Benin

Environment:

Benin is in Western Africa, bordering the Bight of Benin, between Nigeria and Togo. It is mostly flat to undulating plain, with some hills and low mountains. The highest point is Mont Sokbaro at 658 meters (2,159 feet).

Major environmental issues include inadequate supplies of potable water, wildlife poaching, deforestation, and desertification. Benin is known for one of the highest rates of deforestation in the world. The Convention on Biological Diversity hosts an informative country portal for Benin, as does the Clearing-House Mechanism. Benin’s environmental authority is the Agence Béninoise pour l’Environnement. The green party, Les Verts du Benin, is a member of the federation of green parties of Africa, the African Greens. The regional environmental NGO network, Green Actors of West Africa, lists 6 organizations for Benin, including Eco-Benin, Eco Ecolo, GRABE Benin and Nature Tropicale.

Benin has 2 Biosphere Reserves, Pendjari National Park and W Transborder Park. Pendjari National Park is Benin’s primary national park. W Transborder Park was named after a meander of the Niger River shaped like the letter ‘W’, a wetland and Important Bird Area where Benin, Burkina Faso and Niger meet near the delta of the Mekrou River (Mekrou-Niger confluence). The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Sustainable Tourism – Eliminating Poverty (ST-EP) initiative has helped develop community-based tourism in the W Park of Benin, Tourisme Communautaire au Parc W Bénin.

Environmental NGOs, Eco-Benin and GRABE Benin, are involved with developing ecotourism. Benin Aventure is an adventure travel specialist. Bab’s Dock is popular for recreational boating outside Cotonou. The GoSurfAfrica website describes a number of local surf spots, though does mention crocodiles and sharks.

Biosphere Reserves:

  • Pendjari
  • ‘W’ Region (Benin / Burkina Faso / Niger)

IUCN Members:

Culture:

The World Heritage city of Abomey could be said to be the origin of modern Benin. Historians theorize that the insecurity caused by slave trading may have driven migrations to the Abomey region, and ultimately lead to the foundation of the Kingdom of Dahomey (1600–1900). In the early 20th century, the Kingdom of Dahomey was taken over and incorporated into French West Africa as French Dahomey (1904–1958). Following WWII, French Dahomey eventually became the self-governing Republic of Dahomey (1958–1975). After a military coup in the early 1970s, the Marxist–Leninist People’s Republic of Benin (1972–1990) was created; but due to economic collapse, the contemporary Republic of Benin emerged in 1990.

Crime in Benin is generally considered to be a significant issue. Cannabis use is prevalent in Benin, particularly in the central region. In 2009, drug havens around Cotonou were reportedly bulldozed. A detailed Benin 2013 Crime and Safety Report is available from the Overseas Security Advisory Council of the U.S. Department of State. In 2012, the International Maritime Bureau warned that piracy was reaching dangerous proportions in west Africa, including Benin.

Benin has 6 sites on the Tentative Lists of World Heritage, including Pendjari National Park, the stilt village of Ganvie, W Transborder Park, the historic city of Ouidah, the capitcal city of Porto-Novo, and the underground town of Agongointo-Zoungoudo. Ouidah is often referred to as the birthplace of voodoo, originally a Yoruba religion known as Vodun. The Ouidah Museum of History, Fête du Vodun every January, and International Film Festival of Ouidah now form part of the popular Vodun Trail.

MCAAT (Ministre de la Culture, de l’Alphabétisation, de l’Artisanat et du Tourisme) serves as the ministry of culture, literacy, handicrafts and tourism. Tourisme Benin is the official tourism site. In addition to Eco-Benin and GRABE Benin, La Perle d’Atacora (The Pearl of Atacora) is a tourism association in Northern Benin developing the Tata Somba ecolodge project, with the help of a grant from the U.S. African Development Foundation. In 2012, the national round table on ecotourism in Benin (Table Ronde Nationale sur l’Ecotourisme au Bénin) announced their national strategic plan for the development of ecotourism (Plan Stratégique National de Développement de l’Ecotourisme). La Route des Pêches (The Fishing Road) is a proposed tourism development project for the zone between Cotonou and Ouidah.

Not only does expatriate Frenchman Guy Catherine maintain a series of Voyageur Benin lodges – Auberge de Grand Popo, Auberge de Abomey, and Auberge de Dassa Zoumé – but has also restored a colonial-era train to link them, his private Train d’Ebene (Ebony train). AfricaRail is a proposed project to link the rail systems of West Africa, including Benin.

World Heritage:

ICCROM Members:

References:

  • Community-based responsible tourism to the test of culturalist and participatory illusions: The example of an experiment in Benin by A Girard, B Schéou, 2012
  • Tourism and Facilities Development in Three Art Traditions of Benin Kingdom by EI Ononeme, 2010
  • Marketing Vodun Cultural Tourism and Dreams of Success in Contemporary Benin by JR Forte, 2009
  • Perceptions of Cultural Tourism, Economic Development, and Cultural Preservation: A Case Study among the Betammaribe of Northwest Benin by S Savell, 2006
  • Tourism or conservation in the national parks of Benin by JA Sayer, 1981
  • A Mission to Gelele, King of Dahome by RF Burton, 1864