Benin: Country Profile

The Republic of Benin is located in West Africa in the intertropical zone, between parallels 6°30′ and 12°30′ North latitude, and meridians 1° and 3°40′ East longitude. It has a total surface area of 114,763 km² and is bounded: to the north by the Republic of Niger over 277 km, with 120 km bounded by the River Niger; to the north-west by Burkina Faso over 386 km; to the west by Togo over 651 km; to the east by Nigeria over 809 km; and to the south by the Atlantic Ocean (over 121 km). From north to south, it extends over 700 km, with a width varying from 125 km (along the coast) to 325 km (at Tanguiéta-Ségbana latitude).

It comprises 12 departments, 77 communes, 546 arrondissements and 5,295 villages and city districts.

Benin Map Placeholder
Benin Map

Demographic situation

Benin’s total population is estimated at 12,193,278, 51.2% of whom are female (INSAE 2020 estimate based on the 2013 RGPH-4). The annual growth rate is 3.5%, and the proportion of live births, surviving infants and children under 5 represents 4%, 3% and 15% of the total population respectively. Nationally, the fertility rate was 4.67 children per woman in 2018. Benin’s population is very young, with over 56.5% under the age of 19. Life expectancy at birth is 59 for men and 61 for women. More than half the population (52.2%) lives in rural areas. Average population density is 87 inhabitants per km², with significant variations ranging from 13 inhabitants per km² in Alibori in the north to 1,013 inhabitants per km² in Littoral in the south. The urbanization rate was estimated at 44% in 2015. Recent migratory movements have led to the settlement of several tens of thousands of foreigners in Benin.

Climate situation

Benin has two types of climate. The southern part has a sub-equatorial climate with four seasons, while the northern part (center and north) has a tropical climate with two distinct seasons. The different areas of the territory are differently impacted by climate change, which induces exceptional rainfall, and favors flooding in the coastal sedimentary basin and the flood plains of the main rivers.

Temperatures are consistently high, averaging between 25°C and 29°C daily, with humidity varying between 69% and 97% across the country. They are often highest in March, while August sees a drop in temperatures. Temperature variability is greater in the north than in coastal areas.

The health sector in Benin is mainly affected by excessive heat, floods, drought and associated variations in relative humidity. The main impacts of excessive heat-related hazards are food spoilage with food poisoning, discontinuity in the supply of health services, cardiovascular diseases, heat stress (canicule) and acute respiratory infections. The main impacts of flood- and drought-related hazards are vector-borne diseases (notably malaria in wet periods and meningitis in dry periods), malnutrition, food-borne diseases, diseases linked to faecal peril and interruption of medical services (flood/flood damage to sanitary facilities).

Environmental situation

The relief and hydrographic network explain the presence of a variety of ecosystems, such as cordon littoral plant communities, swampy areas and mangrove swamps in brackish environments, dry forests, riverbank forest galleries, grasslands and savannahs.

The risk of flooding in river basins is greatest in areas bordering the minor and major river beds and their main tributaries. Due to heavy urbanization, cities (Cotonou, Abomey-Calavi, Porto-Novo and, to a certain extent, Parakou and Djougou) concentrate environmental problems with major repercussions on the health of the population: poor wastewater disposal, inadequate waste treatment (household, industrial, biomedical), heavy traffic and air pollution.

The road network is the subject of particular attention in terms of the many road accidents observed.

In recent years, Benin has also been confronted with a series of environmental disasters that have had a significant impact on public health. Among these, floods, fires and other extreme climatic events have become increasingly frequent and severe on a global scale. Since 2007, the country has been affected by a variety of environmental phenomena, such as high winds, landslides, coastal erosion, marine pollution, nuclear, radiological, biological and chemical risks, and earthquakes. These events not only have a direct impact on infrastructure and livelihoods, but also pose a serious threat to the health and well-being of local populations, highlighting the need for effective environmental risk management and rapid disaster response.

 This combination of geomorphology, climate and hydrography often influences the country’s epidemiological profile, which is essentially characterized by tropical pathologies, with a predominance of endemo-epidemic diseases such as malaria, cholera, zoonoses, and sometimes cerebrospinal meningitis, all of which have an impact on health safety.

Socio-economic situation

The March 2016 presidential election ended in victory for Patrice Talon. In December 2016, the new team in power adopted the “Government Action Program” (PAG), a development plan structured around 45 flagship projects aimed at improving productivity and living conditions for the population.

Although the socio-political climate remains generally favorable and conducive to reform, the authorities are faced with expectations on the economic front to reduce youth unemployment, improve living conditions, stimulate growth and strengthen public services.

