Homelessness in BeninThe Republic of Benin is a West African country bordering Togo, Nigeria, Burkina Faso and Niger. With nearly 11.5 million inhabitants, the former French colony has experienced a vast political change in its continuous effort to fortify its economy and provide for its people. However, despite its efforts, homelessness in Benin remains a problem. To understand this issue better, here are five facts about homelessness in Benin.

 5 Facts About Homelessness in Benin

  1. An increasing rate of poverty means that more people may be faced with homelessness in Benin. While the specific number of homeless people is not determined, poverty rates clearly show a large portion of the population living in dire circumstances. Recently, the government has attempted economic reform, and there has been growth. However, more people are living in poverty than in previous years. In 2018, the poverty rate was 46.4% while it was 40.1% in 2015.
  2. Rapid population growth may increase homelessness in Benin. There is also little economic stability to prepare for it. Although there has been economic growth, there are severe geographic inequities within the country. Fifty-one percent of employment depends on agricultural exports, which shows a lack of economic diversification. As a result, millions of people have no sustenance or financial means whenever trade opportunities or agricultural pursuits are unsuccessful. There is rapid population growth, averaging about 3.5% every year, and the economy is not strong enough to provide for the increasing number of births.

  3. Existing housing is deteriorating. Also, a lack of financial resources makes it difficult for the majority to purchase or build new homes. Many of the existing houses need to be renovated since they were built over 30 years ago. Furthermore, low-lying houses can become flooded during the rainy season, causing more damage to already declining houses. With a fast-growing population and an extremely low minimum wage at $67, an average person cannot afford a high cost of building materials. Even if someone can afford to purchase land, the cost of building a tiny house may be insurmountable. Extended family members often live together because of a lack of capital. Consequently, living conditions are grossly inadequate, and overcrowding is common as many relatives live together. Issues with housing affordability may be an attribute of homelessness in Benin.

  4. Urban development has caused homelessness in Benin. The government has attempted to focus on urban development, hoping to stir economic activity and investment. However, this has come at an expense to Beninese citizens. In the past year, over 120 homes were bulldozed in the district of Xwlacodji. Many of the residents had lived there for generations, yet had never received an official deed granting them property ownership. They were never notified of the plans to bulldoze their homes and belongings. Now, most are homeless and sleep outside or in public buildings. Despite the government’s motivations, many were left homeless.

  5. The government is trying to reconcile its urban development with aid to its poorest citizens. The government has renewed efforts to stimulate growth and reduce inequality in the country. Although this mission has harmed the Beninese with its demolition of local homes, there are upsides to its developmental and aid plans. These benefits include providing universal healthcare, offering cash grants to those working in the national interest, aiding those with disabilities and refinancing grants to areas of geographic disadvantage. Furthermore, Benin’s president, Patrice Talon, has committed to building 20,000 housing units that the government will provide to its citizens at a subsidized cost. With the poorest 20% of the population living in severe poverty, these reforms will enable the homeless to find economic opportunities and necessary social services.

The Republic of Benin has struggled with its rate of poverty in recent years. Its economy depends mostly on its agricultural exports, which is problematic for growth and development. President Talon has proven to be aggressive in his attempts to bring financial opportunities to the Beninese. These factors, among others, have perpetuated homelessness in Benin. However, there are reasons to be hopeful for the future. Talon seeks to bring new government aid and social services to the poorest 20% of the population. With new cash advances and subsidized housing, hopefully, homelessness in Benin will soon be a thing of the past.

Eliza Cochran
Photo: Flickr

 

poverty in Benin
Benin, a nation in West Africa, has a population of 12 million people. Estimates have determined that 30% of the workforce in Benin works in the cotton industry. Even though the country is one of West Africa’s top producers of cotton, poverty in Benin remains quite high. In 2018, 46.4% of citizens fell below the poverty line.

Reliance on Any One Crop is Risky — Particularly Cotton

Reliance on cotton has a variety of harmful effects that prevent major economic growth and the reduction of poverty in Benin. Unlike farmers in many other cotton-growing areas of the world, many cotton farmers in West Africa work on small-scale farms rather than large plantations. Because of the relatively small size of farms, most farmers lack the technology and efficiency of larger farms, which reduces productivity and profitability. For example, most farms rely on rainfall to water their crops and must pick cotton by hand, which is a tedious and time-consuming task.

