Urban agriculture is a widespread activity that could contribute to realize various Sustainable Development Goals that are set by the United Nations. Calls for expanding the urban agricultural activities are, therefore, justified and merit a high priority on the political agenda. Yet, especially the organization and management of urban agriculture is much under-researched and targeted policies would benefit from more knowledge about the social structures in the allotment gardens.
Urban agriculture in Benin is no exception and this study aims to address the knowledge gap with a special focus on organization and management. The study reports on findings of a survey among 261 experienced urban gardeners visited at 29 sites distributed over the cities of Cotonou and Porto Novo. The study elicited information on household characteristics, gardening activity and incomes, food and nutrition security, garden organization and management, benefits for women and socio-economic development and identified constraints on the development of urban gardens.
The survey showed that urban gardening in the study is a male-dominated activity that provides income to cover the basic needs of households (housing, transport) and improves diet diversity. Although food quality improved for gardeners, education might further contribute to a better diet. Gardeners are true entrepreneurs who generate income from both gardening and side jobs throughout the year. They are mostly well organized in cooperatives with a good management system (election of a board, regular membership fee and responsibility for common tasks).
However, gardeners still have to improve rules relating to ownership and revise their financing incentives to leverage their bargaining power to decrease transaction costs. The study concludes that capacity-building programs may raise awareness among gardeners on the necessity of improving their current organizational frameworks, leading to a sustainable way that capitalizes on the benefits of cooperatives, for example, to secure enough credit for a group. In addition, to address the constraints beyond the control of cooperatives (land access, tenure security, credits, high input costs and market functioning), there is a clear need for support by public institutions for urban garden development.