As regards the macroeconomic context, for 2017, Benin’s real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate was estimated at 5.5%, up from 4% in 20161. Projections for 2018 and 2019 are also promising, with respective rates of 6% and 6.3%.

The country’s positive outlook should also be driven by the considerable increase in agricultural production, particularly cotton, estimated at 578,000 tonnes for the 2017-20182 campaign; the increase in electricity generation capacity; and the economic recovery in Nigeria, on which Benin’s trade activity depends.

The country has also improved in the Doing Business rankings, where it was among the top ten reforming countries in 2015 and 2016. It thus moved up from 158th place in 2015 to 151st out of 190 countries in 2017. However, despite these positive developments, this ranking testifies to the extent of the efforts required to improve the business climate. The obstacles facing the private sector are linked to the quality of infrastructure, such as access to electricity or the Internet, access to credit and financing, and a tax system that needs to be improved.

Data on livestock, agriculture and the main livestock-related industries

The agricultural population is 6,506,980, or 54.8% of Benin’s total population. The departments of Alibori, Atacora, Borgou and Couffo account for over 45% of this population. The average size of farming households is 7 people. The number of agricultural workers in the country is 2,328,820, including 1,117,823 women, with a greater concentration in the 25-34 age bracket. The departments of Alibori, Atacora and Borgou account for almost 40% of this workforce.

Agriculture, in the broadest sense, is practiced by 926,539 households throughout the country. More than a quarter (¼) of Benin’s farming households live in Pôle 7 (Ouémé-Atlantique-Littoral-Mono). Next come Pôle 4 (Borgou Sud-Donga-Collines) and Pôle 5 (Zou-Couffo) with around 24% and 20% of farm households respectively. Over 15% of these households are headed by women. The average age of farm household heads is 43.5 years. Over 95% of agricultural households in Benin are involved in crop production, i.e. 886,368 households.

Livestock production activities involve 606,112 farm households. Fishing and aquaculture are practiced by 49,990 and 3,464 farm households respectively. Forestry is practiced by 57,235 farm households.

As for non-conventional livestock farming, the main species raised are rabbits, snails, guinea pigs and aulacods. In terms of numbers of producers and head of animals, rabbit is the most important species for non-conventional farming, with 94,005 head. Three (03) of the twelve (12) departments with the largest rabbit populations, notably the Atlantic region (21.16%), Zou (16.76%) and Ouémé (15.49%), representing 53.41% of the country’s total workforce.

The livestock categories include cattle (1,773,157 head), goats (2,362,001 head), sheep (2,295,522 head), pigs (681,885 head), poultry (12,072,468 head). As far as cattle are concerned, the departments of Alibori (33.37%), Borgou (31.77%) and Atacora (11.65%) account for the bulk of all breeds. Sheep and goats make up the group of small ruminants raised throughout the country. The departmental breakdown puts Alibori in the lead for both species, with respective weights of 17.18% and 17.58%. Similarly, the departments of Couffo, Borgou and Atacora perform well in goat and sheep breeding, with weights, in terms of animal numbers, ranging between 10% and 15%. In terms of pigs, the Atacora department accounts for 20.29% of the herd. A substantial proportion of the pig population is found in the departments of Zou (18.03%), Atlantique (13.26%), Ouémé (11.94%) and Couffo (11.29%). In terms of poultry, the species most raised by farm households are local chickens, guinea fowl, laying hens and broilers. Thus, 10,250,541 head of local chickens, 1,348,029 head of guinea fowl, 356,098 head of laying hens and 117,750 head of broilers were recorded. As a result, local chickens remain the most popular poultry in Benin.

Of the 926,539 farm households surveyed, livestock farming is practiced in 606,112 farm households, along with other agricultural activities, i.e. in 65.42% of farm households, 15.65% of which are headed by women. Relatively more farm households engage in livestock farming in the departments of Couffo (81.99%), Atacora (78.38%), Donga (72.97%), Mono (71.96%), Alibori (68.57%), Borgou (65.36%) and Zou (60.62%). In these seven (07) departments, at least 6 households out of 10 practice livestock farming, in addition to other agricultural activities. Nationwide, there are 823,127 livestock farmers, including 247,533 women (30.07%). Alibori, Atacora, Borgou and Couffo account for 51.47% of all livestock breeders in Benin. The main livestock species are cattle (1,773,157 head), goats (2,362,001 head), sheep (2,295,522 head), pigs (681,885 head) and poultry (12,072,468 head).

