Julien Kpodeme is a husband and father of six and is proud of the new farming techniques he’s learned at The Hunger Project’s Lahotan Epicenter in northern Benin, where he’s been working since 2012. At first, Julien was unsure of how THP’s work could offer pathways to economic empowerment. “When THP started partnering with my community, I could hardly believe what staff told us,” he recalls. “I had seen many other NGOs come into our community to do the same type of mobilization, and nothing changed. But THP was different.” Julien embarked on a transformative life journey with The Hunger Project. At the heart of Julien’s story is the realization that knowledge and training are tools that can empower and turn one’s life completely around.
Julien’s experience with The Hunger Project began in 2012 when he joined Lahotan Epicenter immediately after its founding. Today the epicenter serves over 7,000 individuals and offers a series of trainings and workshops for our partners. Julien was able to join The Hunger Project’s Vision, Commitment and Action (VCA) workshop, designed to empower communities to take actions to improve their food security, health, gender equality and education. The workshop had a profound effect on Julien’s life.
Before attending the VCA training, Julien used to struggle to make ends meet and to feed himself and his family. He was only growing a single cash crop, cotton, and purchasing all of his family’s food with profits from cotton sales. This meant that he was forced to spend much of his income on items like grain, fruits, and vegetables – which can be especially expensive during non-harvest months. Because of high food prices, Julien often found himself with little extra income and was not able to plan for his family’s future.
In the VCA workshops, Julien learned that instead of just growing cotton, he could also grow other food crops at the same time. This completely changed Julien’s perception of farming, and he is now able to grow much of his own food, providing greater food security for himself and his family.
“Growing many crops at the same time has the advantage of stopping me from having to buy food,” he says. “It also limits the risks related to losing a particular crop to pests or other problems. For two years now, in addition to cotton, I have been growing maize, yam, pepper, soy, cassava, and pigeon pea which my family can eat.”
Now, thanks to his work with The Hunger Project and his newly gained self-confidence, he is able to buy more food for his family and is leading an empowered and fulfilling life.
“I am very happy about THP’s partnership with my village, and I sincerely thank THP-Benin’s staff and investors for making this happen.”