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Driving Directions Benin

BENIN, a republic on the southern coast of West Africa, was formerly called Dahomey after the African kingdom, which dominated the region between the 17th and 19th centuries. In the south, it has a very short coastline on the Bight of Benin, and the coastal region is sandy with many lagoons. Inland, the ground rises to a fertile plain and then to a plateau. In the far northwest, the Atakora Mountains rise from the plateau in the region of the Niger/Nigeria border.

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The main rivers of Benin are the Donga, Couffo, and Niger, with their tributaries. The natural vegetation of tropical jungle in the coastal regions of the south has largely cleared. Woodlands cover parts of the plateau, giving way to savannah-type grassland in the north. Wildlife species are varied, although some animals have declined due to forest clearance.

The south of the country has an equatorial climate with four seasons, including two periods of rainfall. Temperatures are more extreme in the north, where conditions are generally drier, and there is one main rainy season. Farming is predominantly subsistence and accounts for around 60 percent of the workforce, with yams, cassava, maize, rice, groundnuts, and vegetables forming most of the produce.

The country is impoverished, although since the late 1980s, economic reforms have been towards a market economy, and Western financial aid has been sought. The main exports are palm oil, palm kernels, and cotton. Tourism developed, but as yet, facilities for this are few except in some coastal towns.

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From south to north, Benin’s major regions consist of a coastal belt that includes sandbanks and lagoons, a savannah-covered clay plateau, and, in the northern two-thirds of the country, a higher plateau region that includes the Atakora Mountains and the Niger Plains. A large swampy depression called the Lama Marsh extends across the plateau region. The North Atlantic Ocean lies to the south of Benin.

Did you know about Benin?

The area of low precipitation in southwest Benin – a dramatic exception to the high rainfall elsewhere in this tropical region – is called the “Benin window.” It is thought to have resulted from the destruction of the native rainforest.

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