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Gerd-Müller-Boosts-Germany’s-InvestmentBenin and Togo will see increased financial support from Germany for agriculture and development opportunities this year.

Germany’s Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, Gerd Müller, traveled to Benin and Togo to promote partnership in January 2016. Müller hopes the increased funding will allow both countries to make advances in sustainable agriculture and, ultimately, help eradicate hunger.

“You need more than just water and fertilizer for agriculture,” Minister Müller said in the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation’s Jan. 3 press release. “You also need knowledge and innovation!”

More than one-third of Benin’s population and over half of Togo’s population is living in poverty, according to the World Bank. For this reason, “advancing food security and providing job prospects in these two partner countries of German development cooperation are so important,” the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation’s press release also stated.

Gerd Müller announced Benin would receive €20 million to support agricultural innovation at the inauguration of the green innovation center in Cotonou, Benin. Green innovation centers are part of A World Without Hunger, an initiative of Germany and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

“The centers provide innovative technologies and extension services and thus help to increase smallholders’ incomes, create employment opportunities and improve the food situation in rural areas,” the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation said.

While in Togo, Müller inaugurated the first vocational training course for motorcycle mechanics based on the dual system, which provides an apprenticeship in a company while the student earns a vocational education.

“Togo is a young and vibrant country,” Müller said. “That is why the country needs more than modern technology and an enabling environment. More than anything else, it needs its people – qualified workers.”

The Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development is working with Togo to establish a dual system of vocational training for five trades.

“Togo is an anchor of stability in West Africa, and must remain so,” Gerd Müller said. “That is why we want to help create better prospects for the people living there through better vocational education and training, better agricultural yields, and better conditions for investments in Togo’s economy.”

Müller also announced in the Jan. 4, 2016 press release for the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation that Togo would receive €6.5 million to innovate agricultural methods and fight hunger.

Summer Jackson

Sources: BMZ 1, BMZ 2, World Bank 1, World Bank 2, Deutschland, IFPRI
Photo: Google Images

Children_in_Togo
A large number of children in Nadjote, a small village located 18 km from the city of Dapaong, suffer from serious malnutrition. In order to combat this suffering, the Togolese government has established a safety net program aiming to financially help the most vulnerable households.

Specifically, the government set up a cash transfer program to provide financial assistance to households with malnutrition-suffering children in Togo.

This program is intended to provide a brighter future for children from the most disadvantaged families. Moreover, this program encourages households to obtain birth certificates for their children, offer them with education and health care.

Abna Kolani is one of the beneficiaries. She gave birth to seven children, but three of them died of malnutrition. As a beneficiary, during the past 12 months, she has received monthly financial assistance of 5,000 CFAF—around $9—for the children’s feeding and education.

According to the World Bank article, Abna noted that “With the money I receive each month to provide my youngest child with better nutrition, I can provide healthier food for all my children. I see a big change in their physical condition— their health and hygiene conditions are much better than before.”

“When they are sick, I can take them to the health center to receive care. In addition, the program has allowed me to send my eldest child to school and now all four have birth certificates.” Abna continued.

The project was launched by the Togolese government in 2013 and supported by the World Bank and the Japanese government.

Cooperating with the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), the program is aimed for parents with children between the ages of 0 and 24 months in the Kara and Savanes regions where malnutrition rates are extremely high.

Nanifei Lardja is another mother living in Nadjote mentioned in the World Bank article. Naniferi has five children, and she says, “I buy corn for 2,000 francs, soap for 1,000 francs, and small fish for 1,000 francs. I have my small plot for the vegetables I need and put aside the remaining 1,000 francs for other possible expenses.”

The program gives her not only material support but also confidence for a better future with her children.

“We are very pleased to note that the support activities organized, in particular the educational talks on the rights of children, nutrition, health and basic family practices have produced largely positive effects,” said Joachim Boko, a Social Protection Specialist at the World Bank.

According to Pounpouni Koumaï Tchadarou, the Regional Director for Social Action in the Savanes region and Program Coordinator, this program offers much more than mere financial assistance. Besides the 5,000 francs supplement, this program also provides a range of services, such as reminders of regular prenatal care and children’s register.

“We do everything to ensure that school-age children attend school. We also do home visits to heighten the awareness of the beneficiaries regarding the role played by good hygiene in improving the health of their children,” said Tchadarou.

“One day, you will come back here and see that the children you have helped have become teachers, nurses, and doctors,” said Yom Kouloukitibe, one of the 14,016 recipients to date of this financial assistance.

