In 2014, my team and I were involved in a study which aims at assessing the drivers of the transition from the conventional agriculture to intensive agro-ecological agriculture in the urban and peri-urban areas of Benin. Results of this study revealed that 95% of vegetable growers used high doses of agrochemicals (3 to 4 times of the normal doses). The main reasons indicated by farmers were the unavailability of alternative products (Bio-pesticides) in the real time for farmers and the inefficacy of the available bio-pesticides on the market. This hazardous utilization of agrochemicals in vegetable production not only increases the cost of the production but also raises the level of chemical residues in agricultural products. Moreover, grain legumes and cereal farmers and retailers used to store their product by using highly toxic pesticides (e.g. fumigants) in response to storage pests . More alarming, in Benin, the stored products are directly used by consumers for direct cooking without any prior cleaning methods.
Considering the fact that vegetables are consumed freshly most of the time and the stored products are used directly for cooking, there is an urgent need to develop a sustainable, safe and eco-friendly approach for the efficient and health preserving management of pests and diseases affecting vegetables and storage products so as to provide healthy food for better living in Africa, particularly in Benin.
Fortunately, in Benin, there is a wide range of diversity of endogenous plants that harboured phytochemicals and can be used in their diversity to solve pest and disease problems in agriculture. In this regard, I created with some fellows in 2017, a start-up named “BioLife_Benin”, which is specialized in the production and marketing of biological inputs, especially Bio-pesticides and Compost for intensive agro-ecological production in Benin. We use locally available plants in their diversity to produce high-quality input for farmers in the target field. Today, three different types of biological inputs are produced by “BioLife_Benin”.
- Liquid bio-pesticide (BIOMASS) for vegetable growers: this is a Neem with other indigenous plant-based bio-pesticide for controlling pests and diseases in vegetable production. This bio-pesticide exhibits three major effects (e.g. insecticidal, acaricidal and to a lower extent fungicidal effect). It is sold at the price which is 20% lesser than synthetic pesticides.
- Powder bio-pesticide for grain legumes and cereals farmers and retailers: this is a Dioscorea dumetorum with other indigenous plant-based bio-pesticide for preserving storage products from pests. This bio-pesticide can help grain legumes and cereals farmers and retailers to store their products for about 6 to 12 months.
- Compost for vegetable growers: This compost is produced by using the by-products (residues) of bio-pesticide production, in combination with many other locally available weeds. Our compost provides nutrients for the plant and also helps to control nematodes and other soil-borne micro-organisms which affect the plant.
To facilitate the utilization and the appropriation of our products, we design technical sheets that are freely available to farmers. We also sensitized farmers about the impact of using excessive agrochemical for the production and show them the importance to look at the locally available plant resources to solve pest and disease problems.
Finally, our products and services will help farmers to double sustainably their current yield; hence their incomes while preserving their own and consumers’ health, and their environment.
“BioLife_Benin”: Natural products for a better life in Africa.
Abdou Rachidi Francisco, Benin