Transitions in Cooperative Labour and the Constraints to the Adoption and Scaling-Up of Labour Intensive Agricultural Technologies

  •  David Natcher    
  •  Erika Bachmann    
  •  Mohamed Baco    
  •  Suren Kulshreshtha    
  •  Jeremy Pittman    
  •  Derek Peak    


The research presented in this paper stems from a collaboration between researchers in the Benin Republic, Nigeria and Canada who are examining the opportunities to enhance the sustainable production of under-utilized indigenous vegetables through the micro-dosage of synthetic fertilizer. Because micro-dosing is a labour intensive technology, and is time sensitive in application, we sought to better understand how the availability of labour, as affected by changes in cooperative networks, might affect adoption and scaling up opportunities. The systems of cooperative labour described in this paper reflect the culture and traditions of the Betammaribe people, residing in the village of Koumagou B in northwest Benin. Our results indicate that cooperative labour systems among the Betammaribe are in transition and are being influenced by seasonal migration, the financial demands of formal education, the use of oxen by those with relative wealth, and off-farm employment. These pressures have led to the atomizing of Koumagou B households and a concomitant decline in the availability of cooperative labour. Interventions designed to improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers must not inadvertently perpetuate social and economic inequalities or disadvantage those most vulnerable. It is this possibility that warrants careful consideration as we contemplate the benefits of adopting and scaling-up new agricultural technologies in the future.

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