Agricultural production in the cotton basin of Banikoara in Benin depends on the variability of rainfall, which fluctuates between 800 and 1 200 mm per annum. The income of farm households and their food security are determined by the concomitant fluctuations in cotton and food production. Agricultural diversification based on a sound understanding of the process of adoption of technical innovations has the potential to provide a consistent income, improved agricultural productivity and, in the end, a substantial improvement in the well-being of the farmers. These technical and agricultural innovations are the subject of an economic analysis of the impact of technical progress on the technical and allocative efficiency of farmers in this region. The production of “white gold” in the Banikoara basin depends heavily on the use of chemicals, rather than on biological, agronomic and mechanical interventions. However, these four forms of agricultural innovations need to be combined. In some Asian countries, for example, a more judicious combination of different forms of innovations has resulted in better yields. As yields in Banikoara are low by global standards, technological development and the implementation of new technologies present a real opportunity for improving the well-being of these cotton farmers. However, although many cotton farmers in Banikoara understand that agricultural innovations could help to overcome the challenge of food security, the real question is how to give the cotton producers access to the right technical and agricultural innovations. To this end, this article attempts to describe the levels of adoption of technical and agricultural innovations by the farmers and then to explain the options available to them in order to clarify the mechanisms for sustainable management of cotton production in the Banikoara basin. In total, 1 000 cotton producers were interviewed during the harvest and post-harvest period from October 2010 to September 2012. Some 75% (750 farmers) of the collected responses were found to be reliable. The results show that farmers differ widely in their attitude to the adoption of innovations. A total of 64% of the cotton farmers were not sure about the impact of these innovations on their agricultural efforts, while 32% considered this impact as weak and insufficient. These results can be explained by a delay in decision making in the adoption of agricultural and technical innovations, the lack of information about the benefits of these, the non-reliability of previous results in other specific cases, and the conservative spirit of the endogenous cultural practices. Only 3,2% of farmers perceived these innovations to their right value, while the proportion of cotton producers who were totally in favour of the implementation of these innovations represents only 1,2% of all the farms. Generally speaking, the factors that prevent the adoption and diffusion of new innovations are sociodemographic, economic or institutional in nature. For example, on top of the real risks and uncertainties that threaten agricultural production in the basin there also is the ageing of the farmers and the weak level of education, which makes it difficult for them to adopt the technical innovations. This is reflected in the absence of modern technology. It also is essential that the government should implement specific programmes for the intensification of the technical training of farmers and that farmers should be grouped by means of cooperatives. These two factors would lead to a higher and better perception of the benefits of adopting technical and agricultural innovations not only for cotton, but also for other agricultural production.


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