Growing cotton presents a variety of dangers to the environment and the health of farmers. Cotton is a challenging crop to grow, and common practices in Benin rely heavily on harmful pesticides as well as large amounts of fertilizer. Around the world, cotton only accounts for 2.4% of cultivated land but uses 6% of total pesticides. Some have linked pesticides in Benin to pesticide poisoning as well as eye, stomach and skin irritation. As pest incidence has risen and soil fertility has decreased, reliance on these agrochemical inputs has increased. This can account for up to 60% of production costs for small farms.

Relying on cotton presents other challenges besides health risks, soil degradation and reliance on outside inputs. When so many people rely on selling cotton, many communities become highly sensitive to changes in global prices for cotton. Deregulations in the global market have made it harder for farmers in Benin to compete. Due to the recession caused by COVID-19, the price of cotton has recently reached a 10-year low.

Crop Diversification Efforts to Reduce Dependence

A variety of programs have emerged to mitigate the risks of growing cotton as well as initiatives to encourage farmers to grow other crops. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) runs a variety of programs in Benin, including its Integrated Production and Pest Management (IPPM) program and its Farmer Field School (FFS). IPPM aims to educate farmers on the risks of some pesticides while encouraging crop diversification and improved farming practices to decrease pest incidence naturally. FFS educates small groups of farmers on optimal planting and fertilizer use that reduces costs and increases crop yields.

Some private organizations and individuals have stepped in to address poverty in Benin as well. Father Godfrey Nzamujo, a former professor at the University of California, Irvine, left the U.S. and came to Benin in an attempt to use his Ph.D. in microbiology to address food security through zero-waste, sustainable farms. He started a farm in 1985 that focuses on creating zero waste and thoughtful crop rotation to maintain natural soil fertility and prevent reliance on fertilizer. Since then, he has opened multiple centers across 15 countries to share his organic farming techniques with others. With support from the U.N., Nzamujo has been able to educate 30,000 farmers.

Pesticide Action Network, an organization from the U.K., also works in Benin to promote organic cotton farming and reduce the use of harmful pesticides. It helps farmers find natural alternatives to pesticides and gain access to farming equipment that increases efficiency. This equipment is often useful for a variety of other tasks as well, as milling equipment can grind neem seeds to make natural pesticides and grind maize for food.

Each of these programs utilizes a variety of methods, but they ultimately have the same desired outcome. By promoting sustainable farming practices and diversifying crops away from cotton, farmers in Benin can have greater crop yields, more fertile soil for future seasons and resiliency to external shocks. Decreasing these farmers’ need for expensive fertilizers and harmful pesticides increases their profits, decreases food insecurity and reduces poverty in Benin.

Progress in Diversification Remains Slow

Despite all of the benefits of crop diversification, Benin has been slow to move away from its heavy dependence on cotton. In 2018, raw cotton accounted for 34.5% of Benin’s export revenue. A major reason for this is private and public investment as well as government subsidies that keep cotton competitive, particularly in the last four years of the presidency of Patrice Talon. This is no surprise, as Talon made his fortune selling agricultural inputs and later entering the cotton ginning industry.

As nearly half of the current population of Benin lives in extreme poverty, the time to make major changes is now. With an increase in crop diversity and a transition toward more sustainable agriculture, food insecurity and poverty in Benin could greatly reduce.

– William Dormer
Photo: Pexels

Solar Energy in Benin
In Benin, a country in West Africa, only 11% of the rural population has access to electricity. This deficit contributes to poor nutrition and health, particularly in rural communities. Additionally, about 40% of the country’s 12 million citizens live below the poverty line. The Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF) is a nonprofit organization that uses solar-powered water pumps and solar drip irrigation to improve agriculture, increase access to clean drinking water and economically empower women in Benin, all with a focus on sustainability. Recent innovations utilizing solar energy in Benin are improving conditions for female farmers across the country.

