GNF - Threatened Lake of the Year 2019: Lake Nokoué in Benin

Threatened Lake of the Year 2019:

Lake Nokoué – Benin (West Africa)

 A quite "normal" sight: Waste is flushed into the lake via the tributaries or directly from the surrounding communities.

Lake Nokoué



150 km²

largest brackish water lake in Benin



20 km (East / West)



11 km (North / South)



max. 4,1 m


Background Information and Interviews

Press Release of the GNF about the Threatened Lake of the Year 2019


Interview with Fataï Aina

Executive Director of Amis de l’Afrique Francophone-Bénin (AMAF-BENIN)


Waste and chemicals jeopardise the already fragile ecosystem of Lake Nokoué in Benin, West Africa. Rubbish, untreated household and industrial waste water are disposed of the lake. Urgent action is needed to mitigate the human impact on the lake and ensure a sustainable future for generations to come.


The pile-dwelling village of Ganvié on the northern shore of Lake Nokoué in Benin, the largest African city built entirely on stilts, is also known as the "Venice of Africa". Cotonou, the country's largest city with nearly one million inhabitants, lies on the narrow stretch of land on the opposite shore that separates the lake from the Atlantic Ocean. The shallow lake itself and the mouth of the river Ouémé form an extensive wetland area and are a refuge for numerous rare and endangered animal species such as the African Manatee. This sounds very idyllic at first. But the reality at Lake Nokoué looks different.


Dramatic conditions


“Lake Nokoué is one of the main sources of fish in Benin and its increasing pollution threatens the environment and aquatic fauna and is a risk to human health,“ says Mr. Fataï Aina, the executive director of the Living Lakes partner organisation Amis de l’Afrique Francophone-Bénin (AMAF-BENIN) that works for the sanitation, protection and conservation of Lake Nokoué.


The cities lack sewers and all household waste is dumped into the water under the city every day. Faeces from toilet facilities built on stilts are released directly into the lake. Phosphates, nitrate, sulphate, chloride, ammonium from the decomposition of nitrogenous waste, lead from car batteries, batteries and scrap of all kinds are released into the lake via the drainage system from the impront garbage dumps of the city of Cotonou. Residues of pesticides and chemical fertilisers, as well as organic matter and nutrients from the food industry, are especially during floods dumped into Lake Nokoué by the river Ouémé, which crosses almost the whole country. Another problem is the smugglers' trade of the so-called "kpayo", an adulterated fuel that is partially released into the water during transport.


The poor hygienic conditions also lead to diseases such as diarrhoea, schistosomiasis, cholera, dysentery, and typhoid fever, which kill many children under the age of 5 every year. Since Lake Nokoué is one of the main source of fish production in Benin, the serious pollution poses an existential threat to people and their health, as well as to the environment and biodiversity.

High time for changes


In order to raise awareness among the responsible Beninese authorities and to protect the local population, the Global Nature Fund together with the local Living Lakes partner organisation Amis de l'Afrique Francophone-Bénin (AMAF-BENIN) has named Lake Nokoué the "Threatened Lake of 2019" on 2 February, World Wetland Day.


To ensure the survival of the local inhabitants and the last populations of the African Manatee, it is essential to build sanitary facilities such as latrines and treatment plants for domestic and industrial wastewater. The most important activities that AMAF-BENIN has already carried out are, above all, small-scale rehabilitation measures on the banks of the river and awareness campaigns in the local communities, which are beginning to have a positive impact.


First steps in the right direction


The mangrove forests at the transition between the lagoons and the open sea form a particularly valuable habitat worth protecting. Their conservation is of great importance not only for the survival of rare animal and plant species, but also for local fishing. With the financial support of the GNF and the Rapunzel Hand in Hand-Fund, AMAF-BENIN just started carrying out a project to protect biological diversity. In addition to reforestation of degraded forest and mangrove areas, training local hunters, fishermen and representatives of local authorities in the sustainable management of natural resources is a priority.


To the project Manatee Protection and Mangrove Conservation

Global Nature Fund and the Living Lakes Network


Global Nature Fund (GNF) is a non-profit, private, independent foundation for the protection of environment and nature. GNF was founded in 1998 and has offices in Radolfzell, Bonn and Berlin, Germany. One of GNF’s core initiatives is the Living Lakes Network – a global network of organisations that champion the protection of lakes and wetlands. The network currently comprises 111 members all over the world. Lake Nokoué, represented by the Beninese NGO Amis de l’Afrique Francophone-Bénin (AMAF-BENIN), is members of the international Living Lakes Network.

 Lively boat traffic on Lake Nokoué
 Many buildings are built on stilts.
 Beaches are cleared and cleaned of garbage.
 The high nutrient content in lake water contributes to the enormous growth of water hyacinths.
 The transport by water of goods that are dangerous for the water quality is part of the everyday life of the residents.
 Waste from the surrounding municipalities and towns flows into Lake Nokoué through the tributaries and pollutes the water massively.
 The vegetation of the shore lines, including mangroves, is of immense importance for the survival of animals and plants.
 Residents often have to go long distances to get water.
 Degenerated mangrove areas are to be renaturalized again, for this purpose seedlings are grown in tree nurseries.

Contact persons


Amis de l’Afrique Francophone-Bénin (AMAF-Benin)
Mr Fataï Aina (Executive Director)
Rue 213, Carré N°903 Saint-Jean
Cotonou, Benin
Phone: +229 98146364 / +229 97274782


Global Nature Fund (GNF)

Ms Bettina Schmidt (Programme Manager)

Fritz-Reichle-Ring 4

78315 Radolfzell, Germany

Phone: +49 7732 9995 84

Fax: +49 7732 9995 88