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Republic of Benin Climate Benin’s climate reflects a strong north-south gradient, with an equatorial coastline transitioning northward and inland to an increasingly arid continental zone. More than half of the population is concentrated in the south on only one-tenth of the country’s land (CBD 2002). This region is characterised by coastal lagoons, marshes, and an area of fertile inland lowlands. The Niger River, one of the largest in Africa, forms a 120-kilometre-long border between northeast Benin and Niger. Environment An exploding population (3.3 percent population growth) is putting pressure on forests for fuelwood, agricultural clearing, pasture lands, and housing. Deforestation has led to extensive siltation of Benin's waterways, hindering boat traffic and further damaging the economy, of which over 30 percent is made up of transport activities. Heavy poaching has depleted wildlife. According to FAO figures, Benin has no undisturbed primary forest and has lost 29 percent of its forest cover since 1990. At 2.5 percent, Benin has one of the highest annual deforestatiton rates in the world. On paper, more than 22 percent of the country is protected, although the effectiveness of this protection is unclear. Important Environmental Issues • Deforestation • Desertification • Threats to Biodiversity Progress towards Environmental Sustainability - As defined by the United Nations Millennium Development Goal 7 Indicators Gradual decrease in forested areas bears testament to the fact that Benin has little natural forest remaining. An estimated 59 per cent of Benin’s forest loss is due to uncontrolled agricultural practices and fi res. A recent study of three cities in Benin found that in two of them, the vast majority of the population lacked running water and basic sanitation, although the MDG graph shows small improvements in this area. Deforestation A dense tropical rain forest once covered much of the area north of the coast, but slash-and-burn agriculture and heavy dependence on fuelwood by 95 per cent of the population (WHO 2006) have driven rapid deforestation. Mangrove forests, on the other hand, are threatened most by fishing and salt production. Overall, Benin has lost nearly one-third of its forest cover since 1990, and the rate of forest loss between 2000 and 2005 was high at 2.4 per cent per year (UN 2007). Slash-and-burn agriculture is estimated to affect 160 000 hectares of forest per year. Desertification Benin’s semi-arid northern territories are vulnerable to desertifi cation, with an estimated 50 per cent of lands already affected. Although periodic drought is a natural driver of this trend, agriculture is the primary human cause due to its role in deforestation, soil erosion, and pollution. In particular, the relative profi tability of cotton, which accounts for 80 per cent of all export revenues in Benin (Brottem 2005), has resulted in increasingly intensive farming practices. In the north, cotton production is directly linked to widespread deforestation, chemical pollution by pesticides and fertilizers, and reduced soil fertility. Threats to Biodiversity Benin’s diverse biological resources face a number of human threats, including agricultural expansion, uncontrolled use of bush fi res for land clearing, and an increase in commercial poaching using automatic weapons. In the south, wetlands have been severely degraded and in the north, many large mammal species are endangered. The “W” Biosphere Reserve, named after a double bend in the Niger River, is the first transboundary biosphere reserve in Africa, spanning Benin, Burkina Faso, and Niger. Covering more than one million hectares, the reserve is a buffer against advancing desertification from the north and hosts one of the largest populations of ungulates in West Africa. Endangered large mammal species in the reserve include cheetah, leopard, and spotted hyena. In addition to its biodiversity, the coastal zone plays a key role in the economy of Benin. Fishing, agriculture, and other economic activities within the coastal zone provide 70 per cent of the country’s total GDP and livelihoods for much of Benin’s population. Population pressure and the drive to boost the gross production from the coastal zone without proper environmental management threaten the integrity of the productive resource base and biodiversity resources. Illegal logging is a serious problem throughout the whole catchment. Between 1986 and 2000, dense forest in this area was reduced by more that 40 per cent. The 1986 image shows forested areas at the north-western edge of Lake Nokoué and north-eastern sections of the wetland system of Porto Novo lagoon. By 2000, some of the northern reserves had been decimated (yellow arrow). Economy The economy of Benin remains underdeveloped and dependent on subsistence agriculture, cotton production, and regional trade. Growth in real output has averaged a stable 5% in the past six years, but rapid population rise has offset much of this increase. Inflation has subsided over the past several years. In order to raise growth still further, Benin has plans to attract more foreign investment, place more emphasis on tourism, facilitate the development of new food processing systems and agricultural products, and encourage new information and communication technology. The 2001 privatization policy should continue in telecommunications, water, electricity, and agriculture in spite of initial government reluctance. The Paris Club and bilateral creditors have eased the external debt situation, while pressing for speeded-up structural reforms. Although trade unions in Benin represent up to 75% of the formal workforce, the large informal economy has been noted by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITCU) to contain ongoing problems, including a lack of women's wage equality, the use of child labour, and the continuing issue of forced labour. