Aquaculture extension in Côte dIvoire by Z. Oteme
Although the country offers many important possibilities for aquaculture development, fish culture remains a new activity and is very little developed. Several aquaculture development operations were initiated since 1970. Two plans were tested nationally for aquaculture development:
o an industrial plan where farmers could produce great amounts of fish but were highly dependent on a favourable environment (financing, fingerlings, feed, etc.);
o an artisanal plan where peasant fish farmers self-financed and privately managed their production.
The first farms were however designed as national administration structures, the operating of which is incompatible with the requirement of any reliable competing production activity.
Several extension materials, especially demonstration booklets and leaflets, are used by extension agents in working with potential or practising fish farmers. FAO has issued a series of volumes on agricultural apprenticeship, dealing mainly with freshwater aquaculture. These are lectures or training materials destined to illiterate or semi-literate people. This FAO collection constituted the support of all the extension work effected by most projects and especially by the rural fish culture development Project based in Bouaké.
Past aquaculture extension: the rural fish culture development project
Sectoral development companies intervened either directly or through rural development projects jointly financed by the Government and specialized international institutions. Aquaculture or fisheries activities were considered as secondary operations in most of these development companies.
At the end of the 1970s, an important UNDP/FAO fish culture development project in rural areas was put into place by the Fisheries and Wildlife Department. New aquaculture offices were created each year until the entire country was covered by the 1980s. These offices managed the hatcheries, the aquaculture extension and the supply of nets and feeds. This operation was popular in the beginning and more than 2 000 farmers nationwide began practicing fish culture. Unfortunately, disappointment and abandon soon followed, since output in term of fish production was insignificant and of very small individual size.
The staff of the extension service of the project included: a fisheries and wildlife or agricultural engineer acting as the aquaculture inspector at divisional level; animal and plant production assistants (APVA) running the aquaculture and fisheries districts; animal and plant production moniteurs in charge of fish stations and extension management; aquaculture extension field workers doing aquaculture extension at the bottom.
The aquaculture inspector supervised the aquaculture and fisheries districts, the field personnel of which varied from 3 to 20 agents depending on the importance of activities (fish culture and fisheries) in the region. Each major region of the country (Daloa, Gagnoa, Man, Aboisso, Bouaké) had its own aquaculture and fisheries district. Each district had a chief in charge of organizing the office work and its agents, who was in turn supervised by the aquaculture inspector. The material and financial means (equipment, motorcycle or other vehicle, financing, etc.) of the districts were often very limited. Also, existing motorcycles were often inefficiently used.
The aquaculture inspector, who was supposed to be polyvalent, collected and analyzed the results, looking for a progressive evolution of the extension programme. This required his active participation in the district's activities. The extension agent was the base element in the district, in the project, and in the national fisheries and aquaculture service. He made weekly visits on predetermined days to fish farms. Unfortunately, the field extension workers were not regularly visited by their chief administrators. A lack of supervision of fish farmers by the extension workers was also observed. Quite often, extension workers and extension activities were not taken into consideration when planning programmes and requesting financing. Consequently, the inventories of fish farmers and fish ponds were not always updated. After many years of project operations, and a tremendous amount of field work, gaps were noticed concerning the gathering of harvest results.
The propagation of fish culture did and still relies on state-run fish hatcheries. These hatcheries have always served as demonstration and research stations. There are no private hatcheries till date.
Even though they were provided with good extension materials (posters, awareness booklets and leaflets, view masters with stereo card sets, slide and film projectors, demonstration notebooks), the major shortcoming of these agents was that they almost always forgot or ignored how to use these educational materials. This constant negligence resulted in poor acquisition of efficient techniques by farmers.
The project staff helped villagers to construct fish farms, fish ponds for schools and other important units such as floating cages. Three or four 500 m2 ponds were built near primary schools. Students participated in the building and were in charge of managing the ponds. The students, their parents, and their teachers received practical training in fish culture from demonstrations given by extension agents. Fish harvested from these ponds were often used in the school cafeteria.
One of the major problems encountered by extension agents concerned educated fish farmers. Many of them were absentee farm owners and most refused to follow the instructions given by the agents. They often built farms in their native villages, which were then turned over to younger brothers or other relatives to manage. These managers had little interest in the farms because their efforts were unpaid. Consequently, the farms were often poorly managed and later abandoned. Among other problems, the following can be listed: limited number of extension agents (sometimes one agent for a whole region); inadequate utilization of staff; under-equipment in transportation means in the districts; limited availability of fingerlings
Current agriculture extension
The National Agency for Rural Development (ANADER) is currently the prominent agency in charge of agriculture extension nationwide. ANADER was created in 1993 in the form of a particular mixed economy company. The missions assigned to ANADER included among others the promotion of the professionalism of agricultural producers in all production sectors, and the oversight of all agricultural activities and operations aiming at the promotion of the development in the rural milieu.
In the Training and Visit (T&V) approach, applied by ANADER, the agriculture advisor establishes a work programme based on the farmers' needs. This programme consists of supplying the advice necessary to obtain the commonly defined objectives. The agent holds demonstrations on parcels of land and follows the derived applications.
ANADER has demonstrated in the Ivoirian institutional hierarchy his key role as a privileged partner in the rural world, a company that provides reliable advice to farmers. The introduction of participatory diagnostics as the basic tool used to diffuse technical themes to producers has helped identifying pertinent themes capable of answering the questions posed by farmers. Its extension resources include tools that are well mastered by its agents. The main indicators (number of contact target groups, training rate, number and quality of demonstration units, etc.) are evaluated and improved from year to year. One of the major innovations is the identification of ANADER's target population. Unlike past practice, the agency's interventions will target common interest groups, including cooperatives, miscellaneous associations interested with local development, NGOs, natural groupings and/or private volunteer farmers.
