Benin: Empowering women to protect the coastal lagoon

01 Mar 2011

imageAdovè warming up oysters to remove the shells (Photo: UNDP)

Benin - Until three years ago, Kindozandji Adovè, a mother of three daughters, had to decide which of her girls she would send to school, as her income from selling oysters was not enough to pay school fees for all of them.

Now, thanks to UNDP’s Small Grants Programme, she makes enough money to send all her girls to school, and have some left over.

Adovè received a microcredit loan of about USD$63 which helped her acquire the two rafts she now uses to harvest oysters in the coastal lagoon by where she lives. In addition, by using the rafts, she can engage in an oyster-harvesting method that also protects the environment.

Adovè is one of over 150 women and their families living along Benin’s coast, who have benefited from the project that encourages communities to seek local solutions to sustainable development, and find that crucial balance between conservation and income generation through activities such as oyster harvesting, salt production and land cultivation.

Before the project was started in January 2008, fishing yields in Benin’s coastal lagoon were in steady decline, falling from over 2100 tons in 1993, to 532 tons in 1999, to a mere 134 tons in 2008.

Recognizing the need for change, the Beninese Association of Professionals in Environmental Assessment, along with the Benin Project for Tourism Development, the Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme and UNDP, devised an environmentally sustainable method to harvest oysters that protects the mangrove trees and recycles old oyster shells.

Instead of chopping healthy mangrove branches on which the oysters typically grow, the new method entails hanging old oyster shells on a bamboo structure which is then placed into the lagoon water.

New oysters then latch onto, and grow on these old shells, and the oyster harvest now takes place without harming the mangrove trees, which protect the coastline from erosion and serve as protected nursery areas for fish and other ocean life. 

As part of the project’s effort to further preserve the lagoon and ensure future oyster stocks, the women are maintaining and monitoring non-fishing areas with the support of the community’s influential traditional village guardians. They have also reforested with eucalyptus a 1,000-metre stretch of coastline.

Contact Information

Mathieu Houinato
GEF Small Grants Programme National Coordinator
UNDP Benin
Email:  mathieu.houinato@undp.org