Marthe Montcho started her blog, L’Agriculture au féminin or Women in Farming, in October 2013. Despite initially knowing very little about blogging, she quickly became a success as the blog grew in popularity. Montcho’s desire to fill what she saw as an information gap and empower female farmers, particularly in her home country of Benin, led to her winning the Youth in Agriculture Blog Competition (YoBloCo), organised by CTA in 2014.
Her blog provides valuable information about agribusiness opportunities for women involved in farming and winning the award affirmed her decision to highlight the untold opportunities available to female farmers, as well as young people. She used part of the cash prize won to implement activities in that framework.
Montcho is passionate about using ICTs to bring about social change and, to date, her blog has received over 100,000 page views from around the world. It has not all been easy though. Montcho says that at the beginning, "I had [a] fairly limited knowledge about how to use social networks. But today I run a versatile online community." Her desire to help women and young people in Benin encouraged her to learn quickly and, through the use of online discussion groups, she soon had her finger on the pulse of local and global agricultural developments.
"Women in Benin are thirsty for social change, which could be enabled by social media, if [it] could give more visibility to their agricultural activities," argues Montcho. The Women in Farming blog aims to do just that by promoting these women's businesses and highlighting their agricultural skills. Previous posts on the Women in Farming blog have focussed on women who process néré seeds into mustard, and processing technology that helps women to turn palm nuts into a puree, which can be easily packaged and sold. Women remain excluded from value chains, however, and they often have limited access to agricultural information. Montcho hopes that her blog posts will become part of a broader online discussion about female farmers and their integration into the agricultural sector.
Montcho's other projects focus on youth participation in agribusiness. She believes that youth unemployment could be dramatically reduced if young people are shown how to become agricultural entrepreneurs. Alongside finding young people internships and providing start-up training for graduates, she runs a junior farmer training scheme for secondary school children. So far, the scheme has helped 40 students to learn about animal husbandry and how to grow vegetables. It not only supports the students to set up their own business ventures to earn some money, but also helps to foster a love for agriculture among young people in Benin. Her latest youth project, The Rural Way, is a magazine aimed at young people interested in agricultural entrepreneurship.
Empowering women remains Montcho's biggest passion. She now has a team to help train other women to look after small animals and grow vegetables and in the future, she hopes to work with CTA again and build on the success of her blog. She believes that women and ICTs are perfectly matched to support agricultural development, but she is well aware that the fight for social change continues. "My blog has raised awareness among rural women in Benin that they are doing excellent work, and as a result, they have more self-confidence... I plan to continue...helping women farmers through my blog."