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Mucuna fallow diffusion in southern Benin
Manyong, Victor M.
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Population pressure in the southern provinces of Benin has forced farmers to shorten or abandon the traditional bush fallow system. As a consequence, severe soil degradation and weed infestation constitute the most serious constraints to agricultural productivity. Mucuna fallow is one of the most promising technologies for natural resource management to restore soil fertility in intensified crop-ping systems. It was introduced in 1987 to some 15 farmers through farmers' participatory research in the Mono province of Benin, and now more than 10 000farmers are estimated to be using Mucuna nationwide. This paper examines the dynamics and determinants of Mucuna diffusion and adoption, and assesses its impact in southern Benin. Results showed that the rates of adoption of Mucuna fallow are promising, as more farmers are adopting the technology. The analysis conducted with a Probit model showed that the most important factors influencing farmers' adoption were weed infestation, land tenure rights, contact with extension services, and other farm-specific variables. The assessment of the economic impact showed that systems with Mucuna have a higher benefit:cost ratio than systems without Mucuna. Adoption resulted in a structural shift of the production function using the same pool of production factors. Advantages include yield increase, labor reduction, and soil fertility restoration. The majority of farmers expressed more satisfaction with Mucuna than with chemical fertilizer. Suppression of Imperata cylindrica and low capital requirement were perceived to be the major benefits of Mucuna fallow, and therefore provided a window for its rapid adoption and diffusion. Prospects for the use of Mucuna grain for human consumption and animal feed will certainly increase farm-level adoption and impact in small-scale farming systems. Other windows of opportunity for Mucuna fallow may exist and need to be identified to achieve greater adoption and impact in the intensified systems of West Africa.