Benin is a beautiful country that Aide La Vie’s co-founders Martin Tingelhoff and Bethany Tingelhoff have personally experienced and hope to call home with their family.
The people of Benin are what make our founders so passionate about helping not only to end child malnutrition, but to create a social impact as well. The people of Benin are extremely friendly and generous. It is a culture filled with brightly colored clothes, telling their stories through song and dance, and dedicating themselves to extremely hard work just to survive each day. The women continue to amaze us with their ability to care for their families without first world luxuries. Most of the country is without electricity and clean water. Each day, firewood has to be gathered, water collected and food harvested and cleaned in order to create one small meal for a family.
The average person in Benin makes a mere equivalent of $1,600 US dollars each year. More than half of the population of Benin are engaged in farming and live outside of a city in a rural area. Approximately half of the population is 16 years or younger.
Benin is a country with limitless potential and land that is rich with resources. It is a country with a population of 10 Million people, desperately in need of economic impact. It’s a stable and economically viable place to create an enterprise because of it’s location. Located directly on the West African coast, bordering the countries of Nigeria, Niger, Togo, and Burkina Fasobeing, it’s placement on the coast with port access has the potential to keep supply lines strong for imported ingredients and equipment.
Agriculture is one of the economy’s key sectors in Benin, especially the growth and export of cotton along with crops that are saved and eaten, including maize (corn), cassava (a root plant), yams, beans, palm oil, peanuts, and cashews.
For peanuts, an especially important commodity for Aide La Vie, the majority of high-quality peanuts come from a sector surrounding the city of Kandi in the northern center of Benin where it has much more dry air and sandy-loamy soil. In northern Benin, the peanut season begins in April and their harvest is in late September thru early October.
There are still serious issues that affect both food security and proper nutrition for the people of Benin. These include the lack of modern farming technologies, poor soil condition, and weak post-harvest infrastructure (storage, preservation, processing). Floods, droughts and the impact of an increase in commodity prices have made an already fragile nutritional situation for families in the most vulnerable regions of the country more unstable.
What exactly is the extent of this problem? Overall, about a third of the population lives below the international poverty line of US $1.25 per day. A comprehensive food security and vulnerability analysis (CFSVA) conducted in 2008 estimates that nearly 1 million people in the country (12% of the population) are food insecure, and that more than one third of children under five years old suffer from chronic malnutrition or stunting. A 2011 survey conducted at the national level by the Benin Government also confirms that 33.6% of households are food insecure.
For young children in Benin, the problem of food insecurity and poor nutrition is especially great. The level of severe malnutrition in children for the whole country is 4.7%, or about 1 in 20 children suffering from a disease that could take their life. In the northeast region of Benin, where Aide La Vie places its focus, has a staggering level of up to 35% severe malnutrition in children. Remembering that 90% of children who receive treatment with RUTF can recover, by producing RUTF locally on the front lines in Benin, we hope to be a catalyst and advocate for sustainable solutions will save children’s lives.