A Day in the Life: Supporting Cashew Producers in Benin
The BeninCajù program is working to make Benin’s cashew sector more productive, competitive, sustainable, and inclusive. Today, we’re sharing a behind-the-scenes look at the daily activities of a TechnoServe gender and access to finance specialist who works on this program.
Ella Wama is a gender and access to agricultural financing specialist for the BeninCajù program, which aims to build a productive, sustainable, and efficient cashew sector that provides better incomes for 50,000 farmers — 40% of whom are women.
Ella joined TechnoServe in July 2018 and is responsible for integrating gender activities in the BeninCajù program. Based in Cotonou, Benin, she travels frequently throughout the country as part of her activities and conducts regular gender training sessions. Ella is passionate about achieving gender equality and works daily to ensure that rural women’s talents and voices are recognized.
A day in the life of Ella Wama
6:00 a.m. My working day always starts with cooking (making porridge and sandwiches) for my two boys. My girls study outside Benin.
7:30 to 8:30 a.m. I live on the outskirts of Cotonou. Every morning, I’m stuck in traffic for about 45 minutes before reaching the office. Once I arrive at TechnoServe’s office in the heart of Cotonou, I start my working day by checking my emails. Once I catch up on emails, I will do any necessary administrative tasks before heading out to the field.
9:00 a.m. I usually leave Cotonou around 9 a.m. When I’m out of the office, I often travel up to 250 miles from Cotonou to various locations, according to my work plan.
11:00 a.m. [This day] I arrive in Bohicon, a city in southern Benin. Here, I visit Fludor’s cashew processing plant to see the working conditions of women employed in cashew nut processing. Nearly all of the employees in these plants are women. My objective today is to work with the managers to ensure that good working conditions are maintained or improved.
1:00 p.m. I take a quick break for lunch. When traveling, I prefer to snack on bread for lunch. However, my favorite dish is pounded yam with peanut sauce!
2:00 p.m. A few hours later, I leave and head to the village of Goro for a quick visit to the Community of Savings and Internal Credit (CECI), which is holding its weekly meeting. The CECI is a powerful tool for the financial inclusion and empowerment of rural women. My time here helps ensure that the group — even though it is autonomous — continues to follow best practices.
3:00 p.m. I arrive in Parakou, where I visit TechnoServe’s regional office and talk to the person coordinating the gender focal points of the BeninCajù program. We are getting ready for a gender training session with agricultural advisors, heads of agricultural cooperatives, and private service providers who supervise women’s groups. I’m always excited to start a new gender training session. Today, I make sure the invitations are written and sent out to the approximately 30 participants.
4:00 to 6:30 p.m. My last task of the day is to conduct a training on gender awareness and mainstreaming, which always starts with fun exercises that aim to break down existing gender prejudices. This training is directed at agricultural advisors and managers of cashew producer cooperatives. During the training, I share practical exercises that help participants learn actions they can take to improve gender relations in their daily lives.
6:30 p.m. After I wrap up my training, I return home to spend time with my family. At the end of the day, I feel happy to know that thanks to these trainings, we will be able to move closer to gender equality in Benin.