Capacity Building

Nexus Blog // A study trip to Songhai center of Porto Novo in Benin

A delegation consisting of various stakeholder representatives in the Niger Basin area recently undertook a study trip to the Songhai center in Benin, a model training center dedicated to rural and agricultural development and capacity building. With the displacement of several thousand people in the area looming due to the construction of the Kandadji dam, attendees learned about possible ways to help the displaced population cope with their new situation through the construction of a training center for youth and displaced groups, inspiring adapted practices.

Located in southwestern Niger, the Kandadji dam is a high-profile project that has been pursued for many years and is currently under construction. Benefiting from interest from a multitude of international donors, the dam is projected to increase domestic electricity supply by 130 MW and simultaneously improve food security by developing irrigable land area in the vicinity. But the construction comes with a heavy toll on the local population living close to the dam site and the reservoir area. Overall, around 50,000 people will have to be displaced, who are mostly working as subsistence farmers and had previously been living off growing crops and keeping some livestock on the land, as well as some fishing in the river. As a safe means of existence for this local population is unassured once the resettlement will take place, there has been a call for solutions and urgency among community leaders to come up with a prospect for the affected people.

This is why stakeholders in the region, consisting of members of the National Coordination of Natural Resource Users in the Niger Basin (CNU-BN/Niger) , mayors of the rural communes of Ayorou and Dessa, representatives of the of the Ministère de l’Hydraulique et de l’Assainissement (Ministry of Hydraulics and Sanitation), a representative of the Kandadji Dam Agency and members of the Nexus Regional Dialogues Project (of GIZ and the NBA) recently undertook a four-day trip to the Songhai Centre in Porto Novo, Benin. This agricultural learning center is dedicated to supporting the income of families by teaching organic farming methods, which are protecting the natural resources and the environment. The integrated approach at the center encompasses the production of agricultural crops, raising livestock and fish, and generating renewable energy through solar panels and biogas facilities. Strictly managed water usage from nearby sources enables agricultural and livestock production on the site, while by-products and waste from the former deliver sources of energy - making it a prime example for the benefits inherent in following the Nexus principles.

 

The center features several different departments that the guests were able to inspect first hand. First up on the tour was the agro-forestry sector, where the head of section gave an explanatory introduction to the system. Here, a combination of agricultural practices and tree maintenance for soil fertilization works in synergy, thus contributing to the regeneration of the ecosystem in general in relation to plants and animals. Next was the animal feed section, where raw materials get transformed into feed, such as pellets for the animals on site. This was followed by a visit to the fish farming and poultry breeding facilities, where a significant variety of different animals are being bred. The group then continued with a stint to the transformation sector of the farm. Here, the raw materials produced in the previous sectors are further processed, packaged and eventually sold. The variety of products offered is huge and not just limited to food, ranging from yoghurt, juices and bread to palm seed soap and even clay for the manufacturing of bricks and pottery products.

 

Since a similar learning center has been envisioned for the affected Kandadji dam population, the attendees on the field trip were especially interested in transferrable activities and the functioning of the center. With its several layers of production and the three components of the water-energy-food Nexus working in harmony, it provides an illustration of a truly sustainable, integrated system, that could be a prime example for a similar model in the Niger basin region. Having an excellent record of training entrepreneurs in building sound agricultural businesses, the center also represents a viable way to combat the problems that are due to arise with the dislocation in the Kandadji dam, such as unemployment, rural exodus and food insecurity.

In summary, the stakeholders on the field trip were impressed by the exemplary potential with regards to food security that was displayed in the Songhai center. They took several lessons and recommendations home with them for the implementation of such a center in the Kandadji region. These include:

  • The necessity to organize a restitution and fundraising workshop involving all stakeholders
  • The importance to raise awareness among the population in general and young people in particular
  • Set a focus on practical training for learners and professional development for professionals
  • The need to identify potential Technical and Financial Partners (e.g. funding for the construction of the center)
  • Work in collaboration with UN-Niger in the process of realizing the Kandadji Learning Centre for Agricultural, Livestock and Processing Techniques

This study trip was organized and financed by the GIZ NEXUS project in the Niger Basin, the Niger Basin authority and the Songhai Centre, Porto Novo. 

For further inquiries, please contact Mr. Luca Ferrini (luca.ferrini@giz.de).

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