A three-pronged approach to empowering the poor
Updated: Mar 26, 2020
Towards the end of 2019, WRENmedia was approached by the non-profit Actions pour l’Environnement et le Développement Durable (ACED) based in Benin, West Africa, to write its 10-Year Impact Report. This article provides a brief summary of that report, highlighting the organisation’s key achievements in sustainable development and environmental preservation to date – and the unique approach they adopted to realise these results.
With a mandate to address development challenges in Benin, ACED combines research with local action and policy change to enhance the livelihoods of local communities. Since its establishment in 2009, ACED’s initiatives have worked to improve the productivity of smallholder farmers, enhance the food security of poor urban residents, and increase access to income-generating activities through environmental preservation and youth empowerment programmes. The development of urban allotments, for example, is enabling Benin’s city residents to source their own produce and diversify their diets. The production and optimal application of organic fertiliser is increasing rural farmers’ vegetable yields and incomes. Further, ACED’s research publications are linking rural youths with accessible information on agricultural opportunities, and building the awareness of decision makers on the potential of inland fishing to provide nutritious food. Policy recommendations on topical issues, such climate adaptation and mitigation practices, are also being mainstreamed to increase smallholder resilience.
To realise its aims, the organisation has adopted a non-linear, three-pillared approach: 1) to generate robust scientific evidence to enhance understanding of the challenges faced; 2) reformulate research results into actionable policy recommendations to inform practitioners and decision-makers; and 3) collaborate with communities and other local stakeholders to implement solutions in the field. This final element helps to identify which interventions are more likely to be taken up by communities in the long-term for sustainable impact – and has proved invaluable for the success of various initiatives.
A clear example of the effectiveness of their research-policy-action strategy can be seen in ACED’s urban gardening initiative, which aimed to increase access to locally-produced, healthy vegetables in Benin’s cities. In coordination with the Amsterdam Centre for World Food Studies of the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences at the University of Abomey-Calavi, in 2016, ACED created a framework for the development of urban allotments. Two gardens have since been established in the cities of Abomey-Calavi and Porto-Novo, and participants from vulnerable households provided with gardening equipment and training, to produce enough vegetables for home consumption and income generation. Through a randomized control trial, the gardens were found to generate around €6,000 per hectare per year, and increased the number of days over which participants consumed two or more nutritious meals. “I don’t remember the last time I bought vegetables to cook at home. Indeed, since I started farming and harvesting on my plot, I regularly provide my household with vegetables. This has greatly reduced my food expenses and given me more autonomy at home,” says Adelaide Kounoukpevi, a project participant. The initiative also developed a site allocation tool to advise the government on how to identify further suitable land for allotments to scale out the programme.
For the future, ACED aims to increase their capacities to continue to benefit local communities, as well as deliver more wide-reaching impacts to other developing countries of the West African region. Among their priorities for 2020, ACED will focus on strengthening the use of evidence in policymaking, with specific activities including the creation of a platform to increase access to scientific knowledge, and the organisation of exchange sessions between researchers and policymakers.