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Services development perspectives in new rural districts in Benin: Case study of the agricultural extension in Banikoara

Ismail M. Moumouni

Institute of Agricultural Economics and Social Sciences., Email:


Banikoara ranks first amongst the cotton producing districts in Benin. However, poverty reduction and development of sustainable farming systems remain important challenges. With decentralisation started in 2002, local communities have been given great responsibility to develop their own district. In this paper, an institutional, thematic and functions analysis of the development plan of Banikoara was conducted, and stakeholders interviewed, to assess the likelihood of successful development of effective agricultural extension in the district. Institutional analysis showed that many stakeholders were involved in projects created to offer extension services. However, the partnerships developed between stakeholders are still in their infancy. Moreover, there is a need to specify service relations that should exist between stakeholders in order to develop efficient extension services and funding systems. Thematic analysis of the extension activities in the district revealed that public awareness campaigns and the diffusion of technology were the main topics addressed. Some key services such as farm and income management, problem solving assistance and facilitation, were not sufficiently covered. Functions assessment revealed that emphasis was put into micro-credit development, although agricultural research and marketing were also key services that need to be considered to support technology adoption.

Three key learnings: (1) Banikoara, the newly established rural district, still relies heavily on public extension services to tackle the problem of poverty and environment degradation. (2) Projects carried out do not yet take into account some of the important extension issues and they lack clear mechanisms in delivering and funding services. (3) The local district government strongly needs to be advised on how to organise efficient agricultural services delivery and funding.


Agricultural extension, decentralisation, development plan, delivery and funding services


Benin has been involved in a decentralisation process since 2002. With this territorial reform, local communities have been given great responsibility to develop their own district. Poverty reduction and the development of sustainable farming systems remain important challenges. The poverty is more accentuated in rural areas than other areas (Adegbidi et al., 2004). More than 60% of the population in Benin live in rural areas (MAEP, 2004). For their development, rural districts rely heavily on agriculture. The development of agriculture must go through the development of appropriate extension services to farmers. What is being doing to develop agricultural services in the newly established districts in Benin? To address this issue, I did a case study of the development of agricultural extension services in Banikoara district, the first cotton producer in Benin. This paper investigates (1) the institutional arrangements and partnerships among stakeholders to provide extension services to farmers, (2) the main types of services covered by the extension programs, and (3) the functions of the agrarian system which ensured support to extension.


Study site

Banikoara district is located in North-West Benin (West Africa). It covers 4,383 km, about 3.9% of the country’s total area. Only 48% of the lands in Banikorara are suitable for agriculture. The climate is of sudano - sahelian type. The annual average rainfall is 850 mm and the average temperature is 34C. The population of the district is 150,000 inhabitants with the main ethnic groups being Bariba and Fulani.

Analytical approach

I analysed the development plan of Banikoara district (Mairie de Banikoara, 2002) and used semi-structured interviews with local government members (2), leaders and extension workers of the public extension organisation (3), development projects (3), the district farmer organisation (2) and NGOs (4) to assess the likelihood for a successful development of effective agricultural extension. Institutional, thematic, functions and service relations analyses have been carried out. Institutional analysis focused on stakeholder analysis and included key concepts like roles distributions, partnerships between stakeholders, agricultural knowledge and information systems, and extension services development. Thematic analysis was based on projects and activities undertaken in the district and pointed out the main extension themes. Services provided or to be provided to farmers in the frame of the projects and their delivery intensity were identified and discussed. Functions examination took into consideration activities that were undertaken to develop targeted commodities for the major functions of the agrarian system.

Results and Discussion

Decentralisation and its expectations in Benin

Decentralisation usually refers to delegation or devolution of central State powers of policy making and decision taking to lower levels of government (Smith, 1997). It is the creation within a nation of territorial communities that are endowed with a judicial power, financial autonomy and managed by elected councils (Gogan and Adjaho, 1999). Nowadays, processes of decentralisation are being implemented in various African countries (Engel, 1999) because it is thought worth promoting as a reform which constitutes a step ahead towards the true autonomy of communes or areas. That was certainly also the view of the Benin National Conference of February 1990 which decided on the creation of the local communities (Rpublique du Benin, 1990). With decentralisation, the newly established districts are in charge of their own development. The expectations of decentralisation in Benin are according to Dossou (2000): (1) change of behaviour in the population who must rely on their own means; (2) active participation of the population in the management of their district; (3) decision-making and measures taken on investment initiatives for promoting development of socio-economic activities in the district; (4) establishment of systems of mobilisation of resources necessary to realise investments.

