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Agriculture Forms Part of Benin’s Development Plan, Mushroom Farming Offers Sustainable Benefits for Overlooked Female Workforce

Olyvia Fadeyi is a mycologist – she studies fungi at Toui-Kilibo reserve in Benin – and is teaching the women from the village of Yaoui how best to harness the economic value of this strangest of crops. Opportunities for women in areas away from the urban hubs are few. Just 13% of women in Benin own land and 30% marry before the age of 18, according to a UN report. Fadeyi is offering an intriguing alternative. Grown indoors, in high concentration, mushrooms can mitigate a little of the damage done by slash-and-burn deforestation, which farmers carry out to clear plantations for crops such as cashews. Fadeyi, recently received €10,000 to fund her mushroom-growing initiative from a science-funding foundation and is asking for additional support from the Beninese authorities, is focused on empowering rural women to run the project on their own. “Business mentoring will help them assert themselves in a commercial, entrepreneurial way. Next, we will check the quality of fresh mushroom production and give refresher courses. After that the women will be left to their own devices, as they will have the necessary skills and will no longer need us. They will be completely autonomous.”