Helvetas has been active in Benin since 1995. This West African republic is relatively politically stable. And yet it has a lot of catching up to do in the areas of education and poverty reduction: roughly a third of the population lives in extreme poverty. Almost 60% of the adult population cannot read or write. Helvetas seeks to improve the quality of basic education and enable children who were previously excluded, or had to leave school early, to go (back) to school.
Helvetas is also involved in vocational training in Benin. In short courses of technical training, young people learn an occupation for which there is a real demand in rural areas, such as carpenter or forester. We apply the tried and tested dual system used in Switzerland, combining classes in theory with practical training under expert guidance. The aim is also to promote farming and skilled trades among young people and make the most of the economic potential of these promising sectors. The education authorities are working with us to establish the vocational and continuing education programs as a state-approved system.
Medical care is scarce in Benin: For 100,000 inhabitants there are only four doctors here – as against 200 in Switzerland. The infant mortality rate in Benin is one of the highest in the world. The lack of sanitation and poor hygiene are the main reasons so many infants get sick. This is why Helvetas provides support for the building and maintenance of drinking water supply systems, e.g. in schools. These systems are either hand-operated or driven by solar energy. A functional infrastructure alone, however, is not enough to improve public health: hygiene education is also essential, and an integral part of Helvetas’ sanitation projects.
Migration poses a formidable challenge to Benin and all of West Africa. Many young people leave their home temporarily or permanently for work and fertile land to farm. We support local authorities and migrants in their economic integration and in preventing conflicts with the local populations.
Visit the website of Helvetas Benin.
If you would like to know more about our work in Benin, click on each project for details.