Enhancing urban food security in and around the cities of Benin

Food insecurity of urban poor in Sub-Sahara Africa is a serious development challenge. The number of inhabitants grows faster than the infrastructure and basic utilities cities provide them with. This situation leads to overcrowded megapoles which have trouble to ensure poor basic needs. Moreover, nutritional situation of urban poor is daunting because they face seasonal food shortages and price volatility. Furthermore, commodities like fruits, vegetables and dairy products can become unaffordable luxuries to poorer urban inhabitants.

Benin situation is an illustration of this urban food insecurity issue. Indeed, 45 per cent of Beninese people lives in fast growing cities where poorer segments, especially female-headed households, lack access to healthy foods. A study on vulnerability and food security, conducted by World Food Program, FAO, UNICEF, and INSAE in 2009, showed that prevalence of food insecurity among urban households is 15%, whereas only 6% of urban households consume fruits, which increases the risk of deficient intake of micro-nutrients and vitamins. In addition to food shortage, adult overweight is also a problem in Benin with a prevalence of 32% in 2008. As for under-five malnutrition, in 2006 it reached an extraordinarily high level of 45% and is still a huge concern. This appraisal shows that food security for children is particularly worrisome, and though food availability for adults in terms of calorie may on average be close to adequate, food quality and choice of diet patterns is an issue of concern for an increasing part of the population.

To address these concerns, the Centre d’Actions pour l’Environnement et le Développement Durable (ACED), in partnership with the Center for World Food Studies of the University of Amsterdam (SOW-VU) and the Faculty of Agronomic Sciences of the University of Abomey-Calavi, implements from 2016 to 2019 the project “Enhancing urban food security through development of allotment gardens in and around the cities of Benin”. The project aims to create an integrated framework for the development of allotment gardens, providing urban poor with access to fresh foods and with a safe haven for women to gain additional income.

The project is funded by the Food & Business Global Challenges Programme of the Dutch Organisation for Scientific research (NWO).