In order to develop aquaculture in Benin, a master planning study namely “the Project for Study of the Promotion of Inland Aquaculture for the Rural Development in Republic of Benin (PACODER)” was conducted from 2007 to 2009. As a result, a total of 15 action plans were proposed and “the Project for Extension of Inland Aquaculture in Republic of Benin (PROVAC)” was identified to be implemented from June 2010 as a priority project.
PROVAC aims to increase fish farmers in the target seven provinces of the Southern Benin by using the extension approach so-called “farmer-to-farmer” training. In this approach, the Project supports establishment of core farmers who can produce seeds and homemade feeds. The core farmers then offer technical training for ordinary farmers in cooperation with extension officers at the facilities of core farmers. PROVAC has achieved various technical improvements including the seed production technique of mono sex male tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) using hormone treated feed, which was the first attempt in Benin.
After the trainings, the ordinary farmers who can prepare adequate aquaculture facilities are provided from the core farmers assisted by the Project with input assistance in terms of fish seeds and feed for their new cycle of aquaculture. Through the 3.5 years of project activities, we have trained more than 2200 ordinary farmers. Among those, 1704 farmers were benefited with the input assistance and started pond culture or “box culture”, which is a mobile type of aquaculture usually carried out in wooden box coated inside with vinyl sheet. The box culture is developing rapidly in peri-urban area for African catfish (Clarias gariepinus) in Benin.
Thus, the farmer-to-farmer extension approach is proven to be an effective tool to train new fish farmers as well as existing fish farmers. The number of candidates who want to attend the training is still many or rather increasing. Through the PROVAC activities, the inland aquaculture in the Southern Benin has been received strong interest and now developing rapidly, although the production statistics has yet been compiled well.
Through the Project, we have learnt many lessons and also understood current problems and issues. The most crucial one is the selection criteria of the candidate ordinary fish farmers, which affect directly on the continuation rate of aquaculture thereafter. In the early stage of the Project, significant percentage of participants could not start aquaculture because of lacking of money to prepare facilities. Some opportunist people attended the trainings in order to benefit from the free input assistance of seeds and feed. In general provincial extension officers are supportive to the project activities but their capacities are often insufficient and there are cases that the relation with core farmers is found not good.
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