Benchmark for success

  • 30/01/1998

Benchmark for success   Benchmark for success The Songhai Centre in the Republic of Benin is a model for food self-sufficiency and sustainable development photographs: songhai centre Citizens of Benin associate the Songhai Centre with abundance of food supply in a continent plagued by never-ending famine, the Songhai Centre in Porto-Novo, a city in the Republic of Benin, West Africa, provides food for thought. The Centre has not only been recognised by other African countries as a model for sustainable development, the government of Benin views the centre as a compelling lubricant for achieving meaningful growth in the nation. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- “The African traditional system of farming has for long been abandoned. This is what Songhai has come to correct” -NZAMUJO UGWUEGBULAM -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Established 11 years ago, every citizen of Benin associates Songhai with abundance of food supply and innovative approaches for growth. Spread over 17 hectares of land, the Centre produces a variety of food items. “The government is proud of this place so much so that the president, Matthiew Kerekou, relies on Songhai to achieve sustainable growth in the entire country,” says Nzamujo Ugwuegbulam, the director of Songhai Centre In fact, the name of Songhai holds so much credibility that when a recent aid of us $5 million from the us to the government of Benin insisted on the involvement of Songhai, as a pre-condition to release the aid. Each month the Centre produces 2,500 broilers, over 100 turkeys, ducks and several other livestock. It also boasts of 85 fish ponds, each occupying 50 square metres. The Centre also domesticates and breeds certain non-domestic animals which include kenrats, snails and quails. The Centre grows mangoes, pineapples, lemon and soyabeans which are processed as juice, syrup, yogurt, jams and are then sold. In addition, the livestock are similarly processed in different ways at the Center’s Meat Processing Unit and sold all over the nation at a controlled price. Several hundred of tonnes of grain such as rice, maize and millet are harvested yearly at Songhai. This has increased food supply in the nation which hitherto was facing a food shortage. The strength and uniqueness of Songhai lies in its creativity to get most of its raw materials from within. At the Centre, wastes do not exist. All the wastes generated at Songhai are sorted and recycled into useful material. Droplets from the livestock are usually collected together and allowed for some days to decompose and are then used as fish feeds. These are combined with rice, millet husks and brewery wastes. When the droplets become excessive some portions are formed into compost to enhance the fertility of the soil so as to improve the crops yield. “Because of its high propensity to cause lethal effects on the soil and human consumers, the Centre does not apply chemical fertiliser to the crops,” says Nzamujo Ugwuegbulam. Its ingenuity in renewing energy source is most remarkable in the use of biological wastes to produce green house gas. This is achieved by loading plant material mainly water hyacinth and animal faeces into an inlak tank and some species of bacteria added to neutralise the offensive odd. A polyvinyl chloride pipe is inserted which allows their products to run into a digester usually air-tight and of about 20 cubic metres. It is in the digester that the biogas is formed and another pipe is used to ensure that the gas passes into a chamber and thus ready to be used. Fertiliser is usually produced in the process as a by-product. Although the gas is used all over the Centre as a source of energy, Ugwuegbulam says that there are plans to ensure that the gas production is commercialised. But apart from the gas and food production, the Centre has manufactured an array of machines

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