Background: Rehabilitation and optimized utilization of agro-pastoral dams (APDs), especially for vegetable production, has been recently promoted to boost agricultural production and ensure food security in Benin. However, little information was available on APDs' agricultural potentials and knowledge of how APDs' ecosystem services were exploited by the various stakeholders, and how each stakeholder group contributed to the degradation of the common good was scanty. This study explored three APDs in northern Benin to diagnose vegetable production systems and assess producer's perception of APD degradation. Results: The results indicated that vegetable production around the APDs was a part-time activity dominated by women, and characterized by low external input use and a diversity of African indigenous vegetables. There was a strong gender difference in cropping systems, farming practices and land access, and a significant agreement on key production bottlenecks among producers. The main constraints included conflicts with livestock herders generated by the recurrent destruction of crops and seedlings by livestock, lack of equipment, pest and disease management challenges, access to water and inputs. Water erosion and runoff, livestock, vegetable production and food crops and cotton farming around the dams were respectively perceived as factors that contribute to APDs' siltation and affect water quality. In comparison with water erosion and runoff, experienced producers and those with higher vegetable species richness were more likely to rank farming as first source of threat to APDs. Urbanization and market access were drivers of intensification of vegetable production around APDs. Conclusions: Our findings illustrate how information on cropping and farming practices, and producers' perception can provide insights and research and development avenues for integrated dam management and sustainable production for improved food security and livelihoods. We discussed the implications of our findings and suggested a number of strategic decisions and research avenues for integrated dam management and sustainable vegetable production around APDs. Avenues for future research and development actions include: (1) a tailored and gender-specific training programme on sustainable production practices targeted to women; (2) developing scenarios of the desired future state for APDs by all stakeholders to work towards through collaborative actions; and (3) assessing the perception of other users on APD siltation and water quality.
- African indigenous vegetables
- Agro-pastoral dams
- Urban and peri-urban agriculture
- Vegetable production