Volunteer Stories

Toton Léopold


Areas of expertise: Marketing
Organization that sent the volunteer: Catholic Relief Services

Farmer-to-Farmer Volunteer Support Helps Pineapple Processors in Benin Increase Sales by 80%

As Benin’s third highest cash-crop, pineapples are very important for consumption. In addition to people eating them as fresh fruits, they are also eaten as dried fruits, and processed into juices and wines. Almost 4,000 farmers grow pineapples. With an established market for organic pineapple juice to Europe, Benin’s pineapple sector has a lot of potential. Access to the local, regional and export markets are some of its biggest challenges.

Reseau des Transformateurs d'Ananas du Benin, known as   ReTAB, is a network of pineapple processors of Benin, composed of 25 juice processing units employing 125 in southern Benin. The processing units are small buildings with juice processing equipment where pineapples from local farmers are brought to cut, press for juice, and package for sales. Collectively, the units have a production capacity of 45,000 liters per month. The processors face many challenges around pricing and how to position their product as the best among its market competitors. Due to this, ReTAB sought training in basic marketing skills and how to penetrate new markets, especially exports, which is a big challenge for them. At the end of the day, these challenges were preventing them from reaching their potential.

CRS Farmer to Farmer responded to ReTAB’s needs by searching for a local Beninese expert to provide training. In December 2020, ReTAB received a local volunteer with a strong qualifications in marketing, Toton Léopold. Barbara Pietsch, an American with expertise in branding and packaging, supported his assignment by providing supplementary resources and mentorship. When it was announced to Leopold that F2F Benin had chosen him for the ReTAB support mission, he was very excited.

"I am very happy to be chosen as a local volunteer for this mission to support ReTAB/DEDRAS NGO in marketing plan and strategies,” said Léopold. “Marketing is one of my areas of expertise and my experience will be very useful to this group of active entrepreneurs.” 

Léopold trained 25 pineapple processors on markets and marketing strategies, including customer service concepts and the five P’s of marketing (Product, Promotion, Place, Price and Personality). The processors conducted their own SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) and evaluated how well their product meets the needs of their customers. ReTAB developed their network marketing strategies plan with Leopold’s assistance. The processors began their marketing plan by targeting the Burkina Faso market. Three network members traveled to Burkina Faso in December 2020 and succeeded not only to sell 9,500 liters of juice valued at $9,400 in gross sales, but also to secure sales contracts with two new clients in Burkina Faso. As a result of new local market connections and their exports to Burkina Faso beginning in January 2021, ReTAB’s monthly gross sales have risen by 80%.

RetTAB members doing group work (PC: Toton Leopold)

‘’The support of the volunteer was very beneficial for us,’’ reported Dadjo Cleopas, the network’s facilitator. “Indeed, marketing and negotiation were a real concern for us. We really appreciated the trainings in marketing and negotiation received from the Farmer-to-Farmer program. Thanks to these trainings, we can now analyze a market and adapt to the customer's requirements.”

In addition to selling in a new market outside Benin, the network of processors also signed another contract with a local buyer named ABD Agri-business Development. This contract enabled them to market 3,500 liters of juice in December 2020 for $3,500 with an advance of $1,900. With this advance, the processors were able to increase the production of the juice and share the profits, which provided needed resources for their traditional end of the year celebrations with their families. Cleopas said, ''The many sales made during the holiday season allowed us to have a great time with the family, because we could afford things for ourselves and for our children as well.'' 

With their additional earnings, ReTAB hopes to pursue a special juice certification, “Jus JARAM,” which identifies the juice as the product of women processors and also as pure and without additives.

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