Diversity in success: Interaction between external interventions and local actions in three rice farming areas in Benin

Totin, G.G.E.; Mierlo, B.C. van; Mongbo, R.; Leeuwis, C.


Since the rice crisis of 2007, the government of Benin has initiated many programmes for rice intensification. Comparison of three rice production areas shows that local rice production has indeed been increased by the facilities provided by the government programmes. Although broadly the same facilities (market outlet, credit, input, etc.) were provided to rice farmers in the three study areas, which are located close to one another, there are not only similar, but also some different outcomes with regard to farmers’ practices. There were also some unexpected changes, like the shift from limited collective canal cleaning to individual canal cleaning in Koussin-Lélé and the use of pumps in upland areas in Bamè. The study explores the interplay between these external interventions of government programmes and local actions of farmers to explain the outcomes. Using an actor-oriented perspective, the study concludes that farmers’ agency played a critical role in the success of interventions; the changes occurred because of local actions of the farmers and intermediaries interacting with the external interventions at diverse junctures. Differences in strategies for resolving livelihood problems, in production options and biophysical conditions influence farmers’ local actions and contribute to the explanation of the diversity of outcomes. The main lesson drawn from this research is that evaluation studies should not consider external interventions as the only or primary source of change. The dynamic interplay between local agency, intermediation and external interventions makes room for change.