Modern day Republic of Benin that achieved independence in August 1960 sits on the site of Dahomey, a West African kingdom that rose in the 15th century. The country went from a succession of military governments to a government based on Marxist-Leninist principles with the rise to power of Mathieu Kerekou. A move to a representative government with free elections contributed to the transfer of power from a dictatorship to a democracy. Benin is located in West Africa and bordered on the north by Burkina Faso and Niger, on the west by Togo, on the east by Nigeria and on the south by the Atlantic Ocean. With a land are of 112,622 sq km the population of Benin is estimated at 9.6 million people in 2012. The country’s economy remains underdeveloped and dependent on subsistence agriculture, cotton production, and regional trade. Growth in real output had averaged almost 4% before the global recession, but fell to 2.7% in 2009 and 3% in 2010 (CIA, 2012). Agriculture accounts for 35.5 % of the GDP, and the economy is more sensitive to fluctuations in international prices for agricultural products such as cotton and palm oil and also susceptible to natural calamities. Cotton, a key export, suffered from flooding in 2010-11, but high prices supported export earnings.
A Brief History of Agricultural Extension Services in Benin and the Enabling Environment
For decades, all agricultural development activities in Benin, including extension services were exclusively carried out by the Government through its Ministry of Agriculture (Tossou & Zinnah, 2005). The country’s agricultural development policies, since independence in 1960, have gone through a series of changes. With the introduction of Structural Adjustment Program (SAP) and the democratization process, agricultural extension embarked in a restructuring process, and the changing agricultural extension landscape opened agricultural advisory services to private organizations and brought in new actors. Privatization of extension in 1992 led to partial withdrawal of public organizations and the involvement of private actors, NGOs, producer organizations and development projects in providing and funding extension services (Moumouni & Labarthe, 2009). The National Agricultural Extension System (NAES) was put in place in 1993 by the Ministry of Rural Development and the World Bank to harmonize government intervention. NAES involved farmer organizations, Non-Governmental Organizations and private stakeholders in delivering and funding extension.
The extension services were responsible for organizing and overseeing village Producers Organizations (POs) known as Groupement Villageois (GVs). These GVs became Centres Régionaux and Communaux pour la Promotion Agricole (provincial CeRPAs and district CeCPAs), which included the opening of agricultural advisory services to private organizations and further decentralization. Public agricultural extension services are now de-concentrated, and are represented in all provinces and districts. Extension services focus on advising farmers, rural communities and the district authorities (Communes) on information relevant to production and marketing chains (Kouton et al., 2006).
Major Institutions Providing Extension/advisory Services in Benin
Benin public sector is represented by the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, semi-autonomous organizations that provide extension services, public research institutions, the Université d’Abomey-Calavi and the Université de Parakou. These institutions provide extension services through various units, departments and institutes as listed below:
- Government or Ministry Based Extension Service
- Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries (MAEP)
- Direction du Conseil Agricole et de la Formation Operationnelle (DICAF)
- Central Region for Agricultural Promotion (CePRA)
- Centre d’Action Regionale pour le Developpement Rural (CARDER)
- Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries (MAEP)
- Semi-autonomous Government Extension Organizations
- Reseau de Chambres d’Agriculture du Benin (RCAB)
- Public Research Institutions with Extension Unit
- Institut National des Recherches Agricoles du Benin (INRAB)
- Centers for Agricultural Training
- University Based Extension Services
With the disengagement of the public sector in agricultural extension, several Non-Governmental Organizations have been created and play an important and increasing role in the rural areas of Benin. They are instrumental in providing advisory services to producers and farmers organizations. There are more than 300 NGOs in Benin, the majority of which is active in the rural area and provides extension services to development projects and programs in various fields like diffusion of technologies, micro finance, post-harvest management (storage, processing and marketing), support to farmer organizations, training and the promotion of the agricultural sector (Agbo et al, 2008). NGOs intervene on contract and play intermediary role between the development projects and the producers. Below is a list of some NGOs working with farmers in Benin.
