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As climate change brings with it increased extreme weather events, one of the pressing issues for Africa's farmers will be how to address these challenges. One dimension to be factored in is that men and women farmers are responding to the pressures differently. The Conversation Africa's Samantha Spooner asked Grace Villamor about her research on gender-specific responses by farmers in Benin.

How are extreme weather events affecting farmers in Benin?

Volatile climatic conditions and dwindling natural resources have been cited as the reason for persistent emigration from Benin to other West African countries. The northern part of Benin, in particular, is highly vulnerable. Floods have become more intense and there have been more droughts as well as erratic rainfall patterns. The impact of this has been evident. In 2013, the River Niger overflowed its banks and caused massive damage in the areas of Karimama and Malanville. The majority of the population in those areas are farmers and fishermen so families along the river lost crops, livestock and fishing grounds. Approximately 3,000 houses were destroyed, forcing more than 10,000 people to move and find shelter. According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the value of crop losses was estimated at $20 million.

Another study conducted in Tanguieta, north-west Benin, found that winds have become increasingly violent and are responsible for the destruction of crops. Farmers also told the researchers that they had suffered delayed rainy seasons and less rain. As a result, the FAO estimated cereal production in northern Benin to have declined by about 5% in 2014 over the previous year's harvest.

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Benin, a country dependant on subsistent agriculture. Cotton is the main commercial crop, accounting for about 45% of the country's foreign-exchange earnings. The hydroelectric potential of the Mono River, also forms Benin's border with Togo, and is being developed, along with the construction of dams for power generation and irrigation. Also mineral reserves, notably of marble, iron, and phosphate, have not been fully exploited, which also presents an opportunity for investment.

 

 

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