During this visit, the delegation took the time to meet with representatives from various programmes supported by Swiss international development in Benin. These initiatives include the Vocational education for the labour market (FORCE) project (Formation et de Renforcement des Capacités pour l’emploi, FoRCE), managed by Swisscontact, and the Rural Economic Development Support Programme (Programme d’Appui au Secteur du Développement Rural, PASDeR), implemented by the Swisscontact-LARES consortium.
The efforts undertaken by Swiss international development in Benin are mainly focused on the départements of Borgou and Alibori, and more recently in Atacora and Donga, in the north. Their commitment concentrates on three key development sectors: rural and local economic development, basic education and professional training, and governance.
The visit had numerous objectives, most notably: to monitor ongoing support activities, current projects, and to understand realities on the ground in this region of Benin. What’s more, the purpose was to identify challenges the young population faces and to come up with solutions to improve their access to resources and income.
One of the stronger moments of the visit was a meeting on September 29, 2023 with vocational training centres participating in the FORCE programme, held at the Centre public de Formation Professionnelle et d’Apprentissage de Djougou. An important challenge identified was the need to explore new marketing strategies to increase enrolment. At the Centre privé de Formation Liweitari (CFL) in Natitingou in northwest Benin, the delegation was profoundly impressed by the quality of the facilities, equipment, and workshop organisation. The Head of the West Africa Office underscored the importance of the SDC’s involvement with this centre, insisting on the necessity of inspiring young people with a solid professional mindset and a promising outlook for their careers. The delegation also visited a facility under construction, supported by the FORCE programme, most notably the residence of the apprenticeship supervisor. This centre runs entirely on solar energy, sparking the interest of the Swiss delegation, which then recommended documenting this green energy initiative and organising exchange visits with other centres supported by the programme.
On Sunday, October 1, 2023, at the main offices of the NGO Sian’son, a strategy discussion took place between the SDC delegation and implementation partners in the education and professional training sector. The discussion highlighted the importance of continued Swiss funding, particularly in a context of growing instability, as well as the necessity of transferring responsibilities to national actors from the very start of a programme in order to ensure the sustainability of initiatives after Swiss support eventually wraps up.
The visit included a small detour to meet with Basile Pakito, a PASDeR programme beneficiary who developed a mango farm thanks to the financial support of the Fonds d’Appui au Financement Rural (FAFiR). His testimony illustrated the positive impacts of this initiative on his life and the community.
The pinnacle of the visit was the discovery of a multi-function agropastoral water supply system in the municipality of Tamboukirou Gah, in northern Benin, on October 1, 2023. The water supply system has greatly increased access to drinkable water for animals and domestic needs, thereby mitigating the arduous task of looking for water. The visit also underscored the key role of pastoral infrastructure projects in decreasing tensions between farmers and herders, as well as in enabling herders to become steadily more sedentary.
To conclude, this visit by the Swiss delegation to Benin strengthened ties between our two countries and highlighted the importance of international cooperation in sustainable development and improving the local population’s living conditions.