Located in West Africa, Benin has a long frontier with its eastern neighbour Nigeria, and is bordered by Togo to the west and Burkina Faso and Niger to the north.
Many of Benin’s estimated 10 million people live in the port city of Cotonou, on the Gulf of Guinea.
The population is growing at 3.5 per cent a year and 56 per cent is rural. Around 60 per cent of people are aged 15-35. The pace of population growth is a big challenge: Benin is one of the poorest countries in the world, and its 2014 Human Development Index of 0.476 ranks it 169th of 187 countries
International support, and economic and structural reforms have helped Benin achieve growth in Gross Domestic Product of 4 to 5 per cent a year over the past two decades, but poverty is gradually increasing, reaching 40.1 per cent in 2015. Poverty is lower among female-headed households yet women are more vulnerable and lack economic opportunities.
Agriculture generates around 70 per cent of employment and 30 per cent of GDP, but is dependent on rainfall and vulnerable to climate change. An estimated 550,000 smallholdings averaging 1.7 hectares dominate subsistence farming of cereals and tubers.
A chronic lack of jobs in rural areas spurs youths to migrate to urban areas. Market gardening is a major direct and indirect source of jobs for young people and women in towns, their environs and rural areas, and has scope for development to meet a shortage of vegetables throughout the sub-region.
In Benin, IFAD loans support the Government in reducing poverty and improving the livelihoods of poor rural people.
Activities target the most disadvantaged households in rural areas. Our approach is based on the use of local service providers to support communities.
Key activities include:
- improving access by small- and medium-sized rural operations to adapted financial services;
- improving income for smallholder farmers and vegetable growers and enhancing resilience to climate change through their integration into sustainable value chains for production, distribution and sale of flowers, rice, soya, pineapple, cassava, and maize;
- helping farmer organizations and local associations take part in steering and managing economic development within their communes.
About 44 per cent of the people of Benin live in urban areas which are concentrated in the south.
Agriculture plays an important role in Benin's economy, generating 70 per cent of employment and 30 per cent of GDP.
Cotton is a vital cash crop, providing 5 per cent of GDP and 27 per cent of exports.