World Education Continues Partnerships in Northern Benin to Halt Biodiversity Loss under New Darwin Initiative-funded Project

May 24th, 2024 | News


World Education, a division of JSI, is excited to announce a new award from the Darwin Initiative, a UK Government funding scheme addressing biodiversity loss and multidimensional poverty. The project will partner with the Government of Benin (GOB) to institutionalize community-led biodiversity-sustaining agroforestry practices piloted under World Education’s Women-led, School-based Agroforestry Project.

Benin ranks 166 of 191 countries in the 2021 Human Development Index report. About 80% of the population is employed in agriculture, accounting for one-third of Benin’s GDP. Agriculture is a key cause of biodiversity loss in Benin. Cash crop production and demand for food diminish biodiversity through habitat degradation, fragmentation, and conversion. Current agricultural practices deplete soils, causing people to abandon fallow and search for new land.

Following national trends, anthropogenic pressures—primarily agricultural—cause biodiversity loss in Benin’s Ouémé Supérieur and N’Dali forests. Despite efforts of GOB policy makers, local forestry units do not actively engage communities in natural resource management, in part due to communities’ reliance on unsustainable agricultural practices to survive.

World Education’s new project, AgroNative, will partner with GOB to support communities to design agroforestry systems that integrate native trees and herbaceous plants (flowers, shrubs, bushes) with fruit trees and common crop species. Agroforestry is a practice that replicates forested ecosystems. By including native plants instead of only trees that produce agricultural products, agroforestry systems can harbor native fauna—birds, insects, and other invertebrates, small mammals, reptiles, and amphibians. In turn, native fauna contribute to a more sustainable landscape that strengthens agricultural resilience by retaining moisture, absorbing flood water, increasing humidity, regulating temperatures, improving nutrient cycling, and maintaining soil fertility.

The AgroNative project will:

  • Strengthen the institutional and technical capacity of the local government to sustainably fulfill its mandate and ensure linkages between department- and commune-level forestry and agriculture ministries.
  • Work with the government to promote leadership in biodiversity conservation through sustainable agriculture by engaging community members in citizen science activities.

AgroNative builds on World Education’s decades of experience partnering with communities and government in Benin, particularly in the north, as well as its current Darwin Initiative-funded project that advances school and community-led biodiversity conservation through citizen science.

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