Farmer Based Organizations and Cooperatives
At the grass-roots level, farmers’ associations, producers’ groups and cooperatives, as well as specially created farmers’ groups, are all involved in research and extension activities. In Benin, there are strong farmers’ associations representing the interests of producers of cotton, cashew nut, pineapple and rice. These producers associations with an average of ten members each are structured from the base to the top into village associations, communal unions of producers and the departmental unions of the producers. In the cotton sector, FUPRO, the national federation of village farmers’ groups and associations and district and provincial unions were created with assistance from the public sector services. FUPRO plays an important role in providing extension advisory services in the areas of cottonseeds, fertilizers and pesticides to its member organizations.
In the cashew nut sector, ACooBéPA, a cashew growers’ district union is responsible for providing extension services to its members. The organization receives assistance from a national NGO which is paid by a donor-funded agricultural diversification project (Wennink & Heemskerk, 2006). While cotton producers’ unions (FUPRO) maintain strong relationship with the district extension services and receives management assistance on input and pesticides, in the case of cashew growers union (ACooBePA) extension services are managed by the project itself. The departmental farmers’ unions are federated at the national level under the federation of Producers Unions (Agbo et al, 2008). Experiences with cotton production in Benin, has shown that farmers’ organizations and the private marketing and ginning industries are able to finance agricultural extension services. This needs political will, a better management of the resources of these farmers’ organizations, and the development of the so-called filieres (the organization of the chain of activities from production, processing and marketing including the various necessary support systems) in order to diversify the financial assistance of the private institutions to extension services (Tossou & Zinnah (2005).
Private Sector Companies
Private input suppliers and cotton ginners are contributing actors in the innovation process. Cotton productivity and quality is closely related to input quality, and suppliers deal with international fertilizer and pesticide manufacturers for procurement. Although the agricultural sector has been liberalized in Benin, private extension service provision at the request of producers is not yet a common practice. However, private firms support the dissemination of crop-protection products and techniques by funding training sessions, in collaboration with producers’ unions (UCPs) (Kouton et al., 2006). The majority of NGOs active in the agricultural extension services are the actors of development projects/programs, who develop their respective extension strategy to deploy in the field. The case of the Conservation and Management of Natural resources Program of Benin, a German cooperation that uses NGOs as service provider in its intervention zone in North East part of the country is an example of NGOs involvement in agricultural extension advisory services to farmers (Agbo et al. 2008).
List of Extension Providers
The following list shows an excerpt from the GFRAS Directory of Extension Providers for Benin. Some of these entries may be specially marked for having more detailed information in the database of the Worldwide Extension Study WWES.
Training Options for Extension Professionals
Formal agricultural training in Benin is provided by training centers, colleges (College d’Enseignement Technique Agricole-CETA, College Polytechnique Universitaire – CPU) and universities (Faculty of Agronomic Sciences) under the umbrella of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries (MAEP), the Ministry of Scientific and Technical Research (MESRS), and the Ministry of Technical Education and Professional Training ((METFP). These institutions train agricultural professionals to work as general agricultural practitioners. Training for extension professionals benefit from the partnership developed between the Ministry of Agriculture and the National Agricultural Research Institute (INRAB). INRAB trains CeCPA’s extension agents on new technologies to be diffused. This relationship between research and extension is very important for better addressing farmer’s needs (Moumouni, 2006).
In-service training for extension professionals on duty at various regional rural development centers (CARDER) is provided by MAEP through the Directorate of Agricultural Extension and Training. Training modules for technicians and” ingenieurs” are designed to specifically focus on agricultural extension issues.
Info-Mediaries and Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for Agriculture and Extension
Although Benin was the first country in West Africa to connect to the Internet, which it did in1995, the weak legal and investment framework stalled progress and development of its information and communication technologies (ICT) sector (Agyeman, 2007). The rapid spread of ICTs in developing countries over the past decade offers a unique opportunity to transfer knowledge via private and public information systems (Aker, 2010). With the proliferation of mobile phone based applications and services in the agricultural sector, providing information on market prices, weather, transport and agricultural techniques via voice, short message service (SMS) and internet, countries like Benin are taking advantage of new ICT infrastructure. The Government of Benin with funding from donors developed its National Information and Communication Infrastructure (NICI) Plan which was published in 2005. The plan envisaged launching Benin as an active participant in the information society and focused on key areas of the economy including the agricultural sector.
