CLEMSON, South Carolina — A 30-year-old organic farm in Porto Novo, Benin serves as an example for farming in Africa. At its creation, the farm was intended to help fight poverty and rural migration in Africa.
Father Godfrey Nzamujo created this organic farm, Centre Songhai, in 1985 on barely a hectare of land. Father Godfrey Nzamujo was born in Nigeria and raised in California, where he studied agronomics, economics and information technology. He began his mission of ending poverty through farming techniques when he saw images of the famine happening in Africa during the start of the 1980s. He moved back to Africa and ended up in Benin, where the country’s government gave him the small plot of land.
Today, his farm encompasses over 24 hectares and offers employment to a large number of people. The mission of the operation is to recycle everything. “Nothing is wasted, everything is transformed,” Nzamujo says.
The farm grows crops such as fruits, vegetables and rice. The farm also raises animals including fish, pigs and poultry. The amount of crops that are grown on the farm heavily exceeds where the farm was 30 years ago. Now, seven tons of rice per hectare are produced three times a year, compared to the one ton per hectare produced once a year at the beginning of the project.
The Centre Songhai has created similar farms in Nigeria, Liberia and Sierra Leone. It hopes to move into 13 other west and central African countries within the next several years.
The goal of the project is to increase crop yields for African farmers by using simple techniques. This includes foregoing the use of fertilizers and pesticides. By doing these small things, production costs can be cut significantly while preserving the environment.
Organic farming has become very popular in wealthy nations around the world, but has yet to catch on in more impoverished countries. The farm in Benin is being used as an example for the rest of Africa. The farm marks a movement toward a farming system that is better for the employees, consumers and environment.
The Centre Songhai is taking more than one approach to benefiting the country. “Songhai is facing up to the triple challenge of Africa today: poverty, environment and youth employment,” Nzamujo explains. More than 400 apprentices work on the farm. The apprenticeships encourage youth to gain skills and employment.
“There were seven of us. We dug wells and watered with our own hands. And during the main dry season, this grey surface became green,” Nzamujo said. From humble beginnings, the farm now acts as inspiration for the whole continent.
– Hannah Cleveland