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A countrywide multi-ethnic assessment of local communities’ perception of climate change in Benin (West Africa)

Sanchez, Aida Cuni, Fandohan, Belarmain, Assogbadjo, Achille Ephrem, Sinsin, Brice
Climate and development 2012 v.4 no.2 pp. 114-128
biodiversity, climate change, credit, farmers, focus groups, food security, latitude, men, nationalities and ethnic groups, research policy, seeds, villages, women, Benin
Climate change poses significant challenges to biodiversity, food security, water availability and health, especially in Africa. Research within local communities can lead to a better understanding of the observed changes in climate, and help to find more appropriate strategies for dealing with them. A number of studies have been carried out in West Africa, but most focus on Sahelian countries and all focus on a single area with one or two ethnic groups. Therefore, to determine whether a countrywide multi-ethnic assessment could provide more accurate information, we studied perceptions of climate change in local communities in Benin. Two focus groups (men and women) were carried out in nine villages. Local farmers and herders were asked about the changes in climate they have observed, the effects of these changes, and how they have adapted to them. Observed changes in climate followed a latitudinal trend, and were in agreement with available climatic studies. Some of the observed changes in climate had not been reported before for this latitude in West Africa. The effects of these climatic changes and the adaptive strategies used differed between areas and ethnic groups. Some adaptive strategies were only used by some ethnic groups. We found that the main obstacles preventing communities from adopting new strategies were unavailability of credit, lack of improved seeds and insufficient information. The findings support the conclusion that country-level multi-ethnic assessments provide key information for both climate change research and policy development.