Making rural development work cultural hybridization of farmers' organizations : the Adja case in Benin

S.D. Vodouhe

    Research output: Thesisinternal PhD, WU


    <p>This book analyses farmers' organizations with respect to trust and accountability, in order to contribute to the building of viable organizations. It argues that the lack of trust or of effective accountability mechanisms is one of the major factors which undermine the effectiveness of farmers' organizations. The quality of trust (or its absence) is found in relations between people who consider each other to be equal in status and when solidarity between them is very high. Accountability is defined as the extent to which individuals or organizations who hold power, responsibility, or goods, on behalf of others, can be made to behave in the collective interest. I argue that the combination of indigenous and introduced accountability mechanisms contributes to the promotion of trust among members of farmers' organizations. For this purpose, three different types of organizations were selected in three different villages in order to represent extreme cases. This work is an exploratory study which looked only at limited evidence in one culturally 'homogenous' situation (the Adja plateau).<p>The organizations taken are:<UL><LI>the saving and credit associations for funeral ceremonies which are self-initiated and self- managed by farmers. Outside intervention is very little;</LI><LI>the <em>Groupement Villageois</em> (GVs) which are set up by CARDER, the government extension service. The intervention of the government institution is very great. The decision to create the CV with its structural arrangements was taken by CARDER, the extension service. Villagers were not involved in the establishment of these structural arrangements; and</LI><LI>the functional groups (FG) which are set up by PADES, an NGO. This NGO expects farmers to create their own organizations and would like to help them to seize available opportunities. The NGO would contribute to creating a favourable environment for farmers' organizations and to inducing accountability mechanisms within them in order to allow all members to benefit from their membership to the organization.</LI></UL><p>These three types of organization were chosen in villages which are different with respect to their size, their economic and social situations and power patterns. The village of Gbècogblé is a large village with many different African traditional religions and many imported religions. There are some big farmers and big traders. Conflicts are frequent between groups and consensus is rarely reached between them about development goals. Powerful people impose their views. The village of Soukpodagni is a large village with many religions. This village is in permanent competition with the surrounding villages with respect to outside interventions in the area. Power holders in the village very often reach a consensus with respect to outsiders, and develop strategies to attract as many development interventions to the village as possible. The hamlet of Ekponté is very small and is considered by the neighbouring villages as a 'bush' village. People in Ekponté tried to improve the image of their area. As such, they invest in building consensus on most development activities. There is some level of social cohesion in the hamlet and the level of social control is very high.<p>Investigations in the three types of organization in the three villages revealed that the effectiveness of these organizations can be explained by the existence of trust among members, or the effectiveness of accountability mechanisms. Elements which influence the creation of trust or effective accountability mechanisms in these organizations are the perception of people about the organization, transparency, the purpose of the organization, the involvement of members in setting rules and their enforcement, and the quality of the leaders and the influence of outsiders.<p>The perceptions people have about their organizations influence their behaviour with respect to the organizations. When they perceive organizations as imposed people frequently scheme to misappropriate public property. But when people. perceive the organization as their own, they develop strategies to make leaders more accountable for their behaviour and fight for common interests. With respect to this, most CV and some functional groups are perceived as imposed organizations and do not have any meaning to members. Corruption is very rife. In contrast to these introduced organizations, the <em>Kugbè</em> an indigenous organization, the CV of Ekponté and some functional groups represent a certain reality embedded in the daily life of members. For example, the <em>Kugbè</em> aims at helping members with expenses related to the burial of parents-in-law. Burial activities are well known to members and represent some realities to them. Funeral ceremonies contribute to the gathering of people and thus to building cohesion among kinsmen. Introduced organizations did not play such social roles.<p>Introduced organizations are established with their structural arrangements which are not familiar to villagers. They are useful but difficult to understand by farmers. The accountability mechanisms embedded in introduced organizations allow all members to have equal access to its assets, and are expected to foster democracy within farmers' organizations. These reasons are not very well explained to farmers before the establishment of rules, control mechanisms, reward and punishment structures. These mechanisms are very complicated and difficult to understand by farmers. In indigenous organizations, people use simple mechanisms: and sometimes the respect of elders, the fear of the actions of ancestors, <em>Vodjou</em> and God are sufficient to ensure 'good' behaviour by leaders. People decide upon rules and how to enforce them. Leaders are much more afraid to misuse funds for ceremonies than the funds of GVs or of functional groups.