The departments of Alibori (33.37%), Borgou (31.77%) and Atacora (11.65%) account for most of the cattle population, all breeds combined. The distribution of cattle by Pôle de Développement Agricole (PDA) puts Pôle 2 (Alibori Sud, Borgou Nord- 2KP) in the lead with a proportion of 51.03%, followed by Pôle 4 (Borgou Sud-Donga-Collines) with 34.37%. In other words, eight (08) out of ten (10) cattle are found in Poles 2 and 4 combined. Sheep and goats make up the small ruminant group, and are raised throughout the country. The departmental breakdown puts Alibori in the lead for both species, with respective weights of 17.18% and 17.58%. Similarly, the departments of Couffo, Borgou and Atacora perform well in goat and sheep breeding, with weights, in terms of animal numbers, ranging from 10% to 15%. As for pigs, Atacora has 20.29% of the livestock. A substantial proportion of the pig population is found in the departments of Zou (18.03%), Atlantique (13.26%), Ouémé (11.94%) and Couffo (11,29%). In terms of poultry, the species most raised by farm households are local chickens, guinea fowl, laying hens and broilers. Thus, 10,250,541 head of local chickens, 1,348,029 head of guinea fowl, 356,098 head of laying hens and 117,750 head of broilers were recorded. As a result, local chickens remain the most popular poultry in Benin.

Beekeeping is a livestock production activity that occupies many Beninese in every department of the country, with the exception of Littoral. During the census, 5,565 beekeepers (including 172 women) were counted, with a total of 25,536 hives. The Atacora department has the highest number of beekeepers in Benin (47.24% of beekeepers). It is followed by Plateau (12.92%), Alibori (12.35%), Donga (11.14%) and Borgou (7.51%).

For conventional livestock farming, the analysis of results related to the number of farmers covers eight (08) main animal species. These include cattle, sheep, goats, pigs and the main poultry species, such as local chickens, laying hens, broilers and guinea fowl. Results vary from one animal species to another, and from one department to another. Cattle farmer numbers stood at 136,223, concentrated in the departments of Alibori (45.15%), Borgou (26.67%) and Atacora (13.18%). The distribution of cattle farmers by Pôle de Développement Agricole, places Pôles 2 and 4 in the lead, with proportions of 59.93% and 20.86% respectively. Sheep farming involves a total of 272,092 breeders, concentrated in the departments of Alibori (17.77%), Couffo (17.03%) and Borgou (13.12%). Goats are found throughout Benin. Goat breeding includes 305,611 farmers, in proportions similar to those for sheep. On the other hand, taking local chicken farming as an example, poultry farming occupies a significant number of individuals in all departments, with a total of 588,243 breeders, all sexes combined.

The total number of farms is 913,415, with an average farm size of 3.3 ha, 15.8% of which are run by women. Only 2% keep accounts and 6.9% have access to credit. The majority of farm jobs are part-time (80.6%), with an average working time per crop year of 2.2 months for men and 2.1 months for women. Full-time jobs account for 19.4% of farm jobs, with an average working time of 7.6 months for men and 6.7 months for women during the crop year.

The rate of mechanized soil tillage is 12.4%. Irrigation systems are present on 3.42% of farms, of which 40.90% use fully controlled irrigation, compared with 59.10% using partially controlled irrigation. A total of 53,011 ha of farmland are irrigated throughout the country. Rivers are the main source of water used for irrigation

As far as animal industries are concerned, they are underdeveloped. They include :

  • Three large feed production units, alongside the SHB and small artisanal units
  • Two low-capacity hatcheries
  • Slaughterhouses are public, with a few private slaughterhouses in communes.

Large-scale processing units are almost non-existent, with a few small-scale or semi-small-scale attempts at poultry meat and mini-dairies.

Over the past three decades, Benin has experienced recurrent health crises of varying scale and severity. These include epidemics (cholera, Lassa hemorrhagic fever, COVID-19, meningitis, measles, dengue fever, etc.) and other public health events.


Benin faces cholera epidemics almost every year. Between 2013 and 2022, the country faced seven epidemics, varying in scale from 50 cases (in 2019) to 1112 cases (in 2021), with case-fatality rates ranging from 1.1% (in 2013) to 2.6% (in 2020). The last major epidemic, in 2021, affected nine of the country’s twelve departments, revealing a total of 1112 cases and 20 deaths (case-fatality rate of 1.8%).

Lassa hemorrhagic fever virus (HFV)

Between 2013 and 2022, Benin reported five confirmed epidemics of FHV Lassa, joining the list of countries endemic to this disease. The number of cases varied from 02 (in 2017) to 54 (in 2016), with case-fatality rates ranging from 22.2% (in 2022) to 100% (in 2017). The first epidemic, in 2014, recorded a total of 16 cases and 09 deaths (case-fatality rate of 56.3%), five of whom were healthcare workers. The majority of cases occurred in the departments of Atacora, Borgou, Alibori, Donga, Littoral and Collines.


