Lake Nokoué is located on the southern coast of Benin in West Africa. Bordering on Cotonou, Benin’s largest city in the south, and its capital Porto Novo in the east, lake Nokoué is threatened by pollution and deforestation along its shorelines. It is also affected by congestion from sediments and the traditional acadja fish farming practice, which uses wood, leaves and branches to build enclosures for the fish. At the northern part, where the Sô river feeds into the lake, lies the town of Sô Ava, home of the non-profit organization “Association des Propriétaires d'Acadja de la Commune de Sô Ava” (APACSO), for which five UN Online Volunteers played a substantive role in mobilizing a grant of USD 40,000 from the GEF Small Grants Programme.
From 2013 to 2016, APACSO had piloted a tilapia farming project, funded by the US African Development Foundation and the Government of Benin. The project supported artisanal fishermen and contributed to the restoration of waterways. In June 2016, APACSO published a call for online volunteers to provide technical input to the project’s second phase. Volunteers were needed to develop and finalize a project document and find funding opportunities to ensure a more environmentally sustainable use of the lake’s vegetation, reduce the pollution caused by the acadja traps, and improve the density of the fish population as well as the living conditions of the fishermen.
The UN Online Volunteers drafted the project document and facilitated contact with local universities and laboratories for technical support. They researched funding opportunities and drafted related communication materials, translated the project document from French into English and helped identify an expert in aquaculture to deliver a ten-day training in fish farming for youth, women and low income fishermen, funded by an NGO from Belgium.
The training, which was delivered in December 2016, has already yielded excellent results: not only did the participants benefit directly from the expertise and hands-on recommendations on improving the efficiency as well as the environmental impact of their fish farms. APACSO also received three partnership requests from a local restaurant, an NGO acting as a youth entrepreneurship incubation centre, as well as the government-run Business Promotion Centre programme, which supports youth in setting up food processing and distribution enterprises.
“It was an exciting and great opportunity to learn. We got outstanding support from online volunteers and are sharing this experience with other organizations,” says Moubarakou Salami, who coordinated the online volunteers’ collaboration with APACSO.
Photo: © APACSO / Moubarakou Salami