Rural communities adapting to climate change in Benin

Climate changeEnvironment and climate change

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Climate change is now an undeniable reality for both scientific researchers and rural communities. International, regional, national and local actions are being undertaken to help poor farmers and rural communities reduce their vulnerability and better adapt to climate change.

In this context, a Benin-based non-governmental organization (NGO) called Initiatives for Sustainable Integrated Development is implementing a program called Strengthening the Capacity to Adapt to Climate Change in Rural Bénin. (PARBCC). Funded by the Climate Change Adaptation in Africa program, which is a joint initiative between the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), the project aims to strengthen the capacity of rural Beninese people to adapt to climate change, thus reducing food insecurity and rural poverty in Benin.

This script shares examples of successful adaptation by Beninese farmers. It is hoped that it will help farmers in other developing countries to better cope with the effects of the changing climate.

This script is based on actual interviews. You could use this script as inspiration to research and write a script on a similar topic in your area. Or you might choose to produce this script on your station, using voice actors to represent the speakers. If so, please make sure to tell your audience at the beginning of the program that the voices are those of actors, not the original people involved in the interviews.



Host of the program:Félix Houinsou
Guests of the show:
– Said Hounkponou: PARBCC project manager
– Glégnon Codjo: Farmer – a beneficiary of the project
– Tinari Kouagou: Farmer – another beneficiary of the project

Fade up signature tune, then under host

Dear friends across the airwaves, hello and welcome to our farming program. We have in the studio with us two farmers who will talk about their experiences with adapting to climate change. We will also talk with Mr. Said Hounkponou, the manager of a project that helps support these adaptations. Mr. Hounkponou will give you an overview of the project.

At the microphone, I am your humble servant, Félix Houinsou, your host for this program.

Fade up signature tune, then under host

Benin’s economy is mainly based on agriculture, and its agriculture is dependent on rain. But in recent years, the rainfalls are not as they were before. In the northern part of the country, there has been less rain and unpredictable rainfall throughout the season. The central part of the country has had drought and a growing trend towards having only one rainy season instead of two. In the southern part of the country, we’ve seen violent winds and a delay in the start of the rainy season. These changes seriously disrupt farming and increase the risk of famine. With this in mind, an organization called Initiatives for Sustainable Integrated Development is implementing a project calledStrengthening the Capacity to Adapt to Climate Change in Rural Bénin.Mr. Hounkponou, can you tell us about the project?

: Yes! Farmers inBeninare heavily dependent on the climate, and so they are seriously threatened by climate change.Benin’s climate has been changing. There is a lot of variability in the rains, with alternating drought and wet periods. This variability has been increasing because of global climate change. This project was born from the need to help people – especially farmers – to better cope with these changes. The objective of the project is to strengthen the capacity of Beninese rural people to adapt to climate change and to reduce food insecurity and rural poverty in Benin.

Who benefits from the project?

The farmers and the local officials are the main beneficiaries of the project. We work in 35 of the country’s 77 communes.

Can you describe the activities that the project does with each type of beneficiary?

With the farmers, we are conducting field experiments to identify agricultural practices and local knowledge that will help farmers successfully adapt to climate change. We have created an atmosphere of dialogue and exchange in which project staff and farmers interact as equals. Together, we discuss and choose by common agreement between the proposals made by both sides. Rather than giving lessons and imposing things, we act more as facilitators. We also bring them information on how the climate has changed in the last months, and the forecasts for the next months. This information is compiled and interpreted every two months by a committee which includes the national meteorological service, members of government ministries, and other organizations. The information is then discussed by committees in each commune, and then recommendations are broadcast to farmers on community radio stations. Farmers participate in these committees.
When it comes to local officials, the project aims to raise awareness. Since it is these officials who develop and implement policies at the municipal level, they must be involved in order to ensure the success of the projects. By involving local officials in leading the communal committees I mentioned earlier, the project ensures that local officials and other political authorities are well aware of the issues and of the roles they can play. Some adaptation measures cannot be implemented by farmers on their own. These include small dams, the planting of large tree lines as windbreaks, and many others. In some communes, the municipal administration has even included these measures in its own plan.

What are the adaptation options that you selected in agreement with the farmers?

They include updating planting dates to account for the changing climate, managing soil fertility, rainwater harvesting techniques for improved agricultural use of water, and integrated crop management.

