Benin’s Marcelline Atiogbe: From degradation to land restoration

Benin does not have significant forest resources. And limited vegetation cover is deteriorating under the combined effect of logging and pressure to expand arable land.

Every day, dozens of trucks supply cities with wood and charcoal. Although this activity is very rewarding for traders of forest products, one woman, a former charcoal farmer, decided to abandon everything to focus on restoring the forest landscape. It is in the village of Banamè, about 200 km from Cotonou that Mrs. Marcelline Atiogbe with her ten employees produces seedlings of different species (teak, gmelina, Cailcédrat, iroko, etc.) to restore degraded land.

Everything started when she attended a training in 2006 that advocated for the participatory management of natural resources. She then realized the danger she posed to the environment and to future generations through her business that produced and sold charcoal. She decided to change and devote herself to something that repairs the harm caused to the environment.

"At first it was very difficult; I invested all my money and I distributed my seedlings nearly for free. But over time, projects and NGOs started to entrust me with the production of seedlings as part of their reforestation activities. Today, I produce more than 600,000 plants a year. I make a good living and have the satisfaction of helping to restore the environment," she says.