Benin horticulture explores hydroponic cultivation

In 2020, HollandDoor started an OKP TMT+ Project (Orange Knowledge Programme, Tailor- Made Training) in Benin to refresh and upgrade the vocational education capacities of teachers at 4 LCAs (lycées techniques agricoles, technical agrarian high schools. These are located in the north of Benin in Banikoara, Ina, Kika, and Natitingou. The project is divided into three work groups: animal production, horticulture, and irrigation. Each work group has five teachers from each school.



In January, Geerten van der Lugt and Maarten Heijne, both trainers of HollandDoor, were able to travel to Benin and train the irrigation teachers in person. The training activities repeated some of the material from earlier webinars but were now enhanced by daily field visits to irrigation projects. The latter generated more discussions between participants, trainers, and farmers. Benin is at the beginning of a transformation that will increase the use of irrigation practices: the irrigation projects in question were research projects and commercial projects involving tomato crops. The visits showed what is required in terms of preparation to start producing a crop with irrigation: making water reservoirs, partly clearing the land, setting up irrigation pipelines, calculating the water requirements, and developing irrigation regimes, for example. Issues related to water resources, nature, and farming were all part of the discussions. The enthusiasm of the participants to make Benin a self-sufficient country that can eventually export to neighbouring countries is encouraging.



In the third quarter of 2021, the Horticulture group held several online sessions providing basic training in “plant health.” The sessions included lectures on IPM, plant physiology in relation to the climate, and soil health. The aim was to level the knowledge base among trainees and also to get a better understanding of the needs of the trainees and their respective LCAs.


One conclusion was that although online training has its merits, it can’t really live up to the experience of a live training session. That’s why a company called Benin Fertilisant Sarl organized and hosted a one-week practical training course in February in Porto Novo (a 1.5-hour drive east of Cotonou, the capital of Benin). Benin Fertilisant Sarl is a leading company when it comes to introducing the propagation and production of vegetables using mainly cocopeat as a substrate for hydroponic production.


20 teachers travelled for about 10 hours by bus from the north of Benin to Porto Novo for a week of training and to meet up with Niek Botden of HollandDoor there. Various lectures and many practical sessions took place in inspiring surroundings on the farm of Benin Fertilisant Sarl. In addition to the important content that was discussed at the gathering, it was a unique event because it brought together 20 horticultural teachers from 4 different schools for a week of training.


Not only did the week provide a great deal of new information and practical suggestions to improve lectures, but it also got the 4 LCAs to make a commitment to start small projects at their own schools comparing various substrates and hydroponically grown vegetables. This will generate new experiences as climatic conditions and the available substrates are different in the direct surroundings of the 4 LCAs in the north of Benin. It will also ensure that the acquired knowledge will be converted into sustainable actions and deliverables.


The Horticulture work group is coordinated by Vanessa Zoussou (LCA Natitingou) and Hermann Biaou (LCA Kika) in Benin side and by Pieter-Jan Heijnen (Yuverta), Margareth van der Horst (Plantcare Education) and Niek Botden (HollandDoor) in the Netherlands.


For more information please contact Niek Botden, Geerten van der Lugt or Maarten Heijne.