Solar-Pump Water Stations: Benefiting Women and Girls

In the Kalalé District of northeast Benin, there are only 113 sanitary water sources for a population of 180,000 people. Many potable wells require women and girls to travel long distances outside their villages. This lack of available energy, known as energy poverty, increases the risk for women and girls of becoming targets of sexual violence. To avoid danger, many women and girls take routes to alternate water sources, such as nearby streams or open wells of contaminated water. Relying on these local water sources poses another significant health risk: water-borne diseases are responsible for about 15% of all deaths in Benin.

SELF has built 20 wells in the Kalalé District since 2011 and is currently working to install solar-pump water stations in the region. Funded by a grant from the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), this initiative will install a new solar-pump water station in 24 villages, bringing clean, sanitary water to about 82,000 people. These solar-pump water stations use sunlight—a clean, renewable energy source—to increase access to clean water without emitting greenhouse gases. They also do not require batteries and can last at least 10 years without replacement.

With these solar-pump water stations, women and girls in 24 villages will no longer have to choose between a long, dangerous walk and contaminated water. By providing solar-powered technology to pump clean drinking water, SELF is reducing the prevalence of water-borne diseases in northeast Benin’s rural communities, as well as the risk of sexual violence for women and girls.

Solar Drip Irrigation: Empowering Women Farmers

In northeast Benin, the dry season is long and severe. According to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, it is “nearly impossible to grow food” for six months of the year. This especially harms women farmers, who are more likely to be living under the poverty line, as well as women and girls who must travel longer distances to collect water for irrigation.

The Solar Electric Light Fund created the Solar Market Garden (SMG) project to reduce malnutrition and food insecurity in Benin year-round. For this initiative, SELF used solar-powered well pumps to operate drip irrigation systems on 11 female-operated farms designated as Solar Market Gardens, impacting 400 women farmers in 10 villages throughout the Kalalé district. Each garden produces more than 4,000 pounds of food every month. As a result of this project, 66,000 more people have reliable access to fresh produce, increasing food security, nutrition and health. For rural villages in northeast Benin, access to solar energy can reduce hunger without negatively affecting the environment.

In addition to improving agriculture, SELF’s Solar Market Gardens also empower women and girls in Benin. Female farmers involved in the project can adequately feed their families, earn a larger and more reliable income and gain reputations as entrepreneurs. Women’s economic empowerment is crucial for poverty reduction because, according to U.N. Women, it “increases economic diversification and income equality” and grants women more “voice, agency and meaningful participation in economic decision-making at all levels.” At the same time, women and girls in each village can focus more on their education and other economic activities instead of water collection. According to the World Bank, educated women and girls are more likely to live healthier lives, earn an income and have fewer children. They are also less likely to marry as minors.

Encouraging Poverty Reduction

Widespread access to energy, especially electricity, is an essential component of poverty reduction because it allows more people to reliably access clean water and adequate food. The Solar Electric Light Fund reduces poverty and food insecurity in northeast Benin. Others can easily replicate their initiatives, directly benefitting women and girls and creating more sustainable communities. Overall, the rising popularity of solar energy in Benin gives hope to women and girls across the nation.

– Rachel Powell
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in BeninHunger in Benin affects thousands of people across the country. According to the World Food Programme, most of the Republic of Benin’s population of 11.2 million people live primarily in rural areas. Almost 10% of them struggle with food insecurity. However, Benin also exemplifies some of the successes that international organizations and state governments have had in collaborating with Benin’s leadership to create positive change. Two key players in Benin’s fight against hunger are the nonprofit The Hunger Project and USAID, the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Hunger in Benin specifically affects vulnerable groups like young children. The World Food Programme warns that chronic malnutrition is a major threat to Benin affecting the development of up to 32% percent of its children ages five and younger. Suffering from chronic malnutrition at this age can negatively affect children’s health later in life.

The Hunger Project in Benin

The Hunger Project has been working in Benin since 1997 and uses the ‘epicentre strategy’ to fight hunger. It works to organize around 138 villages (311,078 people) into 18 different epicenters for greater collective action. Using this strategy allows for villages in Benin to share resources and address hunger and food insecurity together. As a group, the villages learn and cultivate self-reliance.

The villages are able to capitalize on aid the Hunger Project provides initially and then, through developing community infrastructure, communities become self-reliant. This has proven successful in three epicenters already. Each epicenter focuses on four core phases for success: “Mobilization (I), Construction (II), Programme Implementation (III) and Transition to Self-reliance (IV).”

