Social impacts of IPM-FFS on urban and peri-urban vegetable producers in Cotonou, Benin
Shifting from scientist-led top-down approaches in agricultural development to participatory approaches putting farmers and their knowledge in the center requires scientists and farmers to play new roles, changing social relationships between them, and among farmers themselves. Using mainly qualitative data and analysis, this paper reports social impacts (social relations, social empowerment and sharing of IPM information, and sustainability and institutionalization of IPM) for vegetable producers in an integrated pest management (IPM) project using farmer field schools (FFS) in Cotonou. Forty-three vegetable producers were chosen for semi-structured interviews. The project led to social empowerment of the vegetable producers and initiated a process of creation and sharing of IPM knowledge and building of social relations within and between the vegetable gardens. The participants realized they were sources of information for each other, and IPM knowledge was shared without the benefit or restriction of social networks. However, this study revealed several factors hindering the development of improved social relations among the vegetable producers and between these and the scientists and steering committee members, which in turn may result in lack of continuation and institutionalization of IPM activities. To overcome these obstacles, this research suggests that similar IPM-FFS projects encourage (1) a transparent selection process, (2) improvement of the Trainer of Trainers’ facilitation skills for better quality FFSs and improved sharing of complex information like agro-ecosystem analysis and beneficial insects, (3) building trust and confidence between the participants and scientists, (4) giving the ToT participants, community organizers and farmer organizations ownership of the project by giving them responsibility for creating post project plans to spread and institutionalize IPM of IPM-FFS activities and (5) facilitating the participants during and after the project in improving social relations and accountability. The results also draw lessons on how scientists and vegetable producers have or should have changed their roles to sustain and institutionalize IPM, such as the scientists and project leaders need to focus even more on their interactions with vegetable producers, enhancing their role as facilitators in initiating equitable processes of sustaining and institutionalizing IPM in the vegetable gardens.
Key words: IPM-FFS, Empowerment, Relations, Information sharing
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