Modern day Republic of Benin that achieved independence in August 1960 sits on the site of Dahomey, a West African kingdom that rose in the 15th century. The country went from a succession of military governments to a government based on Marxist-Leninist principles with the rise to power of Mathieu Kerekou. A move to a representative government with free elections contributed to the transfer of power from a dictatorship to a democracy. Benin is located in West Africa and bordered on the north by Burkina Faso and Niger, on the west by Togo, on the east by Nigeria and on the south by the Atlantic Ocean. With a land are of 112,622 sq km the population of Benin is estimated at 9.6 million people in 2012. The country’s economy remains underdeveloped and dependent on subsistence agriculture, cotton production, and regional trade. Growth in real output had averaged almost 4% before the global recession, but fell to 2.7% in 2009 and 3% in 2010 (CIA, 2012). Agriculture accounts for 35.5 % of the GDP, and the economy is more sensitive to fluctuations in international prices for agricultural products such as cotton and palm oil and also susceptible to natural calamities. Cotton, a key export, suffered from flooding in 2010-11, but high prices supported export earnings.
A Brief History of Agricultural Extension Services in Benin and the Enabling Environment
For decades, all agricultural development activities in Benin, including extension services were exclusively carried out by the Government through its Ministry of Agriculture (Tossou & Zinnah, 2005). The country’s agricultural development policies, since independence in 1960, have gone through a series of changes. With the introduction of Structural Adjustment Program (SAP) and the democratization process, agricultural extension embarked in a restructuring process, and the changing agricultural extension landscape opened agricultural advisory services to private organizations and brought in new actors. Privatization of extension in 1992 led to partial withdrawal of public organizations and the involvement of private actors, NGOs, producer organizations and development projects in providing and funding extension services (Moumouni & Labarthe, 2009). The National Agricultural Extension System (NAES) was put in place in 1993 by the Ministry of Rural Development and the World Bank to harmonize government intervention. NAES involved farmer organizations, Non-Governmental Organizations and private stakeholders in delivering and funding extension.
The extension services were responsible for organizing and overseeing village Producers Organizations (POs) known as Groupement Villageois (GVs). These GVs became Centres Régionaux and Communaux pour la Promotion Agricole (provincial CeRPAs and district CeCPAs), which included the opening of agricultural advisory services to private organizations and further decentralization. Public agricultural extension services are now de-concentrated, and are represented in all provinces and districts. Extension services focus on advising farmers, rural communities and the district authorities (Communes) on information relevant to production and marketing chains (Kouton et al., 2006).
Persons responsible for this report: Andre M. Nnoung, Burt E. Swanson and Andrea B. Bohn