The State took thus a step more with its disengagement from rural development sector. A rural district is qualified in fields of the habitat, equipment, transport, environment, hygiene, healthiness, maternal and primary education, the literacy and education of adults, health, cultural and social actions, economic investments and commercial services (Gogan and Adjaho, 1999). The district may take measures and initiate investments which could promote the development of economic activities on its territory. It may create its own engineering departments and/or request help from engineering departments of the State. Agricultural advisory services are not explicitly mentioned but however must be recognised as being of great importance in the development of the rural communities who live primarily of agriculture. Organisation of services should thus occupy a significant place in rural districts’ development plans and take into account the principal stakeholders.

Socio-economic environment: Challenges and assets

Agriculture is the main activity in Banikoara. Some important food crops produced are maize, sorghum, millet and rice. Cotton and groundnut are the most important cash crops. The district ranks first amongst the cotton producing districts in Benin and cotton is the main source of income for almost all the households in the district. However, at the same time cotton cultivation leads to environment and health damages through deforestation, shifting cultivation, intensive use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides (Tovignan et al., 2001). Banikoara is one of the most environmentally degraded districts of Benin. The development of cotton as cash crop threatens food security in the district. Farmers prefer to produce cotton, for which the market is available, and use the money from cotton sales to buy food (Vodouh et Moumouni, 2001). This strategy led over the past decades to a decrease of food production. Animal husbandry, especially cattle raising, is developed and often coupled to agriculture. Conflicts between Baribas farmers and Fulani herders are frequent. Another important social problem caused by the development of cotton production is the destruction of families’ structure. Traditionally grand father, father, sons and their families work together in a same farm. Increasingly, young people decide to separate from their big family in order to access directly to cotton income (Vodouh et Moumouni, 2001).

Important issues that extension should address are food security, sustainable production, diversification of income sources or cash crops, environment protection, drought, farmer health protection, resolution of conflicts between farmers and breeders, stability of families. Economic evaluation of the existing water resources (Alibori and Mekrou Rivers), and the benefit derived from the development of ecotourism in the neighbouring national parks (W and Pendjari Parks) should be considered. An important social infrastructure is dynamic nature of farmer organisations involved in national and international farmer associations’ networks. They showed in the past lots of experience in negotiating and distributing agricultural inputs, the marketing of agricultural products and realisation of socio-economic infrastructures (hospital, schools, etc.)

Organisation of agricultural extension: Strengths, weaknesses and challenges

This sub-section provides background on the existing agricultural extension system. The Regional Centres for Agricultural Promotion (CeRPA1) are the public extension organisations representing the State at department level. They are under the supervision of the Ministry of Agriculture and they supervise District level Centres for Agricultural Promotion (CeCPA2). The CeRPA has long experience on agricultural extension. Since its creation in 1975, an integrated rural development approach has been implemented. Ten years later the World Bank introduced the Training and Visits system in order to reorganise the agricultural extension in Benin. Until 1992, this public extension organisation was the only agricultural services provider. CeRPA, previously known as CARDER3, was in charge of the extension, agricultural input provision and marketing of cotton. Since the liberalisation of agricultural services in 1992, the role of CeRPA is limited to extension. A National Agricultural Extension System was set up. It involves farmer organisations, Non-Governmental Organisations and private stakeholders in delivering and funding extension.

CeCPA-Banikoara is in charge of organising extension services in Banikoara district. Technicians specialised in various fields (crop science, animal science, food technology, forestry, etc.) train extension agents who are in contact with farmers. The number of public workers decreased considerably because of the liberalisation and the disengagement of the State from the agricultural sector. But the Cotton Inter-professional Association (AIC) including national farmer, ginners and input suppliers organisations has provided human resources to CeCPA over the last three years. For instance, in January 2005, CeCPA-Banikoara had 22 extension field workers from AIC and only 3 government employees.

