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Benin is part of:
Africa · Western Africa ·
Water Basins of Benin:
Mono · Niger Basin · Oueme · Volta ·
Facts & Figures edit
Capital Porto-Novo (official)
Neighbouring Countries Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria, Togo
Total Area 112,620 km2
  - Water 2,000 km2 (1.78%) / 178 m2/ha
  - Land 110,620 km2
Coastline 121 km
Population 8,438,853 (75 inhab./km2)
HDIA 0.459 (2007)
Gini CoefficientA 36.5 (1995)
Nominal GDPB $6,940 million
GDP (PPP) Per CapitaB $1,500
National UN Presence FAO, UNDP, UNHCR, WHO, UNICEF, WB, UNESCO, UN-Habitat
Land UseC
  - Cultivated Land 28,651 km2 (25.9%)
     - Arable 26,029 km2 (23.53%)
     - Permanent Crops 2,622 km2 (2.37%)
     - Irrigated 120 km2
  - Non cultivated 40,190 km2 (74.1%)
Average Annual RainfallD 1039 mm
Renewable Water ResourcesE 25.8 km3
Water WithdrawalsF 0.13 km3/yr
  - For Agricultural Use 45%
  - For Domestic Use 32%
  - For Industrial Use 23%
  - Per Capita 18 m3
Population with safe access to
  - Improved Water Source 67%
     - Urban population 78%
     - Rural population 57%
  - Improved Sanitation 33%
     - Urban population 59%
     - Rural population 11%
References & Remarks
A UNDP Human Development Report
B CIA World Factbook and Wikipedia
C CIA World Factbook Country Profiles
D Aquastat - FAO's Information System on Water and Agriculture
E CIA World Factbook
F Earthtrends

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> Sector Assessment | Sector Coordination | Donor Profile

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Country Profile: Climate, Geography, Socio-Economic Context

Benin is a coastal country located between the equator and the tropic of Cancer. It gets abundant rainfall overall, but with a lot of regional variation between the North and the South of the country. Over the past few years, the overall water cycle has been distorted, with a reduction in the annual mean rainfall and an intensification of periods of drought. It is still too early to say whether this change will be permanent. The hydrographical network is quite dense, and consists of various streams and rivers which are of a seasonal nature. Ground water is abundant but poorly distributed over the country. It is generally estimated that in the bedrocks in the Centre and North of the country the ground water resources are not sufficient to cover the long term water supply needs.

Extrapolating from the latest census (2002), it is estimated that Benin had around 7.8 million inhabitants in 2007. Between 1992 and 2002, the growth rate of the population was 3.25%, and it is expected that the rate will continue to grow, as the population is expected to reach 10.7 million inhabitants in 2015. The coming years will be characterized by accelerated urbanization: it is estimated that by 2015 two out of every three Beninese will be living in urban areas, against just under half in 2009. In addition to the three big historical cities (Cotonou, Porto Novo and Parakou), where urban development is already very rapid, the coming decade will see the rise of new urban centres (Godomey, Sèmè Kpodji), as well as the progressive emergence of a network of secondary towns.

Country Profile: Water Bodies and Resources

Country Profile: Legal and Institutional Environment

Key Agencies Benin's Water Sector
Key Agencies Benin's Water Sector

Efforts to decentralize authority over WSS functions to the newly created municipalities continues successfully in Benin’s rural areas. In contrast, Benin’s urban areas receive WSS service from one semi-autonomous public utility known as SONEB. Sanitation services differ markedly from water supply services in both institutional arrangements and coverage of services. The Hygiene and Basic Sanitation Authority (DHAB) provides sanitation services directly to institutions such as schools, hospitals, SONEB, and the Ministry of Environment, Housing and Urbanism. Consequently, support for better management of sanitation and hygiene functions requires substantial attention at all levels of government, particularly to establish clear lines of authority and define institutional roles and responsiblities as decentralization processes progress.

Benin is currently revising its national water policy, which includes a strategy for sanitation and hygiene, promotes integrated water resources management (IWRM) and creates a regulatory agency with oversight over WSS service provider delivery standards. Estimates for sector financial planning indicate more than sufficient investments for water supply improvements will be available, but significant donor assistance is needed in the sanitation sub-sector.

Donor Involvement

Monitoring and evaluation capacity is especially lacking in urban area activities. Institutional and service management capacity may be a greater need than financing, but progress is expected as the process of decentralization empowers local municipalities to manage and monitor their systems. Key donors in these efforts include the French Development Agency (AFD), the World Bank/Water and Sanitation Program, the German development partners - Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technishe Zusammenarbeit (GTZ), the German Development Bank (KfW), and the Netherlands.

