Two teams with a total of 22 West African poultry industry stakeholders from Cameroon and Burkina Faso arrived in March 2020 at Avipole, a poultry training center in Casablanca, Morocco – just days before the Moroccan government instituted strict, emergency lockdowns due to the spread of COVID-19.
The teams would remain in Morocco for three months, an unexpected delay the U.S. Grains Council (USGC) and the Moroccan Poultry Association (FISA) teamed up to turn into an extended deep dive into poultry production and management. FISA’s Avipole training center instituted a program of hands-on training at its poultry farm coupled with work writing business plans and conducting focus groups designed for the trainees to develop strategic analyses for poultry development in their respective countries. While unique, this program is emblematic of the larger partnership between FISA and the USGC to pay forward the development of the poultry industry in Morocco to burgeoning industries in West Africa.
“USGC has engaged with the poultry industry in West Africa because rapid economic growth and urbanization has increased the need for quality protein in the region, though improved market access, infrastructure and increased market orientation have been limited,” said Abdellah Ait Boulahsen, USGC consultant for Morocco. “The stronger the industry becomes, the higher the grain demand will be in this region in the future.”
This extended training session was one part of USGC’s wider approach to poultry training with West Africans, which started in March 2017 when USGC leveraged a long relationship with FISA to form a partnership to train West African poultry industry stakeholders at Avipole.
Since 2017, 322 producers, technicians and veterinarians from eight countries – Ivory Coast, Senegal, Guinea, Cameroon, Benin, Togo, Burkina Faso and Mali – have participated in various programs. An additional 112 trainees have received in-country training on broiler and egg production and management.
Building on these positive outcomes, USGC secured additional funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service (USDA’s FAS) through the agency’s Section 108 program. Awarded in September 2019, this grant spans three years, expanding both the reach of the training program in West Africa and the topics covered during trainings. To date, those topics have included the practical aspects of poultry farm management, broiler production, biosecurity and vaccination techniques, heat stress management, and basics of compound feed manufacturing and feed formulation.
Under this new program, four training sessions at Avipole took place from January to March 2020 for teams of poultry producers and technicians from Ivory Coast, Senegal, Guinea, Cameroon and Burkina Faso. This set of programs included the extended training program in Morocco.
Following that successful program and in the context of ongoing pandemic and travel restrictions, USGC shifted to virtual joint training programs with FISA in late August 2020, followed by a technical feasibility assessment with West African contacts in September. In October and November, four virtual training sessions took place for 70 poultry professionals from four countries. Three additional sessions are scheduled for this month.
“Despite the lack of hands-on training at the Avipole poultry farm and field visits, this virtual training has created a new dynamic for capacity building in West African countries,” Ait Boulahsen said. “This success is evident by the high number of requests for virtual training in 2021. These programs link USGC resources together to plant the seeds for future markets for U.S. coarse grains and co-products.”