USAID’s Role in Helping Alleviate Hunger

The United States coordinates its international aid efforts through organizations like USAID. Specifically in Benin, USAID contributes to the “new alliance for food security and nutrition,” which organizes the G7 states with the Republic of Benin’s government to invest in the agricultural sector. The World Food Programme reported that agriculture makes up to 70% of the country’s employment. Furthermore, agriculture is responsible for 25% of Benin’s GDP. Increased investment will undoubtedly aid in hunger alleviation.

Additionally, USAID helps Benin fight off major food insecurity causes like pests in crops. One pest that USAID is addressing is the Fall Armyworm (FAW). FAW is particularly dangerous to African crops because it feeds on maize, a key food source for more than 300 million African families. Across the 12 main maize-producing countries in Africa, the Fall Armyworm can cause an annual loss of “between $3.6 and $6.2 billion.” That kind of loss can devastate farmers.

To combat FAW, USAID held a “Fall Armyworm Workshop” in Benin in 2018, bringing agricultural experts, plant protection experts and technical staff. The workshop was intended to educate farmers and other essential workers on how to locate, identify and exterminate the pests.

Looking Ahead

Hunger in Benin continues to be an obstacle for the country. Benin only scored a 51/100 on the 2019 Global Food Security Index. But with multilateral support from state governments and international organizations, Benin represents a model for successful collaborative efforts to address hunger and poverty collectively, as it has risen above the regional average score of 47.9/100 for food security.

Kiahna Stephens
Photo: Flickr

Fake Medicine in Benin
Benin, a West African country about the size of Pennsylvania, has a tumultuous history. The site of the former Dahomey Kingdom, a kingdom that experienced rapid growth due to its involvement in the slave trade, Benin has since faced colonization, war, strife, civil unrest and a flood of pseudo-pharmaceuticals. With such struggles, a country can react in perpetuation or recovery and Benin has chosen the latter. This is most noticeable in the recent progress against fake medicine in Benin.

Fake Medicine in Benin

The origin of the issue of fake medicine in Benin likely relates to the country’s impoverished state. Benin had the 27th lowest per capita GDP as of 2017, at approximately $2,300. In terms of medical intervention, Benin has been desperate for some time now. The CIA lists the risk for Beninese citizens contracting infectious diseases as very high. The diseases responsible for the highest percentage of illnesses are bacterial and protozoal diarrhea, hepatitis A, typhoid fever, dengue fever, malaria and meningococcal meningitis. Benin also faces struggles relating to HIV/AIDS, which resulted in 2,200 deaths in 2018.

As of 2016, the nation spent only about 4 percent of its GDP on the health sector. This lack of financing for government-sponsored health care left an opening for black market interference and fake prescription drugs quickly flooded stores and pharmacies. These drugs often have no active ingredient and do little to fight the diseases that marketing suggests they cure. Instead, they lead to a litany of new health issues, often causing ulcers and organ failure. People have linked over 100,000 deaths to fake medicine in Benin.

The Fight Against Fake Medicine

Corruption has been inherent in most of Benin’s history. The issue of fake medicine in Benin is simply another facet of the same problem. Thankfully, the country is taking steps to address the endemic nature of this devastating problem.

For all intents and purposes, the fight against fake medicine in Benin began in 2009 with the Cotonou Declaration. This declaration focused on addressing the rampant fake medicine black market at the international level, as opposed to limiting the fight to within Benin’s borders. The declaration called for a raised awareness of drug trafficking and a limiting of the freedoms that often occur for those involved. Unfortunately, not much changed following the Cotonou Declaration. Benin raised awareness, but only for a moment, and it did not take any legitimate steps to combat the issue.

True progress began with the launching of Operation Pangea 9, a government organization founded under Benin’s current president, Patrice Talon. The organization works as a task force, set on fighting the manufacturing and selling of fake medicine through raids and legislation. In 2017 alone, the organization seized over 80 tonnes of fake medicine in Benin. This serves as a sign of drastic progress. For comparison, in 2015, the organization seized only about four tonnes of contraband.

The seizures took place throughout a multitude of marketplaces in Benin, resulting in the arrest of over 100 fake medicine traders. These raids and seizures served as stage one of Operation Pangea 9’s plan to eliminate the distribution of fake medicine in Benin. It was extremely successful, yet only addressed a fraction of the issue.