Then, for the organisation of agricultural extension, the district still relies heavily on governmental organisation. Public extension institution lacks critically human resources and its organisation is still based on Training and Visits system, which appeared to be too directive and to lack flexibility (Tossou, 1996). Therefore, there is a crucial need of developing diversified extension systems taking into account local context as alternatives to public uniform extension. In accordance with the expectation of the decentralisation, the district local government should be involved more effectively in organising agricultural extension. Relevant and sustainable funding sources must thus be found by the local population. The following section deals with local projects and initiatives and points out the trend in the perspective of agricultural extension services development.

Analysing the district development plan of Banikoara

The development plan of Banikoara set the vision to make the district a model for other districts in the country, by 2013. It projected Banikoara to be (1) united, peaceful, well governed, (2) with a competitive economy that guarantees equity, human development, cultural influence and social well-being in a sound environment. Taking into consideration priority problems of the district, its development vision and the national policy orientations, three major intervention fields were targeted. The important fields and global objectives to achieve by the district are presented in table 1.

Table 1: Important fields and global objectives to achieve by the district


Global objectives

1. Local governance

To promote good governance at local level (Reinforcement of local administration and institutional capacity, civic and patriotic education, women position improvement, stable and fair social framework, etc.)

2. Equipments and Services

To improve equipment and services (Socio-economic infrastructures, security, leisure, public hygiene, etc.)

3. Agricultural economy

To manage rationally natural resources and incomes for sustainable and diversified production

From all the three fields of action, the third is the one that focuses directly on agriculture. The development of equipments and services had an indirect connection with agriculture. Some infrastructures such as roads are necessary for the transportation of cotton and other crop from remote villages to main city. A programme including many projects was elaborated around each main field in order to achieve the relative objective. Four projects compose the third programme entitled “Development of local economy and increase of financing capacity” (Figure 1)

Figure 1: Projects headed by the third programme “Development of local economy and increase of financing capacity”

Through the projects, it appears that this programme takes globally into consideration the diversification and the sustainability of agricultural production, the management of farm incomes and the position of women.

Institutional analysis

Through an institutional analysis one may be able (1) to identify the key stakeholders of a system and the structure of networks set up to develop a particular activity; and (2) to review development capability of institutions (Matsaert 2002).

The identification and analysis of stakeholders provide an extremely useful way to learn about the organisational environment of a system. I referred to the term “institutional analysis” as the reflection on key institutions involved in extension and structural transformations and processes occurred or forecasted to fit into the new context of decentralisation and liberalisation.

Table 2: Stakeholders according to the type institution they belong to and they roles

Types of Institution



Local administration

District local government

Coordination and funds mobilisation

SUTII KUA (District development organisation)

Making farmers aware

Rural radio (Bani Ganse)

Making farmers aware

Public institutions

District Centre for Agricultural Promotion

Organisation and implementation of extension

National institute of agricultural research

Organisation and implementation of research

National centre for forest resources management (CENAGREF)

Technical support for reforesting
Making farmers aware

Farmer organisations

District cotton producer organisation

Funding of research and extension
Participation to research and extension activities

Private non-profit organisations

Non Governmental organisations

Making farmers aware, Extension
Empowerment of farmer organisations

Development partners

Development projects






Diversity of stakeholders and partnerships

Many stakeholders are involved in projects to offer extension services (Table 2). Apart from the District’s Centre for Agricultural Promotion, only some NGOs provide extension services in the region. Unfortunately these NGOs are not technically competent (Brntrup-Seidemann, 1999). The district farmer organisation is not directly involved in providing services to farmers. Farmers do not have the option to choose between different services provided by various organisations. There is almost no idea of competition between service providers and therefore the determination to improve the quality and efficiency of services is low. In the context of decentralisation, pluralism should be promoted through the creation of favourable conditions for the involvement of many other stakeholders in the delivery and funding of agricultural extension.

Furthermore, the partnerships developed are still in their infancy. The National Agriculture Research Institute (INRAB) trains CeCPA’s extension agents on new technologies to be diffused. This relationship between research (INRAB) and extension (CeCPA) is very important for better addressing farmers’ needs. INRAB has one Research and Development (RD) team in Banikoara. However, there is almost no cooperation between CeCPA and these RD team. The development projects are designed at the national level. They are managed by independent units. Most of these projects operate in the field by contracting with NGOs. The level of cooperation between these NGOs and the other stakeholders is very low. Farmer organisations are often involved for identifying farmers who will be involved in extension projects.

