Women farmers in Togo find success working together

Anapidédé Kibandou Betema harvesting crops (© Theodore Tossim)
Anapidédé Kibandou Betema on her farm (©Theodore Tossim)

After earning degrees in communications and logistics, Anapidédé Kibandou Betema, of Togo, still struggled to find a job. But having been raised on her father’s farm, she knew how to grow vegetables and keep chickens.

So, in 2020, Betema opened a farming cooperative where she and other women grow organic vegetables to feed their families and earn income. The Société Coopérative Simplifée Best Choice, or SCOOPS-BC, now located on three hectares of land six kilometers outside Togo’s capital, Lomé, sells fresh produce to city residents.

Betema and three other women grow peppers and spinach for sale in Lomé and at the farm. Their 350 laying hens produce 70 trays of eggs each week.

Gaining confidence

In February 2022, Betema enrolled in the Academy for Women Entrepreneurs (AWE), a U.S. Department of State program that operates in Togo and 20 other African countries. AWE has helped approximately 5,500 women entrepreneurs across the continent follow their dream of owning a business. Worldwide, AWE has given more than 25,000 women in 100 countries the knowledge and networks they need to launch or grow their own businesses.

AWE helped Betema overcome her shyness and grow as a businesswoman. “I became self-sufficient,” she said. She realized, “I have self-confidence and that I too can manage and run a business.”

“I became self-sufficient,” Betema said. She Realized, “I have self-confidence and that I too can manage and run a business.”

Balancing responsibilities

Woman feeding chickens in a coop (© Theodore Tossim)
The SCOOPS-BC co-op sells eggs to Lomé’s residents.  (©Theodore Tossim)

Through AWE’s strategic planning and time management training, Betema also learned to better balance running a company with raising children. AWE also provided access to the DreamBuilder platform, which teaches entrepreneurial skills ranging from finance to marketing to business administration.

Using DreamBuilder, developed by Arizona State University, Betema rewrote her business plan to better tailor it to her needs. “When I started, I wasn’t the one who wrote the business plan,” she said, noting she left the job to a consultant. “But I now recognize that nobody can write your business plan but you, because only you know what you want your business to look like.”

Sharing insights

After graduating from AWE, Betema participated in the Heroikka Woman Impact Summit, a global businesswomen’s conference, sharing her business model and learning from the experiences of others.

“[The Latin American panelists] came in and talked about how we can do things not just for ourselves but for others,” she said. “We can hold our own money and handle our businesses, despite the fact that we are mothers and facing the challenges of women in the entrepreneurship domain.”

Teaching others

Now Betema creates programs that teach other women to farm and preserve vegetables organically, and to balance running a business with the challenges of motherhood. She is also teaching young women other marketable skills like hairdressing or dressmaking.

“We know that together you can go far, so we are working to keep the women together in order for everyone to succeed,” Betema said.

This article was written by freelance writer Naomi Hampton. A version was previously published by the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.