The West African country, Benin, is one of the most politically stable countries in the region, although it’s also one of the poorest. Farmers grow cotton and fishermen catch fish. People in Benin rely on trade with Nigeria to earn money.
Five hundred years ago, the Fon tribe hunted other tribal people and sold them into slavery to the Portuguese. They had one rule though: they could not capture people living on the water. So, one clever group formed a small city on a lake. They built houses on wooden stilts. They kept animals on small patches of land near the edge of the lake. They built underwater fences to catch fish. Today, this city still stands. It is called Ganvie. Everyone, including children, moves about by riding in small, narrow boats.
For many years, slaves were shipped out of Benin headed for the Americas. Later, the country was colonized by France. It gained its independence in 1960, followed by several years of political unrest. Today, the country is mostly peaceful.
- 9.4 million people live here.
- The country has 43,484 square miles of land.
- French is the official language, but people also speak Fon, Ge, Bariba, Yoruba, and Dendi.
- People keep their native religious beliefs. Others are Christian or Muslim.
- The life expectancy in Benin is 57 years old.
- Stable: peaceful, predictable, calm
- Rely: depend
- Trade: buying and selling goods or services
- Capture: take control with force
- Clever: smart
Visit the BBC to see photos of ancient sculptures from Benin.
Head over to Atlas Obscura to see photos of the town of Ganvie.
Question: Are people in Benin affected when countries around them go to war?
Answer: Yes, when one country is at war, nearby countries are almost always affected. Thousands of people fled to Benin in 2005 from Togo. Benin asked the U.S. and other countries to help feed and take care of these refugees.