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Foreign farming techniques and agricultural development in colonial Benin, 1937 – 1950
This paper examines the foreign farming techniques introduced to Benin by the British during the period of colonial rule and the impact on the development of agriculture during the period. The work begins by identifying the basic problem created by the colonial agricultural policy in Benin following the establishment of colonial rule. This policy emphasized cash crops cultivation and production at the detriment of food crops. The cultivation of cash crops especially rubber and oil palm, in farmland hitherto cultivated for food crops, resulted in an inadequate farmland as cash crops plantations consequently inundated tract of Benin land. This consequently piled-up pressure on the marginal land available for food crops as it was continuously cultivated by farmers. The attempt by the colonial authorities to ameliorate the attendant problem of land exhaustion led to the introduction of new ‘farming techniques’ that relied on animal manure and compost for the revitalization of soil. The paper discusses the various efforts by the colonial agricultural officials in Benin to propagate and impress on peasant farmers the need to adopt these farming schemes which yielded very little positive results. It utilizes oral and archival sources and secondary material to determine the nature and impact of British agricultural policy on the development of the sector in Benin during the colonial period. It concludes that the failure of the techniques was largely due to the fact that the people did not regard them as better alternatives, considered them as incompatible with their traditional agricultural practices and ultimately refused to embrace them.