Solar-powered irrigation systems can boost food and income levels in rural Sub-Saharan Africa, researchers have found. Irrigation is known to reduce poverty in Asia, they wrote in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this week (5 January), but the success of the technique is not well-documented in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Farmers in Benin are implementing their own research findings to boost the soil fertility and moisture retention of their plots. The experiment is part of the project Strengthening the Capacity to Adapt to Climate Change in Rural Benin (PARBCC) — established in late 2007 — which aims to create a three-way conversation between farmers, meteorologists and the government, and help farmers make informed choices about when to sow and harvest crops.

Benin's main opposition political parties will field a single candidate in the 2011presidential elections, according to a protocol signed in Cotonou. The protocol said the African Movement for Democracy and Progress (MADEP), the Party for the Democratic Renewal (PRD), the Social Democratic Party (PSD), the Party of Benin's Renaissance (RB) and Key Force (FC) had decided to select a candidate for the 20 11 presidential election and future polls.

United Nations humanitarian agencies have stepped up their relief efforts in the West African country of Benin, where more than 20,000 people have been displaced or affected and numerous farms destroyed by floods. Mosquito nets, water purification tablets, blankets, tents and mats are being distributed and assistance is being provided with water and sanitation and with maternal health care in the wake of the floods.

United Nations humanitarian agencies operating in Benin are conducting rapid assessments to determine how they can best assist the thousands of people caught up in the heavy floods that have struck the West African country. At least 20,000 people are estimated to have been displaced or otherwise affected by the floods, with the area around Cotonou, the commercial capital, and along the entire southern coastline among the hardest hit regions.