<p>This study has shown the importance of leaders in running farmers' organizations and in their achievements. Leaders direct groups and serve as brokers between the organization and the outside world. Leaders in indigenous organizations did not misuse common funds as is very often the case in most introduced organizations. The most effective leaders are found in indigenous organizations and among excluded leaders, i.e., leaders who are not recognized as such by other people because they lack the ability to read and write in the interveners' language, or they are from hamlets considered as 'brousse' (not important areas). In some villages, leaders are illiterate people who perceive their responsibilities as opportunities to increase their status by running the organization properly. The study has shown that well-educated people are not necessarily the best leaders.<p>In indigenous organizations, people are chosen for reasons which are in harmony with the reality of the society. In effect, people prefer to have as leaders people they trust, i.e., people who are in the village and are not going to leave it after a while in connection with work. Government workers are not chosen as leaders of such organizations. Factors very often used for selection are related to the ownership of houses in the village and to long-term settlement in the village with their families. Villagers do not choose people who are always coming and going, or strangers to the village, because these people do not belong to the trust circles. Old people are very often chosen as chairmen of these organizations.<p>The study has also revealed that there are mechanisms which undermine the accountability of leaders to members. It was found that the access of leaders to power sources uncontrollable by other members such as witchcraft, political leaders who are themselves unaccountable or private gangs of thugs, together with the lack of a common problem/goal and a shared paradigm (belief in ancestors), constitute mechanisms which tempt leaders not to behave in the collective interest.<p>In contrast to the above mentioned factors, there are factors which promote the accountability of leaders to members. Some of these factors are the effective functioning of the council of elders, the inspired leaders, and the outside agencies, notably sons abroad or association of young people, which can be called upon to settle conflicts within the organizations.<p>In the light of the findings and the limits of both indigenous and introduced organizations, I propose the use of the existing potentialities in these organizations. 1 argue that there is a need to create hybrid organizations. An hybrid organization can be defined as an organization of which the structural arrangements are understandable to both farmers and to development agencies. For this, projects must not be used for the creation of organizations but will contribute to the establishment of procedures. The objective of projects should not be to establish organizations. A project must work on technical problems: organizations may be created if the need is perceived by farmers themselves.<p>As implications of the results of this study, the following suggestions are made as to create an hybrid farmer organization. The first step will be to think about where to start this hybrid organization. The findings have shown that effective organizations are not necessarily found in big villages. Thus, the marginalized villages or hamlets are likely to the best places to start such organizations. These villages might need to improve the image others have about their areas and to work accordingly. The second step might be to acknowledge the potential leaders who are not prominent because they lack certain capacities (illiterate or poor). These people are likely to seize the opportunities offered to them to improve their economic, social and political status.<p>Another element to consider is that farmers will be responsible for the creation of the organization, will establish their objectives, rules, and systems of sanctions and rewards.<p>Change agents may play the roles of catalyst and facilitator. They will contribute to creating an environment favourable to the promotion of these types of organization. As facilitators, change agents might contribute to the promotion of effective accountability mechanisms at various levels. These mechanisms are expected to mutually reinforce each other.<p>In conclusion, the effectiveness of farmers' organizations depends on the motivation, honesty and capability of the leaders and on people's confidence in them. Some of these characteristics can be enhanced by accountability mechanisms, social structure, networks of actors at different levels and the culture of the village.<p>A question which needs to be explored is whether one can systematically facilitate increased sustainability through, e.g., deft use of development projects, training, enhancing competition among villages, and helping organizations and federations to develop.
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
    Awarding Institution
    • Röling, N.G., Promotor
    Award date17 Sep 1996
    Place of PublicationS.l.
    Print ISBNs9789054855668
    Publication statusPublished - 1996


    • farmers' associations
    • organizations
    • participation
    • farmers
    • benin

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