ANNE FLOQUET1, MALIKI RAFIOU2, KAKPO YVONNE3
1Cebedes NGO, Benin
2Institut National des Recherches Agricoles du Bénin, Bénin
3Université d'Abomey-Calavi, Faculté des Sciences Agronomiques, Bénin
1986 to 1999 German and Beninese scientists have been working on the development of agroforestry systems in the context of the SFB 308 project. Evolving from alley cropping systems, a large range of designs were experimented on-farm in order to cope with specific labour, cash and competition constraints, including alley farming with Gliricidia sepium, live fences with Senna siamea, Cajanus cajan as a short fallow, Mucuna utilis as a cover crop and planted perennial fallow with Acacia auriculiformis. Hundreds of farmers chose one design or more and compared them with their initial farming practices, researchers monitored agronomic and socioeconomic practices; farmers were invited to adjust designs and management practices in order to make as feasible and profitable as possible. On six sites, between 1994 and 1999, 600 farmers set up 800 trials plots.
At the end of the program, national farming systems research teams took over some of the research sites and went on cooperating with experimenting farmers. Some NGOs were invited to promote research results in non experimenting villages.
In 2005, adoption of these systems was surveyed in two southern sites and in R&D central sites. In the South, farmers who had been testing at least one of the technologies between 1994 and 1999 were visited. 65% of these farmers have been adopting the Acacia planted fallow. Others techniques have been tested but rejected. Adoption depends on profitability and on easiness in setting up the fallow and in marketing fallow products. In the central part of Benin, yam-based alley cropping was adjusted by farmers who reduced shrub density and labour demand of the technology and by researchers who added a cover crop in order improve soil fertility and effects on yam yields. Adoption rate is lower but has not yet reached the plateau of the S-curve.
Even if not every technology developed during the project has been adopted, major changes in the way of conducting research in collaboration with farmers within the national research system were then tested, yielded some successes and still do.
Keywords: Adoption, agroforestry systems, innovation, participatory research