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Decisionmaking by smallholder farmers in an oil plambased economy in southern Benin, West Africa
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Budgets for palm-oil and palm-alcohol production were constructed to show the economic benefit of each activity to smallholder farmers in southern Benin. The selling prices of oil palms to alcohol distillers, who cut the trees, were approximately equal to the annual fruit revenue for that tree. Since trees produce fruit for several decades, this price seems very low. A life-table analysis of the trees was conducted after converting tree height to tree age and substituting revenue for offspring. Tree reproductive value was calculated assuming a type-1 survivorship curve, and the equation was modified by discount rates for future revenues rather than by a fitness term. These discount rates reflect farmer uncertainty about the future. At high discount rates, e.g., greater than 0.1, the present value of the tree was similar to the value of its expected annual fruit production. Farmer interviews and a field study emphasized the relative importance of oil palms in the region.