Songhai a farm with a difference MzansiBride

Winona Griggs

Songhai: A Unique Farming Experience

Let me tell you about this outstanding agricultural initiative called Songhai. The United Nations has recognized Songhai as a remarkable hub for Africa, but it’s so much more than that.

Songhai, named after a prosperous empire from the 14th century, is not your typical farm. It’s a training facility that fosters agricultural entrepreneurship and sustainable farming practices. Their symbol, the eagle, represents their values of strength and vision. And their powerful logo proudly proclaims Africa stands up.

Now, don’t get the wrong idea – Songhai is not about post-colonial socialism. They wholeheartedly embrace the African spirit of independence, ambition, and openness. What makes them extraordinary is that they are not a government organization. They are an NGO – a non-governmental organization – which means they are self-governing, but they also work tirelessly to uplift and empower the community.

In 1985, a group of local individuals came together and established a farm in a suburb of Porto-Novo in Benin. From humble beginnings, this farm has grown into a true symbol of success. I had the chance to visit this remarkable place after crossing the border from Nigeria into Benin. My intention was to find a place to rest for the night, but what I discovered was so much more.

A place of endless possibilities

Songhai is not just a farm. It is a vibrant community that offers an array of amenities to its visitors. There are comfortable rooms available for guests, as well as accommodations for trainees, foreign scientists, and teachers. The farm also has a store where you can purchase its own produce. And let me tell you, the meals served at the farm’s open restaurant are absolutely delightful. The best part is that all the ingredients used in these meals are sourced from the farm itself. You can even treat yourself to some delicious Songhai ice cream or yogurt, or enjoy a refreshing fruit juice. And if you’re in the mood for something a little stronger, don’t worry – you can also order a J&B.

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When you step into the training center, you’ll find a library that supports both the center and the public. It’s a great resource for anyone looking to expand their knowledge. For the young locals, there’s an internet cafe with more than 20 computers. It’s a popular spot where they can connect with the world and explore new horizons.

Right next to the training center, there’s a charming thatched church that holds a special surprise. Every Sunday, before the services begin, a band starts playing. The sound fills the air and draws in a crowd of locals. They gather around, spilling out onto the paths that cut through the lush gardens filled with tomatoes and plantains.

As the band plays, the atmosphere becomes lively and full of energy. Pig-snorts provide an unexpected rhythm, adding a touch of humor to the scene. Chickens join in with their clucks, creating a unique harmony. And to really seal the deal, the goats and guinea fowl chime in, adding their own special beats.

But that’s not all. As you immerse yourself in this vibrant experience, you’ll also hear the splish and splash of fish in the nearby river. It’s a symphony of sounds that blends with the music, creating a delightful cacophony. And as you listen, the familiar tune of “Old Mac Donald” might just start playing in your mind, adding an extra layer of whimsy to the whole scene.

When I look around, I see everyone dressed in their finest clothes, ready to embrace the day. The air is filled with joy as laughter and song echo through the streets. It’s a beautiful sight to behold.

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After spending some quality time together, we head to the restaurant. We sit down and enjoy a delicious meal, savoring every bite. The atmosphere is warm and inviting, creating a sense of togetherness.

When it’s time to leave, we make sure to support the local community. We purchase a chicken for dinner, knowing that our contribution will make a difference. We can also indulge in a baobab smoothie, a truly delightful treat.

As I make my way to the internet cafe, I can’t help but admire the children engrossed in the wonders of the web. Their curious minds are like sponges, absorbing knowledge and expanding their horizons.

Before I leave, I always make sure to retrieve my trusty 125 cc bike. The bike guard takes good care of it for a small fee, ensuring its safety. It’s a small price to pay considering the benefits it brings.

All of these activities contribute to the growth and development of the community. The profits generated help fund further improvements, making this place an even better home for everyone.

When I think about Songhai, I can’t help but be amazed by their incredible approach to sustainability. Unlike many other practices, Songhai doesn’t let anything go to waste. They take local resources and apply foreign techniques and technologies to create something truly remarkable.

Songhai has mastered the art of harnessing solar power to generate electricity. It’s incredible to see how much of their energy comes from the sun. But they don’t stop there – they also make sure that no animal by-products go unused. Instead, they use these by-products to create biofuel, which is then used for cooking and heating. It’s a brilliant way to make the most of every resource.

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Thanks to their innovative methods, Songhai has achieved almost 100% self-reliance. This is truly impressive and a testament to their success. In fact, their achievements have been recognized by organizations like the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO). Their impact is so significant that the main market hub of Porto Novo has even been relocated to be closer to Songhai.

But it’s not only their sustainable practices that make Songhai special. There’s something unique about the whole experience. When I had the chance to visit, I felt a sense of contentment that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. It wasn’t just the delicious food or the warm hospitality of the people. It was the way agrarian life and community come together in perfect harmony. It’s an ideal that has been brought to life and continues to grow.

Songhai’s success has led them to expand into other parts of Benin and even into West Africa. They have recently established five additional sites and are now setting their sights on the Delta region of Nigeria. Their impact is undeniable, and they are recognized as a regional center of excellence by ECOWAS.

Overall, Songhai is a shining example of what can be accomplished when we approach sustainability with passion and creativity. They have shown us that with the right techniques and a commitment to making the most of our resources, we can create a better and more sustainable future.

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