Press "Enter" to skip to content

Benin Republic: Why is Ganvié, a floating city, replacing fishing with tourism?

The largest floating city in West Africa, Ganvié, is located in the midst of Lake Nokoué, close to Cotonou, Benin. The Tofinu people constructed Ganvié in the 16th and 17th centuries when they escaped Fon conquest. The lake is particularly well-liked by tourists due to its distinctive location and the breathtaking environment that surrounds it.

One of Benin’s most well-known sights is the floating silt town of Ganvié. In the unusual hamlet of Ganvié, there are houses, inhabitants, schools, and other elements of a conventional village. It’s an amazing sight, and going to Ganvié is a trip you won’t soon forget.

[h5p id=”946″]

The town is located on Lake Nokoué, the largest lake in Benin, not far from Cotonou. Residents of Ganvié occasionally carry soil from the surrounding area to create artificial land on the shallow Lake Nokoué. It’s fascinating to note that children are taught to walk on these plots of land in addition to housing a few domesticated animals. Presumably the “Venice of Africa” is the Ganvié, as a critic clarifies with the following qualities: “created with the aid of crocodiles, egrets and more than a little magic, the extraordinary aquatic stilt village of Ganvié has been called ‘the Venice of Africa’. This isn’t an entirely fair comparison, as you wouldn’t choose Ganvifor a romantic weekend, but it does get across the point that the village, sitting pretty on the 26,000ha Lake Nakoué, is one of a kind. Like in Venice, water and beauty are the overriding impressions, but unlike Venice, which feels like a manmade city in which water just happens to be all around, Ganvié seems to be nothing short of an organic creation – a town where nature went a little off the rails and the reeds and weeds just grew up into living houses, shops and a marketplace.” Now, you have the capacity to judge.

A city in the middle of a lake

[h5p id=”947″]

As a result of peculiar nature of Ganvié Lake village, the ethnic Tofinu people are also described as “The Water People of Benin.” The question therefore is why did Tofinu people of Ganvié chose to live on the water houses instead of the land? “Ganvié was first founded by members of the Tofinu tribe. The Tofinu were being pursued by the powerful Fon tribe that sold members of other tribes to Portuguese slave traders. Building a village on a lake wasn’t a physical obstacle for the Fon, but rather it was religious beliefs that prevented the Fon from attacking people living on water. And so the Tofinu created a new home and lifestyle for themselves, naming their town Ganvié, meaning “We survived”. The slave trade stopped a long time ago, but the descendants of the Tofinu continue to live on the lake to this day.” Today, there are approximately 20,000 people living in the village – they are known as the ‘watermen’.

Are Ganvié’s Architectures sustainable?

Building their homes on stilts that rise above the water, members of the Tofinu tribe gave themselves a place to live and a way of life. This resulted in a system of canals that is the primary mode of transit for the village. The red ebony wood used to construct the stilt homes is resistant to degradation brought on by the water. Palm fronds are mostly used to construct the walls. Carpenters and property owners have replaced the thatched covering with corrugated metal sheets. Another popular building material is bamboo, which makes dwellings last for 15 to 20 years. The dwellings can last much longer if the owners are careful about rebuilding rotten stilts and keeping the maintenance.

[h5p id=”948″]

Ganvié’s distinctive environmental infrastructure, according to a report by Cable News Network (CNN), is one of more than 100 “nature-based technologies” collected in a new book by landscape designer Julia Watson, titled “Lo_TEK: Design by Radical Indigenism.” The book describes cities, buildings and infrastructure from 20 countries including Iraq, Peru, the Philippines and Tanzania – perhaps the world’s best examples of “Traditional Ecological Knowledge” (TEK): techniques and technologies developed and incubated in indigenous societies. They provide ideas of how today’s architects, planners and designers might respond to the global climate crisis, which scientists have warned will see temperatures cross the point of no return and one million species go extinct unless radical action is taken.

“I think the central theme of the book is really questioning what we think of as technology and saying nature can be adapted and form a technology that we can apply to the way that we live in this world,” said Watson, who teaches at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design and Columbia University.

“All of them have been born out of people living in their environment, using what we call, in ecological sciences, ‘symbiosis’ as a fundamental process to which they build and live,” he said.

Ganvié’s way of life and religion

In the city, there are numerous houses with fish farms under them. On small parcels of land, the locals also grow vegetables, cassava, and maize.

Visitors can take boat tours to explore the waterways, while locals utilize canoes to get around the village. Men frequently go fishing or fish farming, women typically sell items in the local market, and kids go to school on their own boats! Most people visit the mainland to conduct business as well. The market, trade, play, fishing, and even simple neighbor visits all take place aboard boats. According to reports, children as young as 4 or 5 can ride their own boats.

[h5p id=”943″]

It’s interesting to see how peacefully Christians, Muslims, and Voodoo practitioners all coexist in the community. Around the town, there are numerous voodoo temples and shrines. A mosque and a few churches are located on the lake, which has been partially reclaimed. While in this place, some Christians dress in long white robes.

Kevin traveled to Ganvié in 2018 from Pontypridd, the United Kingdom. He describes his experience by saying: “And as we were there at a celebratory time for both Voodoo and Ganvié, it was surprising to be woken at 1.00 am with the sounds of drumming from outside the hotel (MB Hotel Ganvie) as literally dozens of boats with over a hundred people floated past drumming, singing and chanting. But as an experience to wake up and watch all the people going about their daily chores in their dugout boats from first light it was excellent.”

Why does fishing make way for tourism?

The people of Ganvié rely heavily on fishing for their livelihood. Today alongside fishing and fish farking, tourism is a big business in town! Tourism is beginning to make a small impact on Ganvié. Around 10,000 tourists visit the lake village annually, according to local the tourism office. There’s both a benefit and a drawback from the influx of tourists that have taken to visiting the floating city of Ganvié.

[h5p id=”949″]

The price of fish has decreased recently, which has put the city under financial difficulty and pushed them to depend more on tourists. However, the increased number of tourists means more disruptions to Ganvié residents’ daily routines. “It annoys me when overeager Westerners are obtrusive with their photos,” one says. Furthermore, since the increase in visitors, the lake has deteriorated even worse.

Due to the daily dumping of all residential garbage into the water beneath the city, Ganvié also suffers sewage problems. Sadly, this also entails flushing human waste into the lake that serves as these people’s backyard. These problems are being addressed by the implementation of rules governing boat traffic in the village and the establishment of a waste management system.

Visiting Ganvié

[h5p id=”945″]

Taking a boat from the Hotel du Lac in Cotonou is the most straightforward way to get to Ganvié. It takes around 50′ to complete the journey, allowing one to complete a visit in roughly half a day. The majority of visitors depart from Cotonou or the city fishing port of Abomey-Calavi on day trips. They board a boat at Abomey-Calavi, go to the settlement perched on stilts, and then ride around for a while before heading back to shore.

[h5p id=”944″]

If you plan to visit Ganvié, arrange a guided tour with a local tour operator who can help you navigate the village and learn more about its history and traditions. The Auberge Carrefour Ganvie Chez M, MB Hotel Ganvié, and Hotel Germain – Ganvie Holiday Resort are hotels and relaxation centers you can visit while you’re in the area.

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply

Mission News Theme by Compete Themes.