Roles distribution

The district development plan doesn’t mention any role distribution in extension services delivery. Stakeholders intervene where and when they want. There is no role distribution between NGOs, public organisations and private associations such as farmer organisations. To better manage the financial and human resources, it would be useful to distribute topics and regions between stakeholders. For example, the NGO may be selected to provide services in heterogeneous and risky areas, where most of the farmers can not afford financing the extension service and where public services are insufficient (Farrington et Amanor, 1991). Farmer organisations may be in charge of hiring the extension agents. The latter would provide advice or other services to the farmers willing and able to pay. Regional and thematic role distribution will be very useful to make extension services more effective.

Coordination of extension activities and support to Agricultural Knowledge and Information Systems

The local district government is putting efforts to coordinate development activities. Extension activities carried out by stakeholders fit into the development plan of the district. However, they are not well structured enough to be coherent. The coordination system showed weaknesses. For instance, NGOs receive funds from development projects and are accountable to them. Development projects generally cover many districts and work almost separately from districts’ government. However, coordination strategy development is necessary to get synergy effects (Carney 1998). Knowledge and information management is one of the main factors in organising agricultural extension. Local knowledge should be collected, analysed, improved if possible, capitalised by research and extension organisations and shared with farmers. For this purpose, social and technology networks should be identified and made more dynamic for better information sharing.

Strategy of extension services development

To develop sustainable extension systems, farmers and their organisations should be increasingly involved in funding and providing services. Diversified private extension systems should be promoted. Instead of embodying the replacement of monolithic public extension system, diversified and privatised systems will allow the development of a range of extension delivery and funding strategies (Chapman and Tripp 2003). To do this, a transition of extension from public to private basis is necessary. Well-trained personnel will be required and in the same way, the contracting capacity of farmer organisations should be reinforced. The district development plan should include funding mechanisms and financial approaches suitable to all the targeted commodity networks. As suggested by Katz (2002), financing mechanisms could specified source of funds, funds flow directions and modes of funds collection. Financing approaches could take into consideration the agro-socio-economical context and specify services, clients or users of services, services providers. Service relations among stakeholders should be specified in order to develop efficient extension services delivery and funding systems

Thematic analysis

Thematic areas of agricultural services are crop production, animal breeding, marketing, processing, farm enterprise management, land and water management and biodiversity conservation. Most of the extension services provided to farmers fall within the following: provision of information, training, assistance in problem solving, facilitation and animation, and links to other actors (Katz, 2002).

The thematic analysis is based on an examination of the main activities that are being undertaken within the four projects included in the Third Programme of the Banikoara District development Plan.

Presentation of the expected results and the main activities of the projects

Table 3: Expected results and main activities of the project 1 “Support to sustainable and diversified production”

Expected results

Main activities

1. Soil fertility is improved

a. Information and training of farmers on intensive agriculture, i.e. manure making, fertilising plants growing, improved farming system

b. Information and training of farmers on agro-forestry

c. Implementation of a trees plantation and protection plan

d. Implementation of a pasture management plan

2. Animal husbandry networks reinforced and generate income

a. Identification and promotion of interesting commodity networks for animal husbandry products (milk, poultry, grasscutter husbandry)

b. Increase of farmer awareness for fodder plants growing

c. Creation of stock water dams and wells

d. Creation of animal vaccination centres

Table 4: Expected results and main activities of the project 2 “Support to production means improvement and support to women”

Expected results

Main activities

1. Conservation, processing and means of selling farm products are reinforced

a. Building stores for farm products conservation

b. Installation of pilot units of storage and conservation techniques in each arrondissement

c. Development of a financing mechanism for product processing units

d. Development of a training plan on processing industries

2. Fishing products are valued and available

a. Improvement or development of pilot fish ponds

b. Evaluation of water dams and improving their management committees

c. Implementation of a professional training plan for fishing

3. Rice and vegetables networks are developed and generate income for farmers

a. Identification and access to appropriate wetlands

b. Installation of pilot wetland management

c. Training of farmers to value wetlands

d. Identification of constraints that hamper development of wetlands

4. Other farm products networks are developed

Promoting of other interesting crop husbandry networks

Table 5: Expected results and main activities of the project 3 “Support to better income management and support increase of women income”

