HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation has been working in Benin since 1995, with a special focus on basic education and vocation training, as well as drinking water and sanitation projects. In addition, HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation supports young people in rural areas in the north-west of the country to engage in working life by seizing employment and micro-entrepreneurship opportunities in relation to the development of sustainable agriculture.

Creating jobs and improving migration conditions

HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation promotes vocational training by organising short technical training courses for young people in the countryside who have either never been to school or not completed their schooling. Graduates specialise in a rural profession that is adapted to the situation in their immediate area. HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation’s aim is to convert this new vocational and further training approach into a state-recognised and publicly funded system.
HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation helps local organisations and communities to build and maintain the drinking water infrastructure. Health centres and schools are supplied with the considerable amounts of clean drinking water they require by means of hand- or solar-powered pipes. Additionally, HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation raises people’s awareness about issues of hygiene.
Helping people to help themselves is a prominent part of the fight against poverty. HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation supports cotton farmers in their attempts to improve their product quality and marketing and, wherever possible, to change to organic production. We also facilitate contacts with Fairtrade buyers, which improves people’s income.
All HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation’s activities in Benin should be seen against the backdrop of increasing migration away from the Sahel region towards the Atlantic coast or into neighbouring Nigeria. HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation is taking account of this migration by adapting its projects to the needs and opportunities of migration before people leave (training) or on their return (by creating income-generation opportunities).

Little development despite political stability

“Fraternity, justice, work” is the motto of the Republic of Benin. In spite of greater democracy and general stability, the motto is barely relevant to large parts of the population. About a third of the population lives in poverty. Infant mortality is high and illiteracy widespread.
Benin figures very low down on the UN’s Human Development Index – 167th out of 187. About a third of all its inhabitants live in extreme poverty. Almost 90% of families are either directly or indirectly dependent on agriculture. However, their livelihoods are under threat, for in the south of the country more and more fertile land is being sold off to large landowners or agro-businesses, land which has until now generally been cultivated by smallholder farming families. They are powerless to resist this selling-off because they have no property titles.
60% of all adults can neither read nor write. Only about one in four women has been lucky enough to go to primary school. The country’s birth rate and infant mortality rate are among the highest in the world. There are only four doctors per 100,000 people, compared to 200 in Switzerland!
Benin is progressive in other areas. In 2003 it became the first African country to formally ban the circumcision of young girls. It is also one of the most stable democracies in Africa, even if that stability is fragile due to tensions in neighbouring countries such as Nigeria.

Reference projects in Benin

Water for healthy schools and safe births in Benin

Having to bring the water you need for childbirth to the maternity with you? That used to be a common practice at the Sirarou maternity ward until three years ago. Now there is a well that supplies the maternity and the nearby school ...
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  • Poverty rate

    52 % of the population lives on less than $1.25/day
  • UN Development Index

    166. rank of 188
Source: UNDP Human Development Report 2015
  • Working fields

    • Skills Development & Education
    • Rural Economy
    • Water & Infrastructure