After the success of the seizures, in order to prevent a lapse back into the country’s past, President Patrice Talon’s government went after the suppliers. Many knew that corruption thoroughly aided the success of the selling of fake medicine in Benin. In December 2017, the police staged a raid at the home of Mohammed Atao Hinnouho, a member of Benin’s parliament. The police seized hundreds of boxes of pseudo-pharmaceuticals and arrested Mohammed Atao Hinnouho. This raid led to the outing of a vast number of those involved in the illegal trade and sent a definitive message that no matter the sources or persons responsible, they would face justice.

Conclusion

As of 2019, the country almost entirely eradicated the issue of fake medicine in Benin. The shelves of grocery stores that once held fake medicine now stand empty, and open-air pharmaceutical markets are a thing of the past. People should take the way in which the Beninese government dealt so swiftly with this issue as an example, a sign of what is possible when a country properly focuses attention and resources. Although Benin requires more in terms of setting up a proper health care system, these advancements serve as a sign to the end of an endemic issue and should not be overlooked.

– Austin Brown
Photo: Flickr

Products Tackling Global Poverty
People who live in poverty-stricken communities typically do not have access to simple products that can be the difference between life and death. Below are five products tackling global poverty.

5 Products Tackling Global Poverty

  1. The Shoe That Grows: The Shoe That Grows produces a shoe for kids living in poverty. It expands up to five sizes and lasts for years. Kenton Lee founded the shoe after he traveled to Nairobi, Kenya. He lived and worked with kids at a small orphanage and noticed that many of the children either had broken, worn shoes or none at all. He came up with the idea of a shoe that expands to prevent soil-transmitted diseases and parasites that can cause children to miss out on their education and even death. As of now, the company has distributed over 200,000 pairs of shoes to 100 different countries. The organization sent 30,000 of those to Ethiopia alone.
  2. NIFTY Cup: The NIFTY Cup is a device that some use to feed premature babies in Malawi and Tanzania who are unable to breastfeed. Unlike the metal cups and spoons that people in poverty-stricken countries often use, the NIFTY Cup contains durable, soft silicone that one can shape to allow all nutrients to reach babies’ mouths without causing them to cough or choke. The cup serves as a life-saving resource for mothers who do not have the necessary medical assistance necessary to keep premature babies healthy. Donors have made it possible to send over 6,000 NIFTY Cups to hospitals in Malawi and Tanzania.
  3. The Lucky Iron Fish: The Lucky Iron Fish is a tool used to fight iron deficiency in developing countries. Families place the iron fish in boiling water before cooking to add proper nutrients to meals. One of these iron fish is equivalent to five years of iron pill bottles. The Lucky Iron Fish company works on a one-to-one donation scale. This means that when people in developed countries buy one of the fish, the company donates another to a family in a developing country. As of 2018, the company impacted 54,000 lives because of the buy-one-give-one system. The impact fund has distributed the fish to Nicaragua, Tanzania, Cambodia, Haiti, Benin and more.
  4. Embrace Warmer: Embrace Warmer is a life-saving tool that developing countries use. In these places, newborn babies often suffer hypothermia due to being premature and low weight. The tool is essentially a sleeping bag that helps regulate the body temperature of newborn babies during their first few days of life. Embrace Warmer began as a class project at Stanford, when students had to design a cost-effective product to help battle neonatal hypothermia. Eventually, the product expanded to rural India and has now helped 200,000 infants in developing countries.
  5. Flo: Flo is a reusable menstrual hygiene kit that Mariko Higaki Iwai designed to provide a solution for women and girls in developing countries to take care of their bodies. The kit allows girls to wash, dry and carry reusable sanitary pads. This kit makes it easier for girls to stay in school, prevent reproductive diseases and illnesses and take care of their menstrual cycle in privacy. Flo is still a prototype but people working in the field in developing countries have been trying to make Flo available for their communities. The team is currently seeking manufacturers to make this possible.

These life-saving products are working at tackling global poverty, while also giving those who live in poverty-stricken communities a better chance at having a healthy lifestyle.