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benin) Details of the UNEP-DGEF supported projects (ongoing and recent) Demonstration of a Regional Approach to Environmentally Sound Management of PCB Liquid Wastes and Transformers and Capacitors Containing PCBs The project objective is to enhance the collective capacity of the participating countries in planning and implementing their national policies for the environmentally sound management of PCBs and PCB containing equipment in the context of the Stockholm and Basel Conventions. Countries: Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Cote d'Ivoire, Djibouti, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Togo, Angola, Congo DR, Mauritania, Morocco, Sao Tome and Principe, Guinea-Bissau. Addressing Transboundary Concerns in the Volta River Basin and its Downstream Coastal Area: With an area of 400,000 km2, the Volta basin is one of the largest African freshwater basins. Shared by 6 countries, it is threatened by increasing pollution and sediment loads, introduction of non-indigenous species harmful to human and ecosysetm health, habitat degradation (wetlands, mangroves, estuaries) due to human activities, over fishing and excessive water withdrawals, accelerated erosion caused by deforestation, bush fires and overgrazing. There is an high degree of interdependency between riparian countries, affecting hydropower production/supply, coastal erosion and sediment transport, nomadic populations etc. Currently, there are no institutional arrangements for managing the water resources of the several transboundary rivers of the basin. During PDF-A activities, the six countries have declared (Volta Basin Declaration) their commitment to address the environmental problems of the basin through a coordinated plan of actions. Purpose of the proposed project is to facilitate the establishment of a multi-country management framework, to produce a diagnostic of main transboundary issues, and to define agreed measures to reverse/prevent resources degradation (SAP). The project will also include priority short-term demonstration actions. A PDF-B grant is being requested to establish a regional coordination mechanism and operations committee, and to develop a preliminary diagnostic analysis and country reports, so that a multi- country full project proposal could be prepared. March 2003 – This project proposal for integrated management of the Volta River Basin, has a primary focus on some of the major environmental problems and issues of the basin leading to the degradation of the environment by human activities. The long-term goal is to enhance the ability of the countries to plan and manage the Volta catchment areas within their territories and aquatic resources and ecosystems on a sustainable basis. The Project has three main components with associated objectives identified by the root cause analysis carried out during the project preparation process: (i): Build capacity and create a regional institutional framework for the effective management of the Volta Basin; (ii): Develop regional policy, legal and regulatory frameworks for addressing transboundary concerns in the Volta Basin and its downstream coastal areas; and (iii): Initiate national and regional measures to combat transboundary environmental degradation in the Volta Basin. The activities to be undertaken will provide a strong foundation for the long term sustainable environmental management of the Volta Basin. Countries: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, Mali, Togo. Building Scientific and Technical Capacity for Effective Management and Sustainable Use of Dryland Biodiversity in West African Biosphere Reserves: The development goal of the project is to conserve and sustainably use biodiversity in six biosphere reserves in West Africa that are predominantly composed of savanna ecosystems. The project purpose is to systematically strengthen scientific and technical capacity for effective management of the biosphere reserves. This targeted intervention strategy has been designed to complement existing investments and projects within the biosphere reserves. The project will improve the understanding of interactions between local communities and savanna ecosystems, identify and promote sustainable use of biodiversity in pilot demonstrations, strengthen stakeholder capacity at all levels, and more effectively integrate stakeholders into the management of each biosphere reserve. The project will make extensive use of the African Network of Biosphere Reserves, AfriMAB, and, in particular, the sub-regional AfriMAB network for West Africa for regional technical and scientific information exchange, capacity building, and sharing of lessons learned. Countries: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d'Ivoire, Mali, Niger, Senegal. Community-based Management of On-farm Plant Genetic Resources in Arid and Semi-arid Areas of Sub-Saharan Africa: Goal: To improve the effectiveness of traditional farming systems for conservation of crop landraces of local and global importance. Purpose: To develop models for enabling environments for an effective contribution of traditional farming systems in biodiversity conservation and measures to maintain and promote wider adoption of viable systems.Objectives:1). To develop a framework that links best practices’ for conservation of crop landraces on-farm to decision-making and policy2). To build capacity in the application of both frameworks in influencing policies that impact on on-farm conservation of landraces. Countries: Benin, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Uganda, Zimbabwe.
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