Musical break 10 seconds and then fade under host

I now turn to you, Mr. Glégnon Codjo. You are a farmer, and you are a beneficiary of the project. What does climate change mean to you?

What comes to my mind first is the disruption of the rainy season. We now have a long dry season and a shorter rainy season. Rain falls at unpredictable times.

Before the project, what did you do to adapt to unpredictable weather?

We did not know that climate change is a natural phenomenon. We thought that it was caused by the wrath of our gods. So we made sacrifices to ask for their mercy in order for rain to fall. Because the beginning of the rainy season was late, we started planting late. This allowed us to avoid the dry spell which has regularly come after the first rains in recent years.

Because of the change towards only one rainy season during the year, we do not grow cotton anymore. We have diversified our food crops. Instead of growing cotton, we grow more soybeans, because they need less water, pesticides and fertilizer,
We plant groundnuts on a larger scale before the rains begin. We also grow cassava. These crops are more resistant to drought than cotton.

Now that the project is running, what are you doing to adapt to the rain problems caused by climate change?

When the project started, we had village meetings. In the meetings, we identified options for adapting to climate change. Based on our discussions, we decided to grow maize and mucuna as well as soybeans and peanuts in strips. These are new practices for us.

10 seconds musical break and then fade under host

Mr. Tinari Kouagou, you are also one of the farmers who participated in the experiments on adaptation. Do you have any comments or criticisms of the project?

No complaints, only very good assessments.

What are these good assessments?

With the support from the project, we have done some very good experiments and we had very good crops, despite the unpredictable rainfall. We are all sincerely happy about that.

Can you please explain some of the experiments you have conducted with this project?

Here in northernBenin, there is less rain during the season. There is also erratic rainfall. Pigeon peas and soybeans are more resistant to drought. So, we plant them first when the rainy season is delayed. When the rain starts, we intercrop them with maize.

Because our soils are no longer fertile, the project has taught us to do alley cropping. This technique is very useful for improving poor soils. It protects the soil from the effects of heavy rain, and protects the crops from winds. For example, at the beginning of the last rainy season, we directly planted in the ground, at every five metres, seeds of trees in rows. Between each row of trees, we grow vegetables. We planted rows of trees along contour lines, across the slope. Growing crops this way protects the soil during irregular rainfall, since the rows of trees keep rainwater in the soil.

The issue of water is the main problem plaguing agriculture inAfrica. So, it is a good thing that you have learned how to manage rainwater for use in farming. Can you share your knowledge in this area with the farmers who are listening to us now?

Often, during the rainy season, rainwater fills the lowland fields and floods crops. To avoid this flooding, we use something called the Zaïre technique. This involves digging small holes between the plants to allow the water to seep into the soil. When it rains, runoff can clog the holes with twigs and sand. Thus, after each rain, you have to remove the twigs and sand. This technique is most effective on clay soils, because clay soils store more water than other kinds of soil. It prevents rainwater from flooding the crops grown in the lowlands.

(Speaking to the project manager) Some farmers’ fields are located on a plateau, and they do not have problems with flooding. What should they do to retain water in their field?

We recommend mulching for these farmers. Mulching involves spreading crop residues to retain a small amount of moisture in the soil after the rain. Mulching is used especially on sandy, porous soils. When it stops raining, these soils become dry quickly, and water seeps away from plant roots.

The best time to use mulching is when the crops flower. Mulching will not only keep moisture in the soil, but it will also reduce the growth of weeds.

Also, we recommend using as much organic fertilizer as possible. Organic fertilizers help retain water in the soil and are often cheaper than chemical fertilizers.

Fade up of signature tune then under the host’s voice

Planting crops which are resistant to heat and drought, but grown together and with enough water resources. These are among the strategies that farmers inBeninare undertaking to adapt to climate change, with the support of the PARBCC project. After only one year of testing, the results are good. This project deserves to be implemented in other African countries.
Dear friends and listeners, thank you for listening. I hope you liked this program, and that you learned about some ways to adapt to climate change. Goodbye!


Contributed by: Felix S Houinsou, Radio Immaculée Conception, Benin, a Farm Radio International broadcasting partner.
Reviewed by: Nathalie Beaulieu, Program Officer, Climate Change Adaptation in Africa (CCAA), West and Central Africa Regional Office (WARO), IDRC.

Information sources

Hounkponou Said, Coordinator PARBCC / IDID NGO
Gnidé Gildas, PARBCC in charge of the Collines department, Benin
IDID’s website