The US Department of State’s programme, Academy for Women Entrepreneurs (AWE) alumni Anapidédé Kibandou Betema in Togo is helping empower women in her community to earn their own income with her farm business, the Société Coopérative Simplifée Best Choice (SCOOPS-BC).
The US programme gives thousands of women like Betema the knowledge, networks and access they need to launch and expand successful businesses.
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SCOOPS-BC is a farming cooperative that allows women to grow their own vegetables to sustain themselves and their families. Growing up on her father’s farm, Betema started with a small number of chickens and a vegetable plot.
Finding farm work easier to balance when raising children than the typical nine to five, Betema turned her plot into a cooperative in 2020, officially creating SCOOPS-BC to help other women in her community.
Later that same year, Betema moved to her current farm with the help of a local young Togolese entrepreneurs program she had joined. Her new cooperative is only six kilometers from Lomé, the capital city of Togo, which she said made it the perfect location to sell fresh produce to people living in the city.
She and three other women began by growing five kinds of “bio-vegetables,” which are organically grown without the use of chemicals.
Her farm business sells eggs, peppers, and spinach in the city, and people can also come directly to the farm to purchase their products. The farm is three hectares large and produces 70 trays of eggs a week from 350 laying chickens.
Betema joined AWE in February 2022 after learning about it through an English programme she was doing with the U.S. Embassy in Togo. Betema said the programme helped her to grow as a businessperson.
“I became self-sufficient. I have self-confidence and that I too can manage and run a business,” she said.
She said AWE taught her how to handle problems that are specific to women living in her community, like how to balance running a company while being a mother in Togo. But the most important thing she learned was how to create her own business plan.
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“When I started I wasn’t the one who wrote the business plan, I called a consultant who wrote the business plan for me,” Betema said.
“But I now recognise that nobody can write your business plan but you because only you know what you want your business to look like.”
Using the DreamBuilder learning platform, AWE gave Betema the tools she needed to rewrite her business plan herself, tailoring the business to her own design. Developed by Arizona State University, DreamBuilder provides women with U.S. business expertise through 12 business learning modules – at no cost. The platform teaches core entrepreneurial skills, from finance to marketing to business administration.
After graduating from AWE, Betema was invited to be a part of the Heroikka Women’s Impact Summit, a five day global conference bringing together business women from around the world.
Honoured to be chosen as a panelist and to have the opportunity to share her business with the international community, Betema said hearing about other women around the world was inspiring. She said she particularly admired women panelists from Latin America who she felt were impacting their communities the same way she is trying to impact her own.
“[The Latin American panelists] came in and talked about how we can do things not just for ourselves but for others and also the way 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,” Betema said.
One major challenge Togolese women have been running into is a lack of access to water, she said – an issue made worse by climate change. Betema had to give up taking care of chickens for a period because they require a lot of water, which is in short supply in Togo after several years of drought.
She was able to start raising chickens again, and is hoping to install a water network to pipe in water for the farm, which will ensure water security for all of the cooperative’s plants and animals.
Beyond farming, Betema’s goal is to empower other women. She’s working to create programs that will teach more women how to farm, how to preserve vegetables without chemicals, and how to balance the challenges of being a full-time mother and wife with a job.
Betema is striving to give Togolese women the financial stability they need. She is also focusing on expanding her programmes to teenage girls to teach them marketable skills like hairdressing or dressmaking so that they can start earning their own income at a young age.
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“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.
Since 2019, AWE has used DreamBuilder to empower more than 25 000 women entrepreneurs in 100 countries to follow their dreams of owning a business.
Beyond Togo, the US’s AWE operates in 20 other countries in Africa, helping roughly 5 500 women entrepreneurs across the African continent to grow their businesses and reach their full economic potential.