Several ICT tools in addition to radios, televisions and newsletters are used to provide agricultural extension advisory services to farmers in Benin. The 2009 World Bank statistics report indicated that 56.3 percent of the population of Benin owned and operated a mobile phone in 2009 compared to 24.4 in 2007. Since then, cellular telephone subscribership has been increasing rapidly. In terms of internet use, 2.2 percent of the population had access to internet in 2009, a slow increase from 1.8 percent in 2007. Extension services based on mobile phone and database monitoring are helping farmers with timely extension advices. For instance Esoko (http://www.esoko.com) system, a technology that uses mobile phones, internet and information systems to provide live market feeds, direct SMS marketing, scout polling and online profiling and marketing (a customizable web space that can advertise goods and services) is used in Benin (Gakuru et al., 2009). Also, InfoPrix Benin (http://www.onasa.org), operated by the National Bureau for Food Security (ONASA) in partnership with the German Center for Technical Information for Agriculture (ZADI) and the German Center for Technical Cooperation (GTZ) monitors 64 rural markets on the prices of the 25 most important staple foods. After business hours, prices are supplied to an internet café where the data is processed and sent to ONASA headquarters. Subscribers then receive an SMS message with the prices of the main foods after a quick check up.
Resources and References
Agbo, B. P., D. Agoundote, and G. S. Midingoyi. 2008. Benin. In Agricultural Extension
Worldwide Innovations. (R. Saravanan Ed.). New India Publishing Agency, Pitam Pura, New Delhi.
Agyeman, O. T. 2007.ICT in Education in Benin. Survey of ICT and Education in Africa: Benin Country Report.
Aker, J.C. 2010. Dial “A” for Agriculture: Using Information and Communication Technologies for Agricultural Extension in Developing Countries. Tufts University.
CIA, 2012. Central Intelligence Agency Report: Benin Economy 2012. CIA World Factbook and other Sources.
Daniel, E. 2007. Réflexions sur le Conseil Agricole au Bénin. De la Vulgarisation au Conseil Agricole: une Volonté Affichée mais un Passage Difficile sur le Terrain. Groupe de Travail Thématique Inter-réseaux Développement Rural "Services Agricoles". Fiche d’Initiative/Pays.
Gakuru, M. K., K. Winters & F. Stepman. 2009. Inventory of Innovative Farmer Advisory Services using ICTs. Prepared for: The Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA).
Kouton, T., G. Yorou, G. Nouatin, & B. Wennink. 2006. Orientating Research and Development for Cotton Production. The National Federation of Producers’Unions (FUPRO). Farmers’ Organizations and Agricultural Innovation. Bulletin # 374, pp 47- 54.
Moumouni, I. 2006. Services Development Perspectives in new Rural Districts in Benin: Case Study of the Agricultural Extension in Banikoara. Proceedings of APEN International Conference 6-8 March 2006 at Beechworth, Victoria, Australia
Moumouni, I. & J. Francis. 2011. Agricultural Advisory Services in Benin: Footprints, Pathways and Perspective. Paper presented at the International Conference on Innovations in Extension and Advisory Services, 15 – 18 November 2011, Nairobi Kenya. CTA, The Netherlands. Retrieved March 8, 2011 from: http://www.slideshare.net/ctaspace/moumouni-agric-policybenin
Tossou, R. C. & M.M. Zinnah. 2005- Search for Better Institutional Arrangements for Agricultural Extension Services in a Decentralized Context: The Republic of Benin. Journal of International Agricultural and Extension Education. Vol. 12 No. 3.
Wennink, B, & W. Heemskerk. 2006. Farmers ‘Organizations and Agricultural Innovation: Case Studies from Benin, Rwanda and Tanzania (eds.). Royal Tropical Institute (KIT) – Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Bulletin 374.
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Persons responsible for this report: Andre M. Nnoung, Burt E. Swanson and Andrea B. Bohn