Authors: Bodjrènou Sam PhD, Alladahouinnon Eddy MSc, Koukou Elie PhD, Bello Faïck MPhil, Amoussa Hounkpatin Waliou PhD, Prof.
One of the main objectives of Food System Lab Cotonou’s activities within the framework of the Healthy Food Africa project is to improve fruits and vegetables production systems in the cities of Cotonou, Abomey-Calavi and Sèmè-Kpodji, and the supply of nutritious and healthy food to the populations living in urban and peri-urban areas.
A study was conducted among market gardeners in the cities of Cotonou, Abomey-Calavi and Sèmè-Kpodji followed by field visits to describe the different production systems on the market garden plots and in public elementary schools. A total of 110 market gardeners, 70% of whom belonged to producer associations, were interviewed and 12 schools were visited.
The main crops produced in the market gardens are leafy vegetables, mostly eggplant (Solanum macrocarpum) and african basil (Ocimum gratissimum), and other vegetables like carrots and tomatoes. The cropping systems are characterized by the practice of rotation and crop association. Most cultivation operations are done manually.
There is a strong use of the mixture of organic and mineral fertilizers. Poultry manure is the most used organic fertilizer combined with urea 46% nitrogen and NPK of varying formulations.
Fertilizer rates applied by most gardeners exceeded recommendations. Producers generally use several chemical pesticides to complement biological control, and some of these pesticides are not registered in Benin. Protective measures during the application of chemicals, such as the wearing of appropriate clothing, gloves, masks, etc. are adopted by less than 50% of producers.
The main constraints related to market gardening are lack of financial support, poor access to good quality inputs and equipment, lack of a structured market for products, unavailability of land, climate variability, etc.
At the school level, only a few schools are currently practicing agriculture (2 out of 12), mainly because of space and water constraints. Teachers organize the students to participate in the maintenance of the plots before or after classes.
A real-life experiment will be conducted with producers to compare the yields of the different production systems as well as the effect of fertilization and phytosanitary treatment methods on the sanitary quality of the vegetables grown to provide evidence for improving fruit and vegetable production in the cities of Cotonou, Abomey-Calavi and Sèmè-Kpodji. A new ‘Gardens for Healthy Foods’ system will also be developed in schools that already have vegetable production initiatives underway to improve the supply of quality food for children.