PhD Dissertation

Poverty Dynamics and Agricultural Practices of Environment Conservation in African Rural Area. The Case of Adja plateau in Southern Benin

Emile HOUNGBO (2008)
PhD, University of Abomey-Calavi

The influence of increase in land pressure on agricultural production and the environment is disputed. On one hand the pessimists, mainly represented by MALTHUS (1798), think that land pressure is associated to negative effects on agricultural production and leads to famine and rural exodus. On the other hand the optimists, mainly represented by BOSERUP (1970), think that land pressure is an essential factor for technological change and agricultural intensification. In fact, although in general the demographic and food evolution in Africa presents a Malthusian trend, like the cases of Yatenga in Burkina Faso, Serer district in Senegal and Adja plateau in Benin Republic, it was even though observed some Boserupian evolutions like the cases of Bamileke district in Cameroon and the district of Machakos in Kenya. One wonders if it’s still possible to presage in Africa a generalised optimistic evolution of BOSERUP (1970) and in which conditions. 

It’s to contribute to this scientific debate that this thesis is developing an intermediary position between MALTHUS theory and that of BOSERUP. It’s demonstrating that in land pressure situation, the farmers’ welfare state was a determinant of improving agricultural practices development and agricultural productivity improvement. Land pressure does not induce ipso facto technological change and agricultural development. Chronic poverty of the farmers was the main obstacle for positive impact of land pressure on agriculture and the environment. Agriculture development and environment quality improvement follow the thesis of MALTHUS if the chronic poverty rate among the farmers is higher, and follow the thesis of BOSERUP when the chronic poverty rate is lower. Land pressure can lead to land productivity increase only if chronic poverty rate among the farmers is weak. 

This study has been implemented in the Adja plateau, a hard land pressure zone in the South-western Benin. The main objective is to analyse poverty and its interactions with the conservation agricultural techniques (CATs). From a sample of 122 households selected in the six districts covered by the Adja plateau, the data analysis allows to conclude that:

i)   The CATs, especially the improved fallow technologies, increase the probability for the poor households to exit from poverty and that of the non poor households to stay non poor.

ii)  The mean intensity of the CATs practice by the non poor households was significantly higher than that of the poor households: 0.506 versus 0.282.

iii)  Poverty on the Adja plateau is mainly transient (36.9 percent), but the chronic poverty rate is also high (28.7 percent). Chronic poverty proceeds of negative chocks involving repeated expenses or affecting the household’s production capacity (diseases, deaths, resources/assets deficiency, unfavourable social factors …). Transient poverty rather proceeds of abrupt/temporary chocks reducing the household’s financial capacity (cotton-seeds non payment, drought, flood, …).

iv)  The type of poverty depends on : 
  The household’s geographical location. The highest chronic poverty rate was observed in the district of Dogbo (69.57 percent), followed by that of Toviklin (42.86 percent);
  The sex of the household head. The chronic poverty rate was higher among the households headed by women (47.06 percent) than among that headed by men (25.71 percent);
  The number of farms owned by the household. The highest chronic poverty rate was observed within the households of 2 farms or less. 

 The mean intensity of the CATs practice by the chronic poor households was significantly less than that of the transient poor households: 0.367 versus 0.501.

vi) The poverty indices decrease on the Adja plateau during the period 2000-2007 led to a significant increase of the CATs practice incidence which moved from 1.142 ha per household in 2000 to 1.505 ha per household in 2007.   

In order that the farmers can develop sustainable agriculture in this land pressure situation on the Adja plateau, it’s necessary to alleviate or eradicate chronic poverty among them by facilitating a truly profitable agriculture. 

Key words: Poverty dynamics, Conservation Agricultural Techniques, Adja plateau, Benin.