Shengyu Wang

Sources: World Bank 1, UNICEF, World Bank 2
Photo: Flickr


A premium skin-care company called Alaffia empowers local people in Togo by handcrafting beauty products prepared from Certified Fair Trade shea butter. Better yet, all of the sales from Alaffia’s beauty products contribute to the livelihood of West African communities.

Alaffia offers creams, soaps, lotions and hair-care products made from the indigenous shea tree. Alaffia operates at a local level, employing women in need and enabling youth to stay in school to complete their educations.

This company is essential to West African women because they have difficulty obtaining employment since they are oftentimes not able to access education. Exclusion from the workforce leaves them vulnerable and often unable to support their families. Alaffia directly employs around 500 women in co-ops throughout Togo to cultivate shea by hand. These women are compensated with fair wages for their work and they bring unique knowledge and handcrafting skills to the job.

The company was founded by Togolese native Olowo-n’djo Tchala in 2004 after he realized the need to combat gender inequality and poverty. Alaffia was founded on Tchala’s belief that everyone deserves equality, empowerment and beauty.

Furthermore, Alaffia uses its profits to sponsor philanthropic projects in Togo. One such project is called “Bicycles for Education,” which provides disadvantaged students with bikes to get to and from school. So far, it has helped more than 6,300 students in Togo. Alaffia donates metal roofs, seats, and school supplies to rural schools through its “School Supplies and Repairs” project to create a functional learning environment for youth.

Alaffia has also provided over 3,200 pregnant women with pre- and post-natal care, and has funded the planting of 25,000 trees to combat climate change.

While philanthropy and environmental benefits certainly set Alaffia apart from other major beauty companies, Alaffia products are also made with unrefined ingredients and contain no synthetic fragrances or genetically modified organisms. They are vegan, gluten free and an ideal alternative line for those with sensitive skin.

These products help Africans profit from their natural resources and create sustainable goods that help our planet, empower local communities, and improve education for students.

Alaffia products can be purchased at natural and organic food stores such as Lassen’s and Whole Foods.

– Jenn Hartmann

Sources: Alaffia, Thurston Talk
Photo: Hello Beautiful

agriculture in togo
The Togolese republic, a strip of land east of Ghana and west of Benin, has a population of 7.3 million. People there are of 37 different tribes. Most speak Ewe or Mina, though a history of French colonialism makes French the official language and the language of commence.

Since declaring independence from France in 1960, Togo has gradually transitioned to democracy. Historically powerful political parties have proved a great challenge — they are reluctant to let go. Human rights abuses (especially within prisons,) capital punishment and a corrupt police force are widely reported.

Still, under the leadership of President Faure Gnassingbe, arbitrary arrest and political persecution have subsided. His own election (2007) and reelection (2010) were considered credible by international observers.

The Togolese economy relies heavily on commercial agriculture. Cocoa, coffee and cotton make up about 40 percent of revenue on exported goods and employ much of the population. Nearly 65 percent of the labor force works in agriculture. Subsistence farming is relied upon by many Togolese, 58.7 percent of whom live below the poverty line.

Despite the dominance of agriculture in Togo many still suffer severe hunger. In 2006, almost half the population was underfed. In 2010, 16.5 percent of children under the age of 5 were underweight. Trading Economics reports that undernourished people in Togo have a deficit of nearly 280 kilocalories daily. Why?

The success of a harvest depends on much. In 2007, northern floods destroyed crops and livestock. Malnutrition in the region, among Togo’s poorest, increased significantly. The south was hit the next year with rain that inundated fields and washed away roads. Good weather in Togo is as vital as it is unreliable.

Then there’s the fact that crops need to be planted, and seeds are in short supply. As a whole, Togo has struggled to support a rapidly growing population with increased food production. It has become difficult for rural farmers to access both fertilizers and grains in time for planting.

Fortunately, there has been some, if not extraordinary, international aid in Togo. The World Bank, the United Nations and the World Food Programme all maintain a presence there. Most remarkable, though, is the attitude of the Togolese government. In 2012, President Gnassingbe announced a 1 billion dollar food security investment plan. Ideally, agricultural imports will be reduced while agricultural techniques and conservations expedite production.

The goal is ambitious, but Togo has the capacity for self-sufficiency and a government that cares enough to try for it.

– Olivia Kostreva

Sources: Africa Review, Trading Economics, U.S. Department of State, CIA
Photo: The Guardian