Making a Little Go a Long Way: The Socio-economic Factors Influencing the Adoption of Fertilizer Microdosing in Northwest Benin
Soil degradation and low crop productivity negatively affect the food security of smallholder farmers in West Africa. Various agricultural techniques have been developed as components of food security interventions, but their effectiveness in addressing food insecurity in part depends upon farmers’ willingness to adopt these techniques. Likewise, adoption depends upon the effectiveness of these techniques in fulfilling farmers’ objectives. The institutional and biophysical environments mediate not only the effectiveness of the techniques, but also how farmers value a technique. This study examined the evidence for fertilizer microdosing as a form of agricultural intensification and the socio-economic conditions that influence its adoption among smallholder farmers. A census was conducted in one village in northwest Benin that had recently seen the introduction of fertilizer microdosing. Key household-level determinants of adoption identified in the literature—household resources, household demographics, and access to inputs— were included in the household surveys. Using partial budgeting analysis and yield data from demonstration plots, the relative profitability of fertilizer microdosing was calculated as a necessary condition of adoption. Drawing from farmers’ stories, the potential value of microdosing was contextualized within the larger social and institutional context. Based upon the village census, there was little adoption outside of the research project that introduced microdosing to the village. Households using microdosing (predominantly found within the research project) had, on average, higher socio-economic status, more cultivable land and larger labour forces. Profitability analysis indicated that microdosing was on average less profitable than the point-source application of the recommended dosage rate in Benin (the common alternative). However, farmers still expressed a desire to microdose, due to poorly functioning input markets, poor infrastructure, and lack of access to financial instruments, all of which limited the availability, access and utilization of inorganic fertilizer.
fertilizer microdosing, agricultural technology adoption, socio-ecological niche, sustainable intensification, demonstration trials, rainwater harvesting, development projects, maize, Benin, West Africa
Master of Science (M.Sc.)
Bioresource Policy, Business and Economics