Nassirath Arobadade, a 32-year-old producer, processor, and tradeswoman of palm nuts in Adja Ouèrè, Benin, shares her story of working with IFDC’s ACMA 2 project, funded by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Benin

“I am Nassirath Arobadade, and I proudly work across the entire palm oil value chain as a producer, processor, and tradeswoman. My palm farm is 3 hectares and located in the village of Okouakaré in the commune of Adja Ouèrè. Adja Ouèrè is in the Plateau department in the Republic of Benin. I used to work in the field, among the palm trees, with my older sister to process palm nuts into oil. Together, we acquired the land and created a group called “Iréti n’bè,” meaning “there is hope.” The group currently consists of five people. We employ 40 people in our small processing unit, both women and men, and we manage to pay them every week. We also acquired a space not far from our field where we installed our furnaces for processing the palm nuts into oil.

“In 2017, the ACMA program invited us to participate in the Independence Fair in Parakou. This was the first time I ever traveled to northern Benin. After this fair I received an order of 85 cans of palm nut oil (25 L each), and I earned nearly 2 million CFA Francs [about U.S. $3,500]!

“One year later, in 2018, I am at the Independence Fair in Cotonou, the economic capital of Benin. I still sell my palm oil of course, and this is accompanied by my new product: gari (a byproduct of cassava) enriched with coconut milk. I can tell you, it smells so good and is very sweet.

“In preparation for this fair, ACMA trained us in packaging and labeling and provided us with business cards and banners. I’m so happy to see people stop in front of my products with their eyes full of admiration. I tell them, ‘I’m the one who makes the product. Look, you can find my name here.’ And then I give them the business card. I read in their eyes that they’re also proud of me.

“I came to the Independence Fair with 10 25-L cans of palm oil, sold in attractive, smaller packages of 1 L, 2 L, and 5 L, which ACMA offered me. In two days, I have already sold more than the equivalent of five 25-L cans! The 25-L can now costs 25,000 CFA [about U.S. $45]. If the product is of good quality but not well presented, it will sell at a much lower price. But when it is presented well, with nice packaging and labeling, it sells quickly.

“Many people have already requested my contact information, so I am sure that as soon as I get home, my phone will ring and I will receive a lot of orders! I have already ordered labels myself with packaging. Never again will I present my products without packaging or labels. Soon you will see my products in supermarkets all over Benin and even in other countries.

“Thanks to the different trainings that the ACMA program has provided since 2016, I now understand many things about improving my production, processing activities, and selling to the market. My life has changed.”

The Communal Approach to Agricultural Market Access in Benin (ACMA 2), funded by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Benin, is working with local governments and agricultural producers, traders, and smallholder farmers to facilitate trade with small- and medium-sized private enterprises.