Several weeks after the Atacora team and their Baobab collaboration with villagers helped to save a young girl’s life, we were back in Kounagnigou under different auspices. They invited us to a feast to give thanks for the (modest) sorghum harvest, to inaugurate the start of the Baobab campaign, and to celebrate the traditional animist rites and beliefs of all Beninese people.I walked the 10 km from Kouporgou, and got there early; around 11 AM. I immediately went to the home of perhaps the oldest man in the region, who I call Great Grandfather. We’ve known and loved each other for all these years. He lives in a tiny round hut, where he sews his own clothes and cooks his simple food. He raises tobacco around his hut to get a little money. I don’t think he has left his little compound, much less his village in years, as he doesn’t get around so well.
Decades of back breaking fieldwork to feed his large family have left him bent over at 90 degrees, supported by an old cane when he is on his rickety feet. He is thought to be well over 100 years old. Every time I come to Benin, a visit to Great Grandfather is a personal obligation and a great pleasure for me. He is equally as delighted! He says our souls are connected, and we keep each other strong and alive. This time I brought him a little package of rice, gari, cola nuts, sardines and condiments for his kitchen. A small token of a great friendship.
The people of Kounagnigou were initially reticent to sell their Baobab fruit to Atacora, preferring to deal with it the laborious old fashioned way that yielded very little economic benefit. Go with what you know, I guess. This old man is a big part of the reason that the producers have finally come around to Atacora’s proposal. He helped them see the far reaching benefit to the whole region, as well as the cash-in-hand benefit for them. He reminded them that several of the women from the village worked at the Atacora facility in Kouporgou, making Baobab Superfruit Powder and Baobab Body Oil for Fair Trade wages. Now they are very motivated to work with us.
Thanks, Great Grandfather!