Juliette Lopez
Photo: Flickr

 

Progress in Benin
Despite a low unemployment rate of one percent and a GDP growth rate that increased from two percent to over five percent from 2015 to 2017, progress in Benin has been slow and it is still a poor country in West Africa. With more than a third of the over 11 million population living below the poverty line, it is difficult for Beninese to live without a feeling of unease. Three major reasons Benin has a rising poverty rate is because of over-reliance in Niger’s economy, the largest exporter, reluctance for Benin to modernize its own economy and climatic shocks, particularly massive floods.

Agricultural Productivity and Diversification Project

The agriculture sector employs over 70 percent of Beninese. In an effort to boost the economy, the Republic of Benin is investing in improvements in the agriculture sector. The Agricultural Productivity and Diversification Project began on March 22, 2011, with a budget of $61 million and ends on February 28, 2021. Its purpose is to repair major damage caused during Benin’s 2010 flood and improve productivity in certain export-oriented value chains, such as aquaculture, maize, rice, cashew and pineapple.

One component of this project is improving technology and restoration of productivity. The devastating flood in 2010 destroyed over 316,000 acres of cropland and 50,000 homes. The project began after the major flood and takes into account the need for drainage systems to stifle rising waters during floods. Small-scale irrigation infrastructure repair and improvement are issues that the project faces and hopes to correct in the timeframe. Climate-smart production systems are another investment that the country is developing to prevent widespread destruction to cropland when a natural disaster threatens to destroy homes and crops. The project is also set to create new jobs by investing in small and medium enterprises (SMEs), especially for youth and women.

Improving the Business Environment

Although flooding caused several Beninese people to lose their homes and cropland, there is one impediment that halts economic development: corruption. President Talon became the President of Benin in 2016 and stated in his inaugural address that he would “make the fight against corruption an ongoing and everyday struggle.” A 29 percent electricity access is another issue that prevents developmental progress in Benin, but since 2016 blackouts have reduced and electricity generation has improved significantly.

Economic Diversification

The last major impasse that prevents development in Benin is over-reliance in Nigeria, Benin’s major exporter. Current IMF Managing Director, Christine Lagarde, announced a call for economic diversification in Benin. Lagarde believes diversifying is one way to reduce the high poverty level of 36 percent. Due to the country’s economic reliance on the agricultural sector and economic conditions in Nigeria, it is difficult to grow if a recession, such as the 2017 recession in Nigeria, occurs. In her speech at the Chamber of Commerce in Cotonou, Benin, Lagarde discussed how Benin could strengthen land tenure, increase food security in rural areas and invest more in education and health, and improve transparency in the government so that outside investors would find investing in Benin appealing.

Rate of Progress in Benin

There is room for growth, though the poverty-stricken nation has had success in certain areas, such as the average life expectancy that rose from 50 years in 2000 to 62 in 2018. With the creation of the Agricultural Productivity and Diversification Project, improvements in agriculture and infrastructure are already underway. The estimated rate of urbanization is fairly high at 3.89 percent from 2015 to 2020. At this rate of progress in Benin and under the leadership of President Talon, the country will continue its headway in development so that the percentage of Beninese in poverty will gradually drop in the coming years.

– Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Flickr

PA Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Benin
Benin is a relatively small country located in West Africa and is home to approximately 11.7 million people. The climate is hot and many people are impoverished. As of late, organizations have started programs in Benin to reduce poverty and alleviate the problems associated with it. Living conditions in Benin can vary for those living in urban areas versus those living in rural areas, with those in urban areas typically having access to more resources.

Although Benin is working toward development, with increases in business and transportation, the country still faces issues associated with underdevelopment. With increased development, a decrease in poverty is likely to follow. In this article, the top 10 facts about living conditions in Benin are discussed.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Benin

