Solidarité Rurale

Solidarité Rurale : Transforming Agro-Education;Promoting Small Farms as Gateway for Self-Employment

Porto-Novo(South) et Djougou(North), BeninPorto-Novo, Sakete, Misserete(South) et Djougou(North), Benin
Year Founded:
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
$1,000 - $10,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Solidarité Rurale is revolutionizing agricultural education in Benin through a hands-on agricultural entrepreneurship program and holistic farming model. The demonstration farms train students how to utilize natural resources, develop their own farming operations, and grow into small businesses.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

what if the Africa's unused multimillion acres of land were spontaneously occuped by so many unemployment youth, to produce food?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Over a third of Benin’s nine million people is affected by poverty. Most of the population relies on subsistence farming for food and income. The youth unemployment rate has grown to twice that of the rate for adults, with nearly 2.75 million young job seekers in Benin and over 40 percent of the population under 14 years. This will rate will continue to increase unless the underlying causes for high youth unemployment are addressed.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Solidarité Rurale’s main objective is to support rural areas in improving the lives of African youth. In 1988, Salim opened a half-hectare farm school in Porto-Novo, 3.5km from the city, in order to demonstrate that it is possible to successfully feed and provide for a family from the earth. In 2007, Salim decided that it was time to use his demonstration farm to teach young people how to develop local resources, and meet the basic needs of human beings without damaging the environment. Salim targets young students who may have or not have quit school and equips them with agricultural techniques and skills that are applicable to both rural and urban areas.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Salim offers young people an opportunity to gain practical experience, training in agricultural entrepreneurship and confidence to pursue self-employment. In line with his vision of hands-on education, Salim is partnering with vocational schools so that their students participate in an internship at his demonstration farm during the second year of the program. Students are trained on how to utilize the natural resources around them, gradually develop their farming operations and then grow into a small business. These students are prepared with skills in resource management, inventory management and product marketing. In addition, they learn how to work together in groups to facilitate access to capital and reduce the risk of failure.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

More than 60 students have opened their own farms to date. Several organizations have requested that Salim train their staff to improve agricultural production techniques or in cultivation methods suited for deprived areas. He also gives advice to young graduates on how to setup a business. More than 600 people visit the centre each year to follow this model. Many academic institutions have adopted the initiative such as Valdoco Centre Foyer Don Bosco that trains children in difficult circumstances, the Centre Valponasca of IFMA for trafficked girls, the centre CIDAP Baga Togo that now focuses agricultural entrepreneurships and ENSTA Djougou that trains adults in agro-pastoral farming.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

Salim plans to open a new centre in the north of Benin but his first priority is to train a team of young people to take over and run the Porto Novo site. He wants to change his role as manager so that he can spend more time on influencing universities to adopt agricultural entrepreneurship into their programs and to mentor alumni who have been trained at his farm. Salim is currently working as a consultant for the Benin University of Farming to help develop their agricultural entrepreneurship program. Salim’s ambition is to spread the model across Africa in the next 10 years.

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

Salim’s farm is self-sustainable and he teaches youth to set up their own self-sustaining farms as well.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

The Songhai Center (the largest agricultural education center in West Africa) originally focused on training orphaned street children and thus, agricultural employment was seen as an imposition rather than a choice for these individuals. In addition, the Songhai Center (and other agricultural educational institutions) is focused on large-scale, mechanized production and students often think that they need significant capital to start a farming business. Solidarité Rurale addresses this problem at its root by cultivating small scale, local resource based, practical problem solving in farming.

Founding Story

Salim’s university career in the sciences came to a brutal halt when led student strikes to improve the transportation system for students. He was thrown into prison for five years. Thanks to the efforts of Amnesty International, Salim was released and he attempted to resume his studies. He decided to leave formal education and went on to join the Songhai Project, a newly established educational farm. However, he found that even here the system had its limitations due to the theoretical, superficial and rigid nature of the teaching techniques. Salim left Songhai in 1994 to establish “Solidarité Rurale.”


The team is composed of Salim, the founder and an agro-economic technician along with Mariam, Sylvain, and Hassan. Mariam is a social worker and is the chief of the training programs and social relations. Sylvian is the farm manager and the chief of training staff of the Porto-Novo center while Hassan the team’s accountant/financial manager.
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