People's response to policy change in agricultural development organization : the Benin case

R.C. Tossou

Research output: Thesisinternal PhD, WU


<p>This book is about change. It deals with the way in which social actors, be they individuals or groups, involved in the agricultural development of Benin reconstruct for themselves the new policy context in order to develop relevant strategies translating policy measures into practical objectives and concrete actions. The main objectives of the study are to:<p>(1) understand the official definitions of the changing conditions in each of the cases studied and the rationales supporting them;<p>(2) identify the way actors, be they individuals or strategic groups, deal with these formal or abstract definitions, i.e., how they define the situation for themselves;<p>(3) understand the factors that facilitate or shape each response to the change conditions;<p>(4) translate these responses into change, in terms of relevant knowledge and information processes and coping behaviour;<p>(5) see if knowledge processes may vary according to changing conditions, i.e., the context in which they occur;<p>(6) use the experience gained through the study to inform theory;<p>(7) see how far these knowledge processes in each changing condition really contribute to the development of agriculture in Benin; and<p>(8) make recommendations for development practice.<p>Since 1989, Benin, the former People's Republic of Benin, has been undergoing a great socio-economic and political change. The main changes at the national level are an implementation of a Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) and a political discontinuity hailed worldwide as a democratic reform having repercussions for all Western and Central Africa.<p>In this socio-economic and political climate for agricultural development in Benin new policy measures have been designed. The main policy measures that serve as case studies in the present book are:<p>- professionalizing agricultural extension through a re-orientation of the extension system in the <em>'Centres d'Action Régional pour le Développement Rural</em> ( <em>CARDER</em> )' <em></em> toward information, training and persuasion;<p>- making farmers responsible for such functions as primary gathering of cotton, inputs and credit management through their associations, i.e., the <em>'Groupement Villageois (GV)';</em><p>-adapting agricultural education to employment or work market/opportunities, i.e., the development needs in Benin; and<p>- adapting agricultural research to farmers' needs and constraints in Benin, making research more client-oriented.<p>The study of these four cases started in the Borgou province in 1989, where indepth interviews, discussions and intensive observations were undertaken. The results obtained were cross-checked with evidence obtained in 1993 in other CARDERs, mainly those of the Mono, the Atacora and the Oueme provinces, as well as in other related education and research institutions.<p>The data gathered during the field study have been analyzed across three main lines: the knowledge and information processes used as policy instruments; the coping behaviour of the actors involved in policy implementation; and the factors which affect these knowledge and information processes as well as the coping behaviour.<br/>The main results of these case studies show that:<p>- actors' responses to policy change in Benin have two aspects: the knowledge and information processes initiated by government officials as part of a set of policy instruments chosen for the implementation of the various measures; and the coping behaviours of the actors as adaptive responses either to the change situations themselves or to the knowledge and information processes.<p>- actors' coping behaviour may be broadly classified into two categories: rejection or acceptance of part or all of the process. Acceptance or rejection is always based on legitimate reasons as perceived by the actors. These reasons are:<p>(1) the degree of social and/or cultural motivation, i.e., incongruence between the contents of the policy measures, past experiences and/or value systems;<p>(2) the degree of material and/or financial motivation in situations where actors do not want to shock change agents, either because of bureaucratic and administrative requirements or social and cultural obligations and values; and<p>(3) the importance given to discipline in administrative and bureaucratic situations, i.e., the expectation of positive or favourable rewards from the change agent.<p>Five forms of coping behaviour have been derived from the study: skimping, internalized rejection and acceptance, compliant acceptance and opportunity grasping.<p>- The emergent knowledge and information processes are classified into two categories: directive and more interactive ones. Directive knowledge and information processes as they have been derived from the case studies are: anticipation/regulation setting; training/regulation reinforcement; and regulation control. Interactive knowledge and information processes which came out of the study are: facilitation; joint learning; and negotiation/consensus building.<p>- The main factors that proved to influence actors' adaptive responses to change are either related to individual actors or to the institution in which they are working.<p>At individual level, two main response shaping factors are identified. These are motivation and individual capability. Many sources of motivation are identified from the case studies: material, financial, social and cultural motivation. Actor's past experiences also influence their response to change. Lack or insufficient capability is due to low levels of formal education, lack of a literacy programme as well as post-graduate and inservice training.<p>Two outcomes of the influence of capability emerged from the cases. With regard to the first form of outcomes, actors did not completely accept the contents of the policy measures because of a low level of education, literacy and ability or skills. That was the case of the Village Extension Workers. A second form of outcomes is characterized by the fact that the actors have accepted the content of the policy measures, even internalized them, without having the ability and skills to implement them in practice. But an exclusive focus on capability building does not always lead to results desired. The case of the extension workers in Benin is an illustration of such a limitation.<p>At institutional level, autonomy and opportunities or resources available are important factors in the process. Power relations, information management in decision making and action emerged as the main constraining factors affecting actors' autonomy in the various changing situations. The opportunities that determined actors' responses, especially coping behaviours, are the material and financial resources provided to them in the course of the implementation of the process. Their access to these resources and the degree to which these could help them to solve their individual problems was crucial.<p>- As far as the contribution of the study to theory development is concerned, a framework for people's responses to policy implementation in Benin has been designed and nine knowledge claims formulated.<p>- Two main recommendations with the related strong assumptions have been made for development practice.<p>(1) The need to shift from a more centralized and directive extension organization to a more decentralized, and interactive one. A level of decentralization might be the sub-region usually called <em>'secteurs agricoles'</em> in the CARDERs. In such a decentralized organization, Rural Development Officers, the so-called <em>'Responsable de Développement Rural</em> (RDR)' would be accountable for the rural development in their areas.<p>As such, in the middle run, an extension activities contract would be signed between the extension officers at the headquarters of the CARDER and the sub-regional development zones <em>('secteurs'). By</em> such contractual extension activities, RDR would be provided with the required resources and would be judged only on the basis of their results.<p>In the long run, these sub-regional services could generate additional resources to improve the living conditions of the extension workers. These additional resources could be derived from a kind of refund that farmers' associations and agricultural products exporting companies or bodies would pay to these services as subsidies for their contribution to agricultural development. The importance of these subsidies would, of course, depend on the impact of these development services on the agricultural production and the living standards of farmers; and<p>(2) The need to strengthen and empower farmers' associations not only in the regions where cotton is produced, but also in other regions of the country. Such an action could increase the financial power of these associations. Thus, they would be better able to contribute financially to extension and R&D activities.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Röling, N.G., Promotor
  • van den Bor, W., Promotor
Award date16 May 1995
Place of PublicationS.l.
Print ISBNs9789054854012
Publication statusPublished - 1995


  • social change
  • social development
  • rural planning
  • rural development
  • socioeconomics
  • agriculture
  • agricultural production
  • economic development
  • agricultural education
  • benin
  • economic planning
  • agricultural extension


Dive into the research topics of 'People's response to policy change in agricultural development organization : the Benin case'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this