Admin. Finalisation and Pause

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Dear All,

It is with great sadness that I am writing these few words.
On the 1st of May this year a Tourist Guide has been killed in Pendjari National Park and two tourists were abducted. Two weeks later the French tourists were freed by the French military in Burkina, as well as an American and a South-Korean woman… two soldiers lost their lives in the assault.

This tragedy has brought despair over Benin. French’s Diplomacy has now classified the entire border with Burkina, and the entire National Park under a red zone. This will undoubtedly have –and already has- devastating impact on the tourism in the region on short terms, and therefore it has already biased the project to build an ecolodge.

After deep reflexion, I believe it would be more than unwise to keep on going, it’d be unconscious. The main flux of tourism in the region was drained by Pendjari Park. To summarise the situation, one could say that it would be like building a lodge knowing it would remain almost empty at start. To counter the situation without abandoning the entire project it will stay on pause for a while, to leave Benin a chance to address the security issues on its soil and the International Community (a chance) to understand the consequences for the local of categorising a whole region as a “no go zone”.

Concretely it means that once the lease is signed (25 years) and administrative work done, I will put the company on pause to see if the regional climate comes back to normal. This would allow me to do something else in the meantime.

That being said, a personal note must be added. This past month has been difficult, I must admit, but I try to, somehow, make the best of it. When I arrived, it took me some time to get myself around the administration, to know how relations work, how to get information. Procedures I thought would take days happened to take months in some cases which made every small achievement feel like small successes; create the company, find the location where the ecolodge should be built, do the topographic survey, obtain the aggregation for it. The silver line of having to temporarily stop the project is that, if I ever can come back to it, I will definitely feel more ready and experienced to make it a success. Also, the ideology, the people I met, the showing of support and so many other things allow me to still find determination in spite of sadness.

Tagayè is the name of the village where the ecolodge and its philosophy should have come out of the ground. Beside a prominent tar road you can see a school with its mango trees, sand and children playing during breaks. Never too far, Alphonse is the owner of a magnificent “tata”, where you can sleep and feel the deepness of the bush, see kids grounding yam at sunset or drink a beer listening to stories, all more incomprehensible than the other for our pale and sterile minds. If you find Alphonse, you find Gaston. He has smile anchored in his eyes and can bring you see old attics which are located by caves where their ancestors used to hide from inquisitors, locals or foreigners. History that can feel old – sometimes and for some of us – while being alive here. Gaston shows you these places as a brother, a human. His only requests are curiosity and respect. The unsaid about traditions are made to remain unsaid, the sacred too. Only his smile is a glimpse in the meaning of sincerity.

Maybe the project will see light in Tagayè one day, “if god is willing” and as they say here “good things take time”.

I will let you know about any changes of the status quo in preparation, and if you have any questions, I am here to answer them.

Sincerely,

Timothée



 

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Business creation and general update

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Hello everyone,

It’s been 3 months since I arrived in Natitingou so it is time to give you news of the project.
To be true, the past weeks have put a strain on my patience. I will spare you the details but we could summarize the whole evolution of the project with the saying “one step forward, two steps back”.

To give you a glimpse of the difficulties, let’s talk about land acquisition. Foreigners cannot acquire land in rural Benin, so we have to contract a lease with the owner. There is also no land register in Benin which means it is impossible to be absolutely sure of the agreement reached. It is the responsibility of the owner to obtain a Customary Property Attestation which requires a prior field investigation with a town crier so that third parties have the opportunity to claim their rights to the land if they also consider themselves to be the owners. A topographic survey is also required, while all accredited surveyors’ offices are based in Cotonou or southern Benin. Finally, it is necessary to obtain a Status Certificate, proof that the land does not belong to the State. When all these documents are produced, we can proceed to the signing of the lease.

So far, we did the topographic survey a month ago, but we had to stop working with the surveyor and have to start all over again. Plans are now signed but they have to come all the way from Cotonou to Natitingou. we hope on this Wednesday.
On the other parts of the project, we did receive all documents related to the creation of the company and we can say loud and clear that One World Together SARL was born in Benin!!!

To deal with administrative delays, we plan to start organizing small trips / motorcycle hikes if only to cover part of the expenses related to my presence in Benin since the resources of the project are far from inexhaustible. Thus the real bad news is that We won’t be able to build the entire lodge before rain starts, which means a part of it has to be postponed after October!

The other good news is that two friends who help me on the project came: Thomas, stayed a month to take the temperature but mostly help me drafting the lease, and Boris then accompanied us a fortnight and took care of the realization of a small video clip to promote motorcycle tours.

The heat is beginning, normally also announcing the first rains in April … I have not seen a drop of water falling from the sky since November 12th.

As usual, here are some pictures too.

I hope to rewrite you soon with a lot of good news,

Sincerely,

Timothée
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Arrived

Hello to everyone,

It’s been a month and a half since I arrived in Benin to set up the One World Together project to build an ecolodge. Already we have encountered our set of difficulties while making small advances but not insignificant. Here is a small summary of the status of the project.

  • A soon as I landed, I changed my tourist visa for a resident visa, otherwise it is impossible for me to create a company under which One World Together can operate.
  • Following the advice of a lawyer based in Cotonou, the creation process of the company will be initiated in January 2019. Beninese law provides certain benefits for newly created companies and especially for the first-year exercise. By creating the company in 2018, the year would have been summed up in November and December and since most of the year will be spent building the lodge, it was better to take full advantage of it.
  • Regarding the purchase or rental of land for the construction of the lodge, it is difficult to highlight what is feasible since the opinions diverge depending on the interlocutor, the mayor tells us that it is impossible for a stranger to buy when our lawyer tells us otherwise. Nevertheless, prospecting for the purchase is progressing well and I think I have found the place to build. I had to face the facts: the site I initially thought was strategically very complicated (access to water, no shade and very far from everything).
  • We found a house in Natitingou, which will serve as headquarters of One World Together. This could eventually be used to organize small motorcycle tours in the region to start having a small income to cover some of the costs

The administrative procedures take time and it is certainly only the beginning of the challenges, here are some small photos as a preview.

I hope you had a good holiday with your loved ones.

I wish you a very happy new year 2019, and I hope to come back very quickly to you with more progress to share.

Sincerely,

Timothée