A member of ECOWAS (the Economic Community of West African States), Benin has 9.9 million inhabitants, of whom almost 2 million live in Cotonou, the economic capital. However, 70% of the population is still rural and mainly engaged in farming.
Access to energy in the country is restricted to the chief towns of municipalities and districts. The current grid covers the energy needs of only 29% of the national population and the country is essentially dependent on fossil fuels. Of households that could technically be connected to the grid, there are many who cannot afford it. This energy poverty is a significant brake on the territory's economic development and in particular on efforts to add value to agricultural production.
GERES in BEnin
With a presence in Benin since 2001, GERES works mainly in the central/southern area of the country on the theme of rural energy access.
From its branch office in Bohicon, helped by a multidisciplinary team of 19 employees, GERES Benin is running two flagship programs in Zou:
- The ALTERRE Benin project aims to provide energy access in rural areas, particularly for productive activities (crafts, food processing and services), focusing on the extraction of Jatropha oil produced and used locally. This source of renewable energy can power village engines in place of diesel or hybrid rural power stations. The project feeds into thinking and debate at sub-regional level concerning the relevance of such short supply chains in connection with the JatroREF network.
- The SETUP project consolidates GERES drive to promote development in rural areas, by assisting rural entrepreneurs in the food-processing sector to mechanize their production. This mechanization is a way of mobilizing, structuring and stimulating operators in agricultural value chains and training them to become genuine "rural entrepreneurs". The groundnut sector in particular sparked an original initiative to develop the local oil from Agonli, which the project is particularly keen to promote. The small-scale craft sector receives support through solar electrification.