Women are the backbone of their communities, playing an essential part in the financial stability and food security of their families in Benin. In my semi-rural village in Benin, women organize themselves in groups to produce various agricultural products, such as rice, an important source of food and revenue for my community. Currently, my women's rice group lacks any major infrastructure, instead meeting under a mango tree on Tuesdays to wash and transform their rice. There is nowhere to store the final product or equipment, so they divide everything among themselves and transport it back to their houses on the back of moto-taxis. To sell the rice, customers have to go to the women's houses to buy rice, sometimes visiting multiple houses before finding someone who is home or who still has rice available to sell. Not only is this a major inconvenience for customers, but the lack of infrastructure also hinders access to rice and creates a more food insecure environment. Furthermore, it is potentially a security threat to have people showing up at women's houses to buy rice, rather than at a designated rice storage house. Consequently, constructing a rice house is necessary to allow the women to produce, store, and sell their rice in one centralized location. Not only would it make this staple food source more accessible for the community, but by streamlining the production process, the women could produce greater quantities of rice and generate higher revenue. Overall, the women will be more financially secure by having more income to pay for school and medical fees for their families.
The community recognizes the importance of female empowerment and supporting women's groups, and is eager to construct this rice house. There are over 25 women in the rice group, and the scope of their customer base expands throughout the community and surrounding villages. The women initiated this project by buying a square of land last year, and will contribute raw materials, such as sand and water, to carry out the construction. The community is largely investing in the project, with materials and labor coming from local vendors and contractors, and is receiving strong consumer support as customers look forward to a centralized and easily accessible place to purchase their rice. The sustainability of the project comes from the durability and sturdy construction of the rice house. We have found reputable contractors and carpenters to design and construct the rice house at a negotiated price, as well as put a lot of thought into the location of the building site. The planned site is favorable for rice production with a water pump nearby and an open, sunny patch of land to lay out the rice to dry. There is easy access to the site via an established path that leads directly from the main road in village, making it easy for customers to find and access the product. As new women join the group, they receive training from the other women on rice production as well as will be introduced to the system of how the stock and accounting notebooks are managed.