Benin: local market development is opening up new sales markets for smallholder farmers

Swisscontact has accumulated extensive experience in Uganda, Bangladesh, and Nepal bringing poor segments of the population into market systems. Now we are applying the inclusive markets approach in Benin, West Africa. The objective is to improve livelihoods for smallholder farmer families by promoting local market dynamics.

The inclusive markets approach (IM) identifies barriers and their causes that impede disadvantaged groups from participating productively in the market. Innovative solutions to overcome these barriers are being developed in close collaboration with the private and public sector.

Market analysis in the citrus and aquaculture sectors

The main objective of the “Marché inclusif Agrumes et Pisciculture” ( in English: Inclusive citrus and aquaculture markets) project is to improve livelihoods for smallholder farmer families through the comprehensive development of the targeted agricultural sectors. The project in Benin focuses on the aquaculture and citrus sectors. A market analysis of aquaculture was the first step, completed in early 2019. The Beninese government prioritised this sector for agricultural development of the country’s southern region, where the largest bodies of water are located. The target group of the MiAP project is smallholder farmer families working in fish farming and processing.

Existing barriers to market development in aquaculture

Increasing environmental pressure on water from pesticides used in agriculture and stagnant water during the rainy season decrease productivity of aquaculture. Because of climate change, precipitation varies, and droughts are increasing. Consequently, this affects water bodies. Additionally, high-quality fish food has to be imported for fish farming and is very expensive. Locally manufactured fish food cannot match the quality of imports. Production of local fish is not yet price-competitive with imports. The lack of technical equipment, the use of archaic production methods, and poor fry quality constitute significant barriers to competitive fish production. At present, the simplest technologies are being used in fish farming that emits harmful gases.

Up to 98% of people involved in the sale of fish are women. In the next few years, the programme hopes to reach 500 women working in fish processing and 1,000 – 1,500 SME fish farmers. Incomes are expected to rise by 30 percent by late 2024.

Development of sustainable business models

The project will reduce fish imports to the benefit of local fish production. This will involve all actors along the value chain and initiatives will be tailored to local needs. Through the inclusive market approach, everyone involved in the value chain benefits: fish farmers, feed manufacturers and suppliers, processors, retailers and exporters. New business associations support value chain actors with skills and technical expertise, improving their bargaining position.

The 2019-2020 pilot MiAP project is being implemented by Swisscontact and financed by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).