhaï] Agricultural Training Centre and trained for four years in agriculture.”
Mrs. Nakounon founded her farm in 2008. Now it spreads over ten hectares. She grows local rice on four hectares of lowland. A group of fish ponds occupies the middle of the farm. About 200 rabbits live in another section. In the distance, a fence of palm trees defines the farm’s boundaries.
The women who work on the farm share the profits after selling the farm’s produce. Their incomes have increased, and the women are much more financially independent.
Jacqueline Dagin works on the farm. She says, “The various activities we practice here help us to meet our families’ expenses and our children’s education.”
Mrs. Nakounon says: “To date, my [farm’s] production cannot meet demand. Whether it is fish, rabbits, vegetables or any of our other enterprises, we sell what we produce and we make good profits.”
Mrs. Nakounon has become a leader among rural women and currently chairs a group of local women rice growers. She advises other rural women how to become leaders, encouraging them at the fortnightly meetings and gatherings which she organizes.
She never stops telling them this: “A woman leader is a model female, creative and motivated; she mobilizes other women or men, sharing her vision and experiences, and making them aware of good practices which can improve their lives, economic situations and, ultimately, the development of their communities.”
Mrs. Nakounon is a role model for women and the pride of her community. She offers this message to rural women: “I do not doubt your potential. All that’s missing is the will [to fight for your rights]. Set your mind to it now, and no one will ever again associate rural women with poverty … Fight for your independence!”