ANADER is in the process of confirming its abilities in aquaculture and shows them throughout its contact groups. Because of its large agricultural advisory network (CA), it touches a large number of aquaculture candidates who are then directed towards specialized technicians in aquaculture within the zone. Some constraints however persist, including duplication of services and means in the field, poorly adapted extension system and poorly trained agriculture advisors in many cases. Staff is insufficient both in numbers and in professional qualifications. This staff is also poorly distributed geographically, and has decreased drastically in the last few years (110 in 1996 versus 300 in 1990). This fact coupled with the relative newness of aquaculture activity has not favoured the creation of reliable professional organizations, or the generalized installation of private farmers capable of perpetuating the aquaculture sector.
ANADER has a large operating mechanism, covering the entire country, mastering the essential tools of the Training and Visit extension method. Its actions concern a great number of farmers. However, in spite of the huge amount of means mobilized and the intensity of activities carried out at all levels of the approach, the overall analysis shows that the results, in terms of socio-economic impact, are still limited to a few success stories isolated in time and space. Demonstrations provided to producers by the system do not yield high adoption rates. The supervisor lacks skill to fulfill his function, and the specialized technicians are almost exclusively focused on production, ignoring all pre- and post production aspects. Basic agents are poorly trained and unable to rally flexibility. Extension operations, R&D and agricultural professional organization support are almost exclusively based on technical demonstrations and field trial results or classroom training for cooperants. Exchange visits between farmers and field-days using modern audio-visual tools are lacking. All in all, the T&V system appears rather rigid, and alternate approaches are needed.
Current organization of agriculture extension
National Agency for Rural Development (ANADER). The aquaculture development policy is presently managed by the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources (MINAGRA), which, via the General Production Department and the Fisheries Production Department, handles this mission in collaboration with regional MINAGRA offices, ANADER and the National Analyses Laboratory, or within the framework of individual projects.
Originally, the technical and administrative oversight of these aquaculture and fisheries offices was handled by the Department of Aquaculture and Fisheries from Abidjan. This Department prepared the budgets and disbursed all funds allocated to these structures. It also handled all training, recruitment, and promotions or transfers deemed necessary for all aquaculture and fisheries agents. Regional MINAGRA offices are now directly responsible of these management actions. There is still, however, some institutional clarifications required concerning the responsibility for support operations for fisheries professionals by ANADER. Extension staff is insufficient both in numbers and in professional qualifications. This staff is also poorly distributed geographically, and has decreased drastically in recent years (110 in 1996 versus 300 in 1990).
Current extension methods and results
The multiplicity of structures proposing aquaculture extension and training constitutes a handicap for the overall success of this discipline, since fish farmers receive conflicting recommendations coming from the different oversight structures. Facing the situation, a farmer will decide to try a technique based on his own feeling, which may lead him to dramatic failure. Field results are very contradictory, and it is currently difficult to have a clear vision of the performances of the different extension and training services. In some regions, the Aquaculture Division (from the Ministry of Agriculture) and ANADER intervene simultaneously, which renders more difficult the evaluation of each service.
The Lagoon Aquaculture Project, based in Abidjan, was initiated in the mid 1980s and also included an extension service. The project lasted about 15 years and was interested in all fish farmers (tilapia or catfish) in all lagoon areas. Its extension service dealt either with individual farmers or cooperatives.
The ADB - West Project based in Man initiated its aquaculture extension programme as early as 1994. This programme still goes on. The aquaculture extension service is directed by an agricultural engineer and has an office in each of the major administrative departments (about six) of the region. Each of these offices is directed by one animal and plant production assistant (APVA) who is assisted by one or two animal and plant production moniteurs. The programme has the necessary equipment (vehicles, motorcycles, fishing gears, etc.) to accomplish the work. The farmers dealt with are either individuals or cooperatives.
In the North of the country, a Vocational Cooperative was created after an intense informational campaign and represents the very first and most important extension operation for tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) pond culture in Côte d'Ivoire. Unfortunately, this activity did not meet the expectations of the farmer-fish culturist, especially in regards to increases in his animal protein consumption and his income.
The Periurban Project, based in Daloa (West-Central Côte d'Ivoire), chose its target group among people interested in fish culture as their main income-earning activity. Preference was given to the installation of people with few resources and for whom fish would represent the main cash crop.
Aquaculture development requires the implantation of professional relays. Once the target group is identified, training programmes need to create autonomous fish culturists. This demands highly motivated and technically competent trainers. The trained professionals would establish the services they require independently of government. Creation of a dynamic professional organization would allow for a better understanding of fish culturists' needs by society in general.
Training. Till date, the training of almost all fish culturists is carried out by agents from the Fisheries Production Department, usually through projects. ANADER is supposed to be the only training agency. In fact, very few ANADER agents are trained in aquaculture. A recently created NGO (APDRA - Côte dIvoire) also helps in diffusing aquaculture systems.
Since the creation of ANADER in 1994, the role of the agents from the Fisheries Production Department has been unclear. ANADER claims a right to aquaculture extension services, the same as all other extension services in the rural environment. It also claims competence in fish culture, as well as in coffee, cocoa or rice culture.
Government services (i.e., Fisheries Production, Fisheries and Wildlife), aquaculture development projects and NGOs propose to farmers different systems and methods usually knick-named technology packages. Their promoters claim them to be better than the others, or as being the ultimate solution to the problem of aquaculture development. Some of them are imposed during the beginning of aquaculture projects, which are almost entirely financed by foreign funds. Definitely, many alternative approaches are necessary to generate the sustainable take off of aquaculture development in Côte dIvoire.