  1. More than one-third of the population in Benin is impoverished. While equality for women is largely lacking, families in which women are the leaders have lower levels of poverty. According to The World Bank, the levels of poverty are 28 percent for women-led families compared to 38 percent for male-headed families.
  2. Natural resources are not the easiest to find in Benin. However, agriculture plays a large part in the country’s economy. Increased cotton production led to a positive increase in GDP from 4.0 percent in 2016 to 5.6 percent in 2017. Additionally, domestic oil has benefited economic productivity.
  3. From a political standpoint, Benin is doing well. Their democratic elections are peaceable and people are generally pleased with those in power. In the 2016 presidential election, cotton businessman, Patrice Talon, won. His election provides for positive increases with trade between Benin and its foreign partners.
  4. The Global Hunger Index rates Benin at a 24.3, which means that Benin is labeled under the “serious” category for hunger. While that number reflects a large number of people facing malnutrition, the number of people facing food insecurity is decreasing over time. This is hope-inspiring evidence that organizations working to combat hunger such as UNICEF are gradually making progress in Benin.
  5. Sanitation remains an issue in Benin. According to UNICEF, only 20 percent of people have access to basic sanitation services. Open defecation is practiced by half of the population and lack of toilets can cause other health issues. This can be instrumental in the spread of various diseases. Organizations, such as UNICEF, are working to improve sanitation in countries where open defecation is still practiced through expanding access to sanitation services.
  6. Transportation in Benin is developing. Currently, urban roads are primarily paved, unlike rural areas. There is a railroad in Benin connecting domestic cities, but it does not go into any other nations. Cotonou, a largest and economically most important city, has a port and airport, proof of development.
  7. Child marriage is a serious problem for the country. Girls Not Brides reports that 26 percent of girls in Benin are married before their 18th birthday. This issue persists, in part, from gender inequality. The United Nations, UNICEF and the Government of Benin are working to fight this through advocating for policy changes regarding the legal age of marriage.
  8. Nigeria and Benin have a close relationship. The majority of Benin’s exports go to Nigeria. Consequently, the economy in Nigeria can have both positive and negative effects on the country. Lately, increases in Nigeria’s economy have led to subsequent improvements in the economy of Benin. Trade is somewhat limited, partially resulting from lack of credit access to the people. However, in recent years, aspects of business, such as agriculture and exports, have positively grown.
  9. Seven percent of the country’s expenditures go toward public health. Under-five mortality rates are at a continuous decline. With growing emphasis placed on health care, this trend should continue. In addition, private health care is growing. There are some limitations though. For example, private health care is typically only available in urban areas. Within the health sector, UNICEF is diligently working to improve health care for both women and children through shaping policy and providing access to health care services.
  10. Benin initiated free public education for all citizens in 2007. International schools are also options for those who can afford it. Higher education is also a possibility in Benin at the National University of Benin.

Based on these top 10 facts about living conditions in Benin, it is clear that poverty is still abundant in the country. However, in recent years, there have been many efforts to combat underdevelopment and improve living conditions. Organizations, such as UNICEF and USAID, are working to improve the quality of living conditions in the country. UNICEF places an emphasis on helping women and children. USAID has implemented programs to shed light on corruption in Benin. These top 10 facts about living conditions in Benin show that with the joint efforts of these organizations and local communities, the country has a bright future.

– Carolyn Newsome
Photo: Flickr

Girls’ Education in Benin

Benin had set tremendous precedence after The Cold War ended by being one of the first African nations to democratize. Its successful democratic system has since allowed Benin to achieve relative economic stability; however, it still suffers from high infant and maternal mortality rates as well as women’s illiteracy.

Barriers to Girls’ Education in Benin

Girls’ education in Benin has been hindered by factors such as illnesses, extreme poverty and illiteracy. As the world becomes more and more technologically driven, the economic development of a country is directly affected by low levels of literacy. Poverty, coupled with the high costs of education, creates limited opportunities for girls to acquire a quality education in Benin and succeed in life.

Other major issues that Benin is facing regarding education are the high rates of teacher absenteeism and the limited resources to effectively manage the educational system. Along with these overarching issues, Beninese girls are disproportionately burdened with traditional gender roles. The traditional division of domestic labor typically calls for girls to stay at home and work, which has led to the traditional belief that an education is irrelevant to a girl’s reality. In Benin, the male literacy rate between the ages 15 and 24 is about 55 percent while the female literacy rate in the same age group is about 30 percent.

Improvements to Girls’ Education in Benin

An education population serves as the backbone of every nation. In Benin, improvement has been their top priority. The former president of Benin, Yayi Boni, took very important steps in developing the national education system and ensuring that girls had the resources they needed to go to school by enacting certain measures between the years 2006 and 2013.

