Since the 2007 food crisis, the Government of Benin has created enabling conditions that urge small scale farmers to intensify rice production in inland valleys. Unsuitable irrigation infrastructures and lack of willingness to act collectively has led farmers to complain about water shortage. Adoption of mitigating technologies offered by government (extension) and scientists (e.g. Benin Agricultural Research Institute, AfricaRice) has been low due to the institutional context within which farmers are working. A socio-technical approach which combines technical and institutional dimensions was used to identify and test mulching as a potential method for improving irrigation water efficiency in growing rice in upland parts of Benin's inland valleys. Rice farmers (from three production areas), an extension agent and a researcher formed a multi-stakeholder platform and collaborated to test the application of mulch (three doses) and the use of a lowland rice variety in replacement of an upland rice variety during two growing seasons. Multiple methods derived from researchers and farmers’ perspectives were used to evaluate trial results: quantitative scientific evidence was combined with qualitative evaluation using indicators agreed upon by the collaborative group. Results show that the lowland rice variety IR-841 with 10 Mg ha-1 ‘rice-straw’ mulch allows farmers to better use available water in the upland areas and increase yields. Although the preference for IR-841 over the special bred upland variety Nerica-4 is risky because of its high water demand and the uncertainty in rainfall, farmers use IR-841 for profit maximisation. Beyond its technical output, the joint experimentation facilitated the interaction of knowledge, experiences and practices among the involved actors.
- innovation systems
- inland valleys