LoCAL brings peppercorn to Benin’s ‘last mile’ to encourage South-South cooperation
In Benin’s hard-to-reach Northern “last mile,” the UN Capital Development Fund’s Local Climate Adaptive Living Facility (LoCAL) programme works in three different areas. In its selection process, the programme tries to pick communes in accordance to their need for climate change adaptation. This is why the commune of Copargo is one of them.
The commune lies in the hilly western side of Benin and covers an area of approximately 876 square kilometres. It also has a population of more than 50,000 people (2002). Moreover, Copargo is home to the country’s youngest mayor – and one who is passionate about climate change adaptation.
At 34 years of age, the Mayor of Copargo, Mr. Ignace Ouorou was elected on 28 July 2015. He said he knew about LoCAL’s efforts in the commune even before being elected, highlighting its importance to the community around it.
The mayor is partially overlooking a project by LoCAL to support and maintain an important levee. The levee has helped in water management during times of draught, flooding and in counteracting the unpredictability of the weather due to climate change.
The water levee has transformed the livelihood of locals living close to it. The rehabilitated levee has shifted the land around it from a track prone to seasonal floods to a large area of farmland. The structure has also employed 15 locals, women and men, as opposed to two people previously.
The youngest mayor in Benin is no stranger to this kind of project. He is passionate about the subject and has majored in agronomy with a specialty in water management, graduating in 2012 from Cotonou to come back and serve his commune, which is in need of environmentally friendly solutions. He has also received an award from the Consultative Committee for Youth at the beginning of 2016 for his outstanding contribution.
“The LoCAL programme is very important for the people of Copargo. It has given some people a chance at employment, particularly young people, whether at the site or on the field or by selling the goods at the market – reviving parts of the local economy along the way” said Mr. Ouorou.
In fact, the programme has been greatly beneficial to the local population, for instance, in expanding opportunities to new produce in their markets. Since, the availability of water does not anymore depend heavily on the rainy season, local farmers have gone beyond cultivating traditional crops like maize, sorghum or millet to venture into new territory, expanding their offerings to the market – further diversifying their sources of income.
Currently, the farm surrounding the levee has sections dedicated to growing pepper. The new crop has attracted many buyers’ attentions because of its taking to the soil and how comparatively lucrative it is. Pepper has proven to be so popular that merchants from neighboring Togo have travelled across the border to Copargo to buy it, introducing new actors to the market and encouraging South-South cooperation, in turn. Copargo is a mere 32 kilometers by road from the Togolese border.
“The sales of pepper have changed the way farmers deal with land management. Local farmers are seeing more revenue coming from diversifying their crops and that there is a demand for an array of produce” said Mr. Ouorou.
The mayor explained that the programme is doing so well, that there is a growing interest in funding 10 percent of it by the local municipality. The levee serves a variety of needs not only linked to the provision of water for crops, but also for drinking water for livestock and helping preventing the flooding of the area during the rainy season.
“What happened in Copargo has demonstrated that the LoCAL programme, with its performance-based grant mechanism, increased the subnational government capacity to strengthen the resilience of their community. The small infrastructures developed by the commune through this programme have increased fix capital formation, which, at the end, will transform the local capacities in economic development.” explained Fakri Karim, LoCAL’s Programme Manager.
Because of Copargo’s unique location near the most mountainous region of Benin, a variety of crops can be cultivated in this area that might not be able to grow elsewhere.
Close by, the Atacora Department, a drier region, boasts three seasons – rainy, famine and Harmattan (a season of cool and dry winds running from October to November), the LoCAL programme is considering to support the construction of a levee, based on the experience in Copargo, that would help to counteract the changing weather and improve the livelihoods of the locals.
The LoCAL programme of UNCDF provides a mechanism to increase awareness and response to climate change at the local level, integrate climate change adaptation into local governments’ planning and budgeting systems, and increase the amount of finance available to local governments for climate change adaptation. LoCAL combines performance-based climate resilience grants (PBCRGs), with technical and capacity building support. It uses the demonstration effect to trigger further flows for local adaptation, including global climate finance for local authorities, through their central governments. LoCAL is supported by the European Union Global Climate Change Alliance and the governments of Belgium, Liechtenstein and Sweden.
What happened in Copargo has demontrated that the LoCAL programme, with its performance-based grant mechanism, increased the subnational government capacity to increase the resilience of their community.