A few of President Boni’s measures included ensuring free and universal primary education for all children, tuition support for girls pursuing a secondary education and partial support of enrollment fees for girls who are in industrial science and technology fields.

Partnerships for Education

International organizations such as the United Nations, The Global Partnership for Education (GPE) and UNICEF have all worked with the government of Benin to ensure that girls’ education in Benin is prioritized. Thus far, these partnerships have produced impressive results.

The United Nation’s main objective with this initiative was to mobilize the government of Benin and develop partners to improve the quality and availability of education, confront traditional gender norms surrounding girls’ education in Benin and help economically struggling parents afford the direct and indirect costs of school.

In 2016, the GPE approved a $428,794 grant for Benin to develop its education sector. This plan was implemented in 2017 and is set to end in 2025. The Education Sector Plan Development Grant will allow Benin to conduct a sector-wide analysis of the educational system in Benin.

UNICEF and Big Sistering

A creative UNICEF-supported program called “Big Sistering” was also established in Benin to make the typically long walk from home to school a little more enjoyable. The older girls who are considered “big sisters” not only make sure that the younger girls get to school every day but also have the added responsibility of advocating for the importance of going to school.

If a girl does not come to school one day, it is the big sister’s duty to find out why and report it back to the headmaster. Big sisters also keep a lookout for girls who are not enrolled in school and encourage them to attend. Often times, parents keep their girls home from school to work on farms or tend to animals. In these cases, the parent-teacher association contacts the parents in hopes of finding ways to overcome these barriers.

Through the collaboration of international organizations and the government of Benin, gross enrollment rates for primary education rose from 93 percent to 121 percent, the primary school completion rate increased from 65 percent to 77 percent and gender parity has almost been achieved.

To support these developments, Benin plans to continue its efforts in increasing the education budget. Increasing the budget will not only improve access to secondary education but also the quality of learning and equity at all levels of education.

– Lolontika Hoque

Photo: Flickr

Credit Access in BeninCredit access in Benin is a complicated issue that activists, governmental organizations and foreign aid groups have been working to improve for several years. 

Development Credit Authority

There are a few different ways that organizations have approached the issue. One method, incorporated by the U.S. Agency for International Affairs (USAID), involves improving Development Credit Authority (DCA). The program is designed to allow residents to apply their credit to projects for improving health and agriculture.

Through DCA, more than 500 guarantees have been made with USAID by financial institutions. These have resulted in up to $4.8 billion in private financing, creating opportunities for more than 245,000 entrepreneurs worldwide.

The Microcredit Program

Credit access in Benin is an issue that the local government attempted to solve as well. In 2007, the governmental set up the Microcredit Program, which allowed people to take out loans for individual success and enterprises. It was designed to improve credit access across the country.

Credit access can affect poverty rates as well, giving people a chance to start new. Loans majorly affect a person’s ability to be successful and achieve personal goals.

Credit Access in Benin for Women

The World Bank recognizes in an overview of Benin’s finances that poverty in the country has a history of being unequal between genders. Women are more vulnerable and have fewer economic opportunities despite a lower poverty rate. Female-led households in poverty are at 28 percent in the country, while male-headed homes are higher at 38 percent. 

Economic opportunities such as the opportunity to participate in personal economic goals or business endeavors can be improved by credit, increasing the accessibility of economic opportunity for women.

Risks to Credit Institutions

Despite foreign aid efforts and the government working to improve credit access in Benin, the issue is still a complicated one and improvement is difficult due to the way that credit has been established in the country.

According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), several risk factors are present regarding the way credit institutions have been established and overseen in Benin. Government involvement, government bonds and the shallow financial market are risks to the success of the banking system and credit access in Benin. According to IMF, “The recent government plan not to pay back short-term bank loans, but to issue long-term bonds instead would not only deepen banks’ exposure to sovereign risk but also aggravate liquidity risks due to a sharp change in the maturity structure of the affected banks’ portfolio.”

As the government works to improve the credit system and the management of government loans and bonds, credit access in Benin may change. USAID and other groups will continue to look for ways to improve credit access in Benin. The DCA program is only one way activists are working on improving the issue and financial analysis from organizations such as the World Bank and the IMF will be useful going forward for people looking to make a change.

– Gabriella Evans

Photo: Flickr