BIARI funding was used to support the research of two alumni from the 2010 Climate Change Institute. The project took place in February-March 2010 and sought to assess Beninese farmers’ perceptions of climate change. The farmers, who were selected from 9 villages in north Benin, participated in focus groups. The focus groups were intended to assess the changes in climate that farmers have observed in recent decades, the strategies farmers have used to adapt to these changes, and potential future strategies that could be implemented. The farmers were also taught how to use fruiting trees in order to protect against soil erosion and environmental degradation as well as to help diversify crops and generate alternative sources of income. The research found that, while no participant had heard the term climate change, all participants had observed changes in climate as well as had adopted a variety of strategies to cope with the changes, including planting different crop varieties. While the researchers acknowledge that conclusions related to climate change should be taken cautiously, their project suggested that the climate in north Benin was becoming drier and crop yield had generally decreased.
In order to assess whether the Beninese farmers’ perceptions were in line with those of other farmers in the region, the grantees also conducted some preliminary research on farmers’ perceptions of climate change in a village in Burkina Faso. They hope to continue their research in Burkina Faso and expand the project to other countries in West Africa, including Mali. The alumni also produced two articles about their work, which they have submitted to the academic journals Climate and Development and Global Environmental Change.