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Abstract

This paper critically assesses the potentials and constraints for strengthening the capacity of peasant farmer organizations (at the community and inter-community level) to undertake agricultural self-development in the wake of recent political changes in West Africa. The paper begins by establishing the need, in theoretical and policy terms, of strong peasant farmer organizations for effective agricultural research and extension programmes in complex, diverse and riskprone environments. It then outlines some of the necessary characteristics of self-supporting, "demand-side" farmer organizations. The historical and current political context of peasant-state relationships within West Africa, which largely determine potentials and constraints, is reviewed. Two case studies of programmes to strengthen peasant farmer organization and promote improved agricultural technology in West Africa, (one within a governmental context, and the other by an NGO) highlight important issues. Based on this analysis, and the author's experience with peasant farmer organization, a number of practical guidelines and conditions for strengthening peasant farmer organization in West Africa are suggested.

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