Renewable energy bolsters agricultural activities for women in rural communities in Benin

ECREEE is implementing a project entitled: Promoting Agricultural Competitiveness through Solar Energy (PAC-SOLAR). The project seeks to support the region’s agricultural businesses to produce more through the affordable and reliable option of harnessing its abundant renewable energy resources towards providing a stable supply of water for irrigation and other agricultural purposes. The ECOW-GEN initiative on ECOWAS initiative on Women’s Economic Empowerment through Energy for Productive Uses has been integrated into PAC-SOLAR to meet the gender mainstreaming requirements of the project.

In 2020, ECREEE, with the financial support of the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID), launched a request for concept notes for grant support ranging from EUR 30,000 – EUR 50,000 per project. Out of over 100 proposals submitted, 3 projects were awarded grants. These projects are in Benin, the Gambia and Niger.

From 17 – 8 March 2022, ECREEE conducted a site visit for the project located in Benin, covering two communities namely Adjohoun and Avrankou.

The ECREEE representative and the project team, the NGO Puits de Jacob, kicked off the visit starting with the Adjohoun community where the team met with the community’s mayor and other leaders of the community in the civic center.

Speeches were made by the community leaders and the project manager. From the reports made by these groups it was clear that the project had served as a catalyst for economic activities in both communities. Both the mayor and project manager noted that prior to the project, the surrounding land was not cultivated by women. Moreover, the streetlights installed as part of the project in the two communities have facilitated women’s ability to meet and/or work even after sundown. Contributing to positive economic and social impacts in the project communities.

Mrs. Eudia Koussihouede, the NGO’s president (and project manager) noted that the 3600 Wp solar project installed in the community, under this PAC-SOLAR project, is the largest in the entire municipality of Adjohoun.

The PAC-SOLAR project in Benin demonstrates both technical feasibility and financial efficiency, having completely met the requirements of the project without costs or time overruns.

In addition to these, the project fully demonstrates the envisioned objectives of the initiative on ECOWAS initiative on Women’s Economic Empowerment through Energy for Productive Uses by reducing drudgery faced by rural women through improved access to energy. Furthermore, the project contributes to ECREEE’s gender and energy objectives of promoting women’s economic empowerment, sustainable energy, and climate change resilience through improved agricultural practices and increased economic opportunities.

To ensure the sustainability of the project, the women have been trained and charged with the job of cleaning the solar panels regularly, among others. Moreover, the PAC-SOLAR project is co-financed by the RECASEB program of the government of Benin, which aims to promote renewable energy for agriculture, and training the community members on maintenance of solar PV installations.

The results achieved in this project in Benin provides a very positive indication of what might be expected from the replication of PAC-SOLAR in other communities across the ECOWAS region.