Country Profile: Water Sector Coordination

See Sector coordination sub-page for detailed description

Country Profile: Trends in Water Use, Management and Sanitation

Country Profile: Challenges and Opportunities

Benin has made slow, but steady progress developing its water supply and sanitation (WSS) sector since the 1990s. Particularly in rural areas, international donors and the government have succeeded in significantly expanding coverage under a clear development framework. The national utility responsible for urban areas, however, has not defined strategies to improve and expand coverage and as a result has been slow to improve its performance and WSS coverage in urban and peri-urban areas.

Benin’s WSS sector will need to develop clear national strategies related to WSS management capacity in order to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The most prominent areas requiring improvement include: 1) improving the management capacity of both the newly created municipalities with authority over WSS service and the National Water Society of Benin (SONEB); 2) improved planning and management of service provider finances; and 3) strengthening WSS monitoring and evaluation (M&E). Most importantly, the MDG goals are reachable if sector financing and management capacity continue to follow current trends. Stronger M&E processes will better link WSS sector improvements to poverty reduction strategies, especially as better linkages between sanitation and health are embedded within broader poverty reduction strategies.

Make Access to Services Even More Equitable

Benin makes numerous efforts to increase the coverage rate of water supply, initially in rural areas and more recently in urban environments (this includes projects which are in the process of being identified and implemented by SONEB). In order to provide equitable access to basic services, it is now necessary to find a better balance between the quantitative aspects (the number of water points constructed, the amount of money spent in the sector) and the qualitative dimensions (where are the water points located? who has access? what is the level of service?). With respect to sanitation the challenges are: increasing access to sanitary facilities (in rural areas) and improving the safe collection and disposal of faecal sludge (in the cities).

Promote a culture of "good governance" at all levels

Today, efforts to bring about a true culture of “good governance” face a divide between the central level and the local level, and between the Government and the non-governmental actors as a whole. The first of these relates to the fact that communes have been given an important role without a true transfer of these responsibilities.

The communal level is not yet sufficiently recognized by the State which comes from a strong centralist tradition. The second challenge relates to the need to improve the involvement of representatives of civil society in the coordination and monitoring efforts which have been promoted over the past years.

Continue to strengthen local authorities in their role of planners and managers of basic public services

Communes are now part of the local political landscape and no-one challenges the responsibility which they have been given by law with respect to water and sanitation. Today it is the effectiveness of this transfer of responsibility which is the biggest problem, because communes do not have access to the finances (projects continue to be managed at central level) and because their capacities are limited. The strengthening of local authorities in their role as maîtres d’ouvrage (in the broad sense: the “maître d’ouvrage” concept encompasses the functions of planning and organizing the delivery of basic public services) is the biggest challenge to the sector for the 10 coming years. This strengthening is supposed to simultaneously address three major challenges: redefining the role of the State and of decentralized departments; designing new spheres of intervention which are between the commune (too small) and the national level (no longer relevant); and solving a certain number of specific issues related to conflicts of responsibility (for example with respect to urban sanitation).

Make hygiene and sanitation a true “national cause”

In spite of the progress which has already taken place (PHAB, National Sanitation Day) and the commitments made by Benin at an international level (AfricaSan conference, 2008), there is still a lot that remains to be done if hygiene and sanitation are to leave their marginalized position and to become national priorities. In this battle, it is clear that communes will have to take a primary role, in part because they are close to the users and to the decentralized structures of the Ministry of Health. Civil society should also be an integral part of this mobilisation effort. It is not just a question of increasing the available financing – rather hygiene and sanitation must be made a “national cause” to be adhered to. It is similarly important to critically examine the methods which are currently used in promoting hygienic behaviour and the level of appropriation of these issues at local level.

Increase the capacity of the sector to absorb additional financing

The water and sanitation sector in Benin does not suffer from lack of financing. Development partners are very committed; the State’s participation is still weak, but there is an apparent willingness to do more. It appears, however, that the capacity of the sector to turn money into facilities and better access has reached a limit. This situation can only be overcome if several bottlenecks are addressed simultaneously: the slow processing of the requests at local level, the slow processing of public bids, the excessive centralization of procedures, the implementation capacity of the public and private operators, and the absence of rigorous monitoring of contracts. In the long term, increasing absorption capacity is not just a challenge which is relevant to the national level, but also to the communes. NGOs must also have access to sources of financing.

Define and implement an Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) policy

Demographic growth in Benin will continue to make access and sharing of water resources difficult, in particular for supplying urban areas and in rural areas where the resources are limited and threatened by human activities. It is therefore important to define and to implement a policy for IWRM which should intervene at various levels. The institutional level (adapting the Water Act and the other current regulations) is important, as is the intermediary level (quantitative and qualitative knowledge and monitoring of the resource). But it is similarly important to take action at local level, to develop joint capacity to share and protect water resources in a sustainable manner, at local or micro-local level, at the level of the commune, or even at the level of a rural territory.


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Projects and Case Studies

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5 most recently updated publications on Benin
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Who is Who

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Organizations working in Benin
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See also

External Resources

"Water Supply and Sanitation in Benin" on wikipedia




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