Protecting the Lower Ouémé Valley Biosphere Reserve of South Benin through an agroecological buffer zone
- Nature Conservation
- Sustainable Livelihoods
- Equatorial Afrotropics
|Category|| Nature Conservation |
|Realm|| Afrotropics |
|Status|| active |
|Funding Level|| $$$ |
One Earth’s Project Marketplace funds on-the-ground climate solutions that are key to solving the climate crisis through three pillars of collective action — renewable energy, nature conservation, and regenerative agriculture.
The Ouémé River Basin and its delta have been affected by changes in rainfall and flooding patterns, especially during recent decades. Flooding events due to river overflowing are usually associated with extreme weather. Although these events rarely exceed 30 per year, they are among the most damaging disasters.
Delays in the receding of water during flooding episodes can have serious consequences; among them are the destruction of crops when they remain submerged underwater for too long to be sown and cattle disappearing or dying. Some human settlements have even had to relocate temporarily due to the severity of these weather events. The combination of food insecurity and extreme poverty in the Ouémé River Basin has led some people to overexploit natural resources and hunt endangered species.
In South Benin, Centre Régional de Recherche et d’Education pour un Développement Intégré (CREDI) is putting youth at the center of efforts to protect nature in Benin’s Lower Ouémé Valley Biosphere Reserve while promoting community resilience. Established in 2006, CREDI has created an agroecological farm and a 67,000-hectare Community Natural Park in the Sitatunga Valley.
Nearly two million people live in the proximity of the Valley, which poses potential threats to the protected area. Among them are the loss of natural habitats; clearing in favor of urbanization and peri-urban agriculture; increased risks of organic and chemical pollution of wetland ecosystems; and accelerated overexploitation of natural resources, including timber, non-timber forest products, and fish.
CREDI has a vision to turn the Sitatunga Valley into an inter-municipal conservation model, establishing a productive buffer zone surrounding the nature reserve to support the conservation of biodiversity while providing ecosystem services, such as water security and sustainable livelihoods to the local population.
The Ouémé River is one of the few free-flowing rivers remaining in Africa—and the world. Another cause for concern is the threat of potential construction of dams and large water abstractions. As has occurred globally, this type of development could alter the hydrological regime of the river and impact important ecosystem services such as fisheries, fertile soils, flood retention, and water quality downstream in the Ouémé River delta.
The Sitatunga Valley is very rich in biodiversity, with 193 species of birds, 51 species of reptiles, 400 species of plants, and 47 species of mammals. One of the most iconic species is the sitatunga or marshbuck (Tragelaphus spekii), a swamp-dwelling antelope with splayed hooves. Despite being widely distributed throughout sub-Saharan Africa, in Benin, the sitatunga is only found in the wetlands and swamps in the southern part of the country. Here, trophy, bushmeat hunting, and rapid habitat loss threaten sitatunga populations.
As a result, Benin has classified the sitatunga as an endangered species within the country.
To achieve its goals, CREDI has taken on three main missions: the promotion of sustainable agriculture, environmental protection, and global citizenship education.
The seven main activities of the projects:
- Raising awareness of youth and elders about the environment and biodiversity
- Encouraging local participation through the organization of an annual hunters’ party and environmental contests on topics such as greenhouses, “Knowing nature,” and “I Sing for Nature”
- Restoring forests and marshlands through the “More Trees, More Life” program, organizing green days for planting firewood, planting on the edge of roads and trails, and planting to restore vegetation cover
- Promoting agroecology by providing training on the manufacture and use of organic fertilizers and biopesticides
- Education campaigns on sustainable consumption during the AlimenTERRE film festival throughout Benin
- Developing socio-community infrastructure such as education programs, classroom rehabilitation, the establishment of a health center, and improving clean water supply by installing boreholes equipped with human-powered pumps
- Supporting action that promotes ecotourism, sustainability, and solidarity