Perceptions of and responses to coastal erosion risks: The case of Cotonou in Benin

Florence de Longueville, Yvon Carmen Hountondji, Liliane Assogba, Sabine Henry, Pierre Ozer

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Intensive erosion has affected the coastal zone of Cotonou for several decades. An analysis of satellite images showed an average coastline retreat of 115 m in the study area over the period 2002–2013 with several hundred houses destroyed. Since 2014, a stabilisation of the coastline is observed. This study aimed at identifying the at-risk population and at analysing the perceptions of people who experience and those who manage coastal erosion risk, as well as the responses adopted. Based on four criteria and their hierarchy, we identified five profiles of inhabitants in this risk zone. (1) Wealthy people who leave the zone when they are affected or (2) fall into the category of people in danger in case they cannot migrate. (3) Fishermen who deliberately stay near the sea. (4) The most precarious people, trapped in the risk zone. Finally, (5) poor newcomers who continually increase the at-risk population. With the recent stabilisation of the coastline, the national authorities manage the “hazard” component of the risk. However, the majority of the population is not serene. The anthropogenic stress linked to evictions gradually replaced the stress to be engulfed by the sea. We conclude that the “vulnerability” component of the risk is not yet resolved. All categories of the population in this sensitive area need to be secured. Cooperation among multiple levels of governance, the application of land use planning regulations and of the Kampala Convention and the involvement of local communities are all measures which will enable to meet this objective.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101882
JournalInternational Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2020


  • At-risk population
  • Coastal erosion
  • Management
  • Perception
  • Vulnerability


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