Expected results

Main activities

1. Farm incomes are better managed by farmers

a. Reinforcement and promotion of saving and credit institutions

b. Simplification of credit access mechanisms

c. Making farmers aware of consequences of ruinously expensive ceremonies

2. Credit access conditions are made favourable to women

Making micro-credit access procedures more flexible and less strict to woman

3. Development resources are better managed by farmer organisations

Training farmer organisations on rational economic resources management

Table 6: Expected results and main activities of the project 4 “Support to natural resources regeneration and protection”

Expected results

Main activities

District area is reforested and soils are regenerated

a. Implementation of a system of seeds production (support to nurserymen)

b. Production and extension of high performance tree species

c. Making farmers aware of fertilisers and pesticides use to reduce their noxious effects

d. Making farmers aware of need for rational water resources management

Thematic analysis

Table 7 provides an insight on services that are taken into consideration by the programme for each thematic area and their delivery intensity. The number of Xs represents number of activities that take into consideration the type of service for in the thematic area.

Table 7: Services taken into consideration by programme for each thematic area and their delivery intensity

Type of services
Thematic areas

Providing information

Making aware


Assistance in problem solving


On-farm or social

Production & Breeding & Storage







Agricultural marketing


Agricultural processing




Farm enterprise management





Organisational development




Land & Water management






Environment protection







Thematic analysis of the projects revealed that awareness campaigns and diffusion of technology (training) are the main types of services carried out by extension agents. However, farmer’s needs are more than a simple diffusion of technology because they are often multidimensional (Neuchtel Group 1999). Important services such as information providing and problem solving assistance were not sufficiently taken into consideration in many thematic areas. Farmers also get insufficient facilitation in term of infrastructure. Facilitation, as a set of mechanisms to support farmers, involving the agricultural knowledge and information system and access to new services (Groupe de Neuchtel, 2001) was not addressed.

Functions analysis

For an efficient agricultural development, extension should be considered as a functional component of an agrarian system. Adams (1982) distinguished as functions the research, extension, production, marketing, input and credit supply, and regulation elements. I added to this list infrastructure building which greatly affects the functioning of the agrarian system. In the district development plan, poultry, fishing, cattle and milk are clearly targeted as priority commodities to promote. Table 8 shows activities that are being undertaken to develop these commodities for each major function of the agrarian system.

Table 8: Activities undertaken to develop commodities for each major function of the agrarian system




Cattle and Milk

General issues



- Pilot fish ponds
- Pilot wetland management
- Identification of constraints relative to wetland use


Pilot units of storage and conservation techniques



- Professional training plan for fishing
- Training of farmers to evaluate wetlands


- Information and training on improved farming system
- Information and training on agro-forestry
- Training on processing


Promotion of interesting commodity networks relative to animal husbandry

Promoting of other interesting crop husbandry networks

Input supply

Credit supply

- Financing mechanism for product processing units
- Reinforcement and promotion of saving and credit institutions
- Simplification of credit access mechanisms
- Making micro-credit access procedures more flexible and less strict to woman


Centres of animal vaccination

Identification and delimitation of useful shallows

- Pastoral water dams and wells
- Centres of animal vaccination

Stores for farm products conservation

From a functional perspective, emphasis is put on the micro-credit development, although agricultural research and marketing are also key services that need to be considered to support technology adoption. No research and extension activities are projected for supporting poultry, cattle and milk networks though they have been targeted as priority commodities. Only on-farm research on fishing and other general issues has been taken into consideration. No thematic research is taken into consideration. However it is very important on new issues to support effectively extension activities and opportunities. But important research fields like social constraints are included. Key functions such as the marketing and input supply are not clearly mentioned even if they could be included in promotion action. In the same way, some activities do not refer to particular commodity. In these domains, actions should be specified for better visibility.


For promoting agriculture in the new context of decentralisation, district local government and leaders should develop systematic ways of designing adequate extension financing and delivery systems. Agricultural extension in decentralised system should be pluralist, oriented towards meeting of the needs and expectations of farmers. There should be strong linkages between research, extension and farmers. Therefore local leaders should get familiarised with key concepts such as the strategy of extension services development, the coordination of extension activities, roles distribution and partnerships among stakeholders and support to Agricultural Knowledge and Information Systems.


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1 Centre Rgionale pour la Promotion Agricole

2 Centre Communale pour la Promotion Agricole

3 Centre d’Action Rgionale pour le Dveloppement Rural

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