Benin reported its first case of Covid-19 on March 16, 2020. Between that date and December 12, 2022, the country confirmed a total of 2,8018 cases of Covid-19, resulting in 163 deaths, equivalent to a case-fatality rate of 0.6% (see Figure 4). By December 31, 2022, 2,748,452 people had received their full series of Covid-19 vaccines, representing 35.55% coverage among the eligible population.


Over the past decade, Benin has been hit by two meningitis epidemics. The first, in 2019, recorded 83 cases and 13 deaths, corresponding to a case-fatality rate of 15.66%. The second, in 2021, recorded 296 cases and 23 deaths (a case-fatality ratio of 7.8%). These epidemics generally occur in departments located in the African meningitis belt, notably Alibori, Atacora, Donga and Borgou.


Over the last ten years (2013 to 2022), 7991 cases have been reported, with 105 deaths, representing a case-fatality rate of 1.3%. Measles epidemics are also recorded mainly at a distance from national vaccination campaigns against the disease. The last measles campaign took place in March 2019, and since 2021, several measles outbreaks have been recorded across the country. A total of 177 outbreaks have been recorded from 2013 to 2022.


Over the last ten (10) years, the country has experienced a dengue epidemic in 2019, with a total of 35 cases and 5 deaths, representing a case-fatality rate of 14.3%. This epidemic was recorded in the commune of Abomey-Calavi, Atlantic department.


Benin has recorded cases of food poisoning more specifically in the north of the country (Atacora, Donga, Borgou, Alibori). In 2016, 23 cases and 06 deaths were reported (a case-fatality rate of 26%); in 2017, 98 cases and 09 deaths (a case-fatality rate of 9%) and 2018, 93 cases and 14 deaths (a case-fatality rate of 15%). [Source SESS/DNSP/MS]

There have also been several cases of accidents on public roads and shipwrecks on rivers.

In 2007, Benin was confronted with an epidemic of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), affecting five outbreaks in Cotonou, Adjarra, Akpro-Missérété, Dangbo and Porto-Novo. To contain the threat, drastic measures were taken, including the slaughter of 78,549 birds and compensation for their owners. In addition, Newcastle disease remains endemic in family poultry farms in Benin, still causing significant losses. This disease is responsible for almost 60% of deaths recorded in village poultry farms. In addition, other infectious diseases such as Gumboro disease, fowl pox, infectious encephalomyelitis, fowl cholera, fowl typhosis and Mycoplasma gallisepticum mycoplasmosis are observed in village, commercial and industrial poultry farms. It should be stressed that most of these diseases have the potential to trigger epidemics in humans, underlining the critical importance of animal health surveillance and control in preventing public health risks.

In June 2021, the zoonoses prioritization workshop took place in three main phases:

  1. a workshop preparation phase which lasted three months;
  2. the two day training of trainers phase;
  3. the workshop phase itself which lasted three days and, a post-workshop phase which was devoted to implementing the workshop recommendations and finalizing the workshop report.

The process of prioritizing zoonotic diseases is based on a One Health approach using the One Health Zoonotic Disease Prioritization (OHZDP) tool, with the effective involvement of experts from the FAO, WHO, WHO and the national authorities.

A list of six priority zoonoses was drawn up for Benin: avian influenza, rabies, hemorrhagic fevers (Rift Valley Fever, Ebola, Lassa, Crimea Congo), anthrax, acute respiratory syndrome (including COVID-19) and trypanosomiasis.

The Comité National de Crise et Urgence sanitaire Santé plays an overall management and coordination role, under the technical direction of the Ministry of Health. The prevention and management of health security threats requires a coordinated, multi-sectoral approach, as surveillance, threat identification, laboratory confirmation, risk assessment, response and coordination of efforts may involve many sectors outside human health. The adoption of the “one health” approach, which offers a holistic framework in which government ministries collaborate with development partners.

The Conseil National de Lutte contre le VIH/Sida, la Tuberculose, le Paludisme, les Hépatites, les infections Sexuellement Transmissibles et les Épidémies (CNLS-TP), the Ministère du Cadre de Vie et de Développement Durable (MCVDD), the Ministère de l’Agriculture de l’Elevage et la Pêche (MAEP), the Ministère des Infrastructures et des Transports, the Ministère de l’Intérieur et de la Sécurité Publique, the Ministère de l’Enseignement maternel et primaire with their decentralized and concentrated structures. The following table provides a summary of the TFPs:

UNICEF AU-IBAR (African Union Inter-African Bureau for Animal Resources)
UNDP CRSA (ECOWAS Regional Animal Health Center)
MSF Projects/Programs (REDISSE, PPRC…)
WHOA Red Cross International
Médecins du Monde MSF