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Baobab country
Kounagnigou is a tiny, dispersed village in the foothills of the Atacora mountains of northern Benin.  The Otammari families that live there are all subsistence farmers, growing sorghum, corn, beans, millet and other crops to sustain themselves, with hopefully a little surplus to sell in local markets for badly needed cash.  It does not always work out that there is any surplus, and 2013 was one of those years.  The rains were fickle, and yields were substandard.

Since 2010, Atacora has been operating in their area, but not so much in their village.  They recently realized that they have a previously underutilized and very valuable resource that can really help them to earn the cash they need for better access to health care, to put and keep more kids in school, and satisfy other basic human needs that require money :  
BAOBAB.   They have a large population of Baobab trees, and for this campaign of 2014, they all want to sign up to sell their Baobab fruit to Atacora.

Even before the season began, the Baobab futures began to have their positive effect.  My friend Kouperi is a farmer from the village in his mid 50s.  We’ve known each other since I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in nearby Boukombé in the early to mid 1990s.  We’ve worked in the fields together, eaten and drank together, and are always glad to see each other.  Not long ago, his 9 year old daughter was walking at night through the sorghum field between two family compounds, and she was bitten by a poisonous snake. They tried the traditional healing route, rather than going to the hospital, because they just don’t have much money, and it was the lean time of the year right before harvest.  That was not working out very well, and her condition worsened.

The villagers managed to collect about $50, and put her on the back of a motorbike to go to the clinic in Boukombé at 4 AM.  The antivenin and other treatments were not working either, and the money was soon finished.  Poor Kouperi was desperate.  The child was definitely going to die a painful death if there was not a serious intervention, and fast.  I decided with Jacob, Atacora’s Executive Director, to put $60 in our pick-up truck’s tank, and Jacob loaned him $100, and off we went 80 km through the bush to St. Jean de Dieu Hospital in Tanguiéta, where good treatment could be found.  Atacora provided the hospital with some medical equipment a few years ago, so they got right to work on the girl.  Things quickly got better, and after a few days she was recuperating back in Kounagnigou.  Kouperi promised to pay Jacob back in Baobab fruit.  Atacora and the
Baobab resource we are revaluing saved a young life that day !  It feels good to know why we get up and work hard every day.

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