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Lake Nokoué

Lake Nokoué is an oval shaped, brackish lake located in the very south of Benin, with riverine freshwater influx in the north and seawater influx in the south of the lake. The lake is directly connected to the ocean via the 4.5 km long and 300 m wide Cotonou channel. Another connection to the sea is a channel on the eastern side of the lagoon which passes by Benins capital Porto-Novo. Freshwater influx comes from both rivers Quémé and Sô, which form deltas at the eastern and northern end of the lake respectively. The size of the shallow lake varies seasonally. During the dry season, it covers an area of approximately 160 km². During the rainy season, the lake grows the lake three times larger. Consequently, seasonally inundated forests and marshes surround Lake Nokoué.

What makes it special

People know Lake Nokoué for its floating villages. These villages are built on stilts or rafts and are home to thousands of people who depend on fishing and trade for their livelihoods.

Protection status

· Ramsar Site 1018, Wetland of International Importance
· UNESCO World Heritage Site

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The highly biologically diverse area is an important nesting site for a wide variety of aquatic species. It is a unique habitat for a wide variety of flora and fauna, including several endangered species, and is a vital sanctuary for some of these. Lake Nokoué has at least 78 species of fish. A number of bird species exploit the wide variety of fish as food, as well as species of otter.

Local Communities

The country’s largest city Cotonou, with a population of about 2.000.000 people living in the area, is located on the narrow stretch of land between Lake Nokoué and the Atlantic Ocean. The lake village Ganvié is on the northern shore of the lake, just at the mouth of the river Sô. The village with 20.000 inhabitants attracts a lot of cultural and eco-tourists. Apart from tourism, the village’s most important sources of income are fishing and fish farming.


With the surrounding low-lying topography, the lake is expected to double in size and flood as the current global climate change gradually affects the sea level. This development carries a risk of future salinisation, which will make the freshwater lake more brackish and potentially change its ecology.

The Living Lakes Network awarded Lake Nokoué as Threatened Lake of the Year in 2019.

Our Work

Amis de l’Afrique Francophone-Bénin (AMAF-BENIN) is a humanitarian organization founded in 2008. Its objectives are to improve education, promote development and establish dialogue frameworks. In general, AMAF-BENIN is working towards a healthy and productive lifestyle for the local community, especially in the poorest areas. One mechanism for this is to ensure access to an improved drinking water source. Additionally, AMAF-BENIN promotes sustainable management of both humid and arid areas, as well as the natural resources. The organisation also works to increase the capacities of the local population with the help of various projects and advocacy.

AMAF-BENIN promotes nature conservation and sustainable use of natural resources in order to make the conservation of nature and biodiversity a higher priority in the future, thereby ending impoverishment in Benin.

Amis de l’Afrique Francophone-Bénin


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