On the way to Dassa in Central Benin. Some 300 km.
After a few minutes you get pretty much used to the landscape: bush on the right, bush on the left, the road you’ll drive in front of you and the road you have driven in the back of you. Of course, considering this environment most drivers fall asleep after a few minutes – a real danger for passengers and drivers in the car; villagers, dogs and chicken at the roadside. Of course the Government of Benin took all necessary measures to avoid such terrible situations. The MoRSPGAH (Ministry of Road Safety, Population Growth and Animal Health) developed the very often copied concept of countless potholes. So drivers don’t fall asleep, they respect any speed limit and roadside villagers are happy to see their chicken producing a lot of eggs – perfect, isn’t it?
In Abomey we learn a lot about governance in Benin: there are different ministries within this government, unfortunately they don’t seem to spend too much energy on clarifying their competences. Of course there’s MoRSPGAH – you remember the guys with the Pothole Concept. But there’s also MoLRDF (Ministry of Land Reclamation and Dense Forests). They declared the pothole concept their own and consequently they seized the whole road between Abomey and Cotonou as a land reclamation scheme in the sole purpose to show the President of the proud Republic of Benin how efficiently they work. With the help of a Food4Work program they planted the potholes with all kind of trees, and let them grow. They called it the Jungle Concept, a further development of the Pothole Concept. Nowadays you admire the results – a real dense jungle, some 250 km long and some 10 m wide; between the trees beautiful trails – all paved – a pavement hiker’s paradise. Poor cars, better leave them outside the jungle.
By now you know about the competition and conflict between the MoRSPGAH and the MoLRDF – these road safety and tree planting guys with their Pothole and Jungle Concepts: well MoRSPGAH was not too happy with MoLRDF converting their road safety concept into a jungle between Abomey and Cotonou. To avoid such unacceptable situations in future, MoRSPGAH further developed his Pothole Concept to the Pavement Island Concept. Definitely it’s easy to explain: instead of having potholes in the paved road surface you simply have no pavement. The cars just drive on gravel, rocks, sand, mud, whatever is locally available. To avoid speeding and ruthless driving on these roads there are some isolated spots called islands, some 10 cm higher than the road surface which are paved- here the origin of the name. Vehicles drive around or on the islands; of course slowly to avoid car damage.
Arrived from Cotonou at the beach in Grand Popo, we learned about the rumour that the MoHCPEB (Ministry for Handicraft, Clay Potts and Environmental Beautification) plans to place clay pots, planted with beautiful ornamental plants on all pavement islands – they claim ownership for the further development of the Pavement Island Concept. They want to create a flower garden, 100 km long and 10m wide from Cotonou to Grand Popo – to impress the President.
So far the rumours.