Diversity and socio-economic aspects of oil palm agroforestry systems on the Allada plateau, southern Benin

Abstract

In southern Benin, oil palm is mainly cultivated by smallholders who associate it with successive crops over the three first years when the trees are immature. There is little information available on the diversity of the practices used in these young plantations and their socio-economic background, although this information is essential for proposing opportunities to improve the performance and sustainability of these systems. This study used focus groups and a survey of 54 farms to test how the selection of practices was linked with the farmer’s objectives. A conditional inference tree was used to compare the selection of the practices against socio-economic characteristics of the farmer. We identified the crops that were the most frequently associated with young oil palm trees across the region and found that the higher the fertilizer application on the associated crop the lower the application on the trees. The practices varied markedly in terms of economic indicators, reasons for selection, socio-economic characteristics of the farmers and the location of the farms. We showed that financial resources, especially for hiring external labor, household size and inclusion in social networks were important factors to take into account when evaluating alternative practices for oil palm plantations in this area.

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Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank the French Institute for Research for Development (IRD) for (1) the doctoral fellowship (i.e. Allocation de Recherche pour une Thèse au Sud—ARTS) granted to H. Koussihouèdé, and (2) its support for local research in Benin through the JEAI (Jeunes Equipes Associées à l’IRD) research and capability-building program. The authors would also like to thank the BNP Paribas Foundation for its support through its Climate Initiative and the SoCa (Beyond climate, Soil C sequestration to sustain family farming in the Tropic) project. This work was implemented as part of the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), which is carried out with support from CGIAR Fund Donors and through bilateral funding agreements. The views expressed in this document cannot be taken to reflect the official opinions of these organisations. We would also like to thank Gildas Assogba for mapping and Valère Salako for statistical assistance. We thank Tony Tebby for the English revision of this paper. H. Koussihouèdé would like to thank everyone who helped her during her time at LMI IESOL in Dakar.

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Koussihouèdé, H., Clermont-Dauphin, C., Aholoukpè, H. et al. Diversity and socio-economic aspects of oil palm agroforestry systems on the Allada plateau, southern Benin. Agroforest Syst 94, 41–56 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10457-019-00360-0

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Keywords

  • Young oil palm
  • Annual crop
  • Intercropping
  • Smallholders
  • Socio-economics
  • Southern Benin