Newsletter November 2005

A Newsletter is Born!

 Welcome to the very first Teach A Man To Fish e-bulletin! 

We hope you’ll be as excited as we’ve been to find out more about some of the fascinating work being pioneered in agricultural schools around the world.

As our membership grows we aim to bring you fresh ideas and inspirational stories from schools that are leading the way in finding new techniques to finance vocational education through agricultural production - and in doing so training the next generation of rural entrepreneurs with the skills they need to succeed.

In this issue we travel from the heart of South America – where school co-operatives are building students’ start-up capital – to West Coast Africa and a school that’s making money out of maggots!

A Newsletter is Born!
Mega-Learning through Rural Micro-Business
Teach a Man to Fish Farm – the Benin School Making Money From Maggots
Spreading the Word
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Mega-learning through rural Micro-business

If you are in Asunción, Paraguay and looking for fresh organic produce—or simply a new culinary adventure—the place to go is the “Agro-shopping” market on Tuesday mornings. There, from dawn to dusk, you will find throngs of shoppers wending their way among some 60 colourful stands that sell everything from arugula to zapallo, a popular local squash.

But amid the bustle of market day, you will come upon one stand that is different from the rest. This is the stand run by COOPTA, the cooperative established and managed by the third-year students from the San Francisco Agricultural High School in Cerrito, Paraguay, an initiative of the Fundación Paraguaya.

Every Tuesday, COOPTA’s youthful vendors travel from their school in the Paraguayan Chaco to the capital city of Asunción to sell a wide array of fresh products from School’s organic farm. Meanwhile, part of the proceeds from their sales is helping to support a new approach in agricultural education: teaching the children of impoverished farmers how to become efficient rural entrepreneurs.

What is COOPTA?
COOPTA is part of an educational initiative launched by the Fundación Paraguaya to teach young people the modern business skills and values of cooperation and mutual assistance needed to set up and operate a successful cooperative. The initiative is based on the programs of Junior Achievement, a volunteer organization that educates young people about business, economics and entrepreneur-ship in some 110 countries worldwide.

COOPTA has about 30 members, all students in their final year at the Agricultural School in Cerrito. At the beginning of the school year, each student joined the cooperative by buying a few shares valued at about $3. By the end of the year, when it comes time to graduate and leave the cooperative, the students hope to be able to withdraw savings of around $150 each — valuable seed capital to kick-start their own businesses when they return to their family farms. Meanwhile, part of the revenues from the sales made by COOPTA helps cover some of the operating expenses of the Agricultural School itself.

How does COOPTA manage to meet all of these objectives?
Let there be no mistake; this educational exercise is also serious business. To begin with, students learn to manage the cooperative efficiently, according to modern business practices. So far, they have developed three sources of revenue. COOPTA markets products from the school’s organic farm at the “Agro-shopping” market and at a roadside store near the School, retaining ten percent of total revenues. It also sells school supplies, snacks and personal items to students on the school campus. Finally, it earns fees for the agro-veterinary services - this year, for example, COOPTA won a contract from Paraguay’s National Animal Health Service to assist in the campaign to vaccinate the nation’s cattle herd against hoof-and-mouth disease.

What do the members of COOPTA hope to gain through all this hard work?
Their real aim is to build up working capital for their future endeavors, while helping their school finance part of the cost of their education. But thanks to their experience in COOPTA, these new rural entrepreneurs will be setting off in life with more than just cash in hand. They will also have gained practical experience in managing an efficient rural enterprise. At the same time, they will know first-hand how much can be achieved, for themselves and their community, with a very small amount of capital and a lot of hard work, cooperation and good business management.

Teach A Man To Fish-Farm – Benin School Making Money From Maggots!

It’s fair to say that the Beninese love their fish. All of which means that despite the country’s coastal location and numerous lakes, Benin continues to import significant quantities of fish year after year.

This enormous potential for developing fish farming has not gone unnoticed.

The Songhai Centre, a local NGO which runs six agricultural schools across Benin, has always made research and training in fish-farming a priority. In order to develop a generation of fish farming entrepreneurs Songhai has invested not only in improving techniques but also in direct support to Benin’s fledgling fish farming industry.

Students learn the skills of fish farming

By encouraging each school to specialise in a particular type of fish-farming Songhai aims to promote the diversification of fish-farming practices:

  • At Songhai Kinwedji young catfish and tilapia are fattened tanks yielding 200 kg per month.
  • Songhaï Parakou raises fish in pens spanning an area of 40 hectares and permitting a production capacity of around 1,000 kg per month.
  • Songhai Porto-Novo breeds young fish for the other Songhai sites and for outside sale. A modern hatching unit covers all stages from artificial insemination of catfish, through incubation and the rearing of fry (baby fish). It is also engaged in research related to raising fish in drainable ponds.

    As well as training large numbers of students with specialist skills in fish-farming, the schools’ fish-farming activities provide a significant amount of income to support the Songhai Centre’s activities. To give an idea of scale, the production of catfish alone at the Porto-Novo site averages 3.8 metric tons per annum. As well as Tilapia, hundreds of thousands of immature fish are also sold annually.

    A young tilapia

    Where Songhai is really adding value to the development of fish-farming in Benin however lies in finding new ways to make use of resources available locally. With fish feed accounts for over 60% of the cost of production reducing its cost provides a good example. For over a decade Songhai has been refining the use of maggots as feed. The unit within Songhai producing maggots also illustrates the benefits of Songhai’s integrated approach to farming. This is because the production of maggots comes from the recycling of by-products from the abattoir and from the processing of fruit and malt. The decomposition of these by-products yields over 500 kg of maggots per day - enough to provide more than 75% of the feed, and ensure an increase in growth of the fish by around 2 tonnes per month.

    Similarly when it comes to the feeding of fry (baby fish) Songhai has pioneered the production of granules based on manioc flour. This process not only uses a product, manioc that is abundant locally, but also reduces the waste that occurs when fish food dissolves or decomposes in water. Songhai’s granules have not only led to an overall improvement in the use of fish food with cost savings of up to 45%, but better still the machine, which it developed to produce granules, is itself being marketed in Benin – and even exported!

    It’s fair to say that when it comes to ‘teaching a man to fish’ the Songhai Centre really has taken the concept to a whole new level!

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