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Structured or spontaneous dissemination of DMC techniques in small-scale cotton-base agriculture ? The northern Cameroon case study

Balarabe O., Abou Abba A., Olivier D., Naudin K.. 2010. In : Chanphengxay Monthathip B. (ed.), Khamhung Anonth (ed.), Panysiri Khamkéo (ed.), Chabanne André (ed.), Julien Frédéric (ed.), Tran Quoc Hoa (ed.), Lienhard Pascal (ed.), Tivet Florent (ed.). Investing in sustainable agriculture : the case of conservation agriculture and direct seeding mulch-based cropping systems. Proceedings of the Regional Workshop held in Phonsavan, Xieng Khouang Province, Lao PDR, 28th October - 1st November 2008. Vientiane : Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry [Laos], p. 224-233. Regional Workshop on Conservation Agriculture, 2008-10-28/2008-11-01, Phonsavan (Laos, République démocratique populaire).

The northern Cameroon cotton-based agricultural region, as well as the whole of the western and central African cotton belt is mainly characterised by a cotton based agriculture extension program implemented and monitored by the cotton companies. The companies' names or field approaches may differ from one country to another, but they all operate a strong extension team and program that follows the cotton crops from seedling through harvesting, offering relatively higher performances to cotton sectors. Such extension performances can be seen on the large areas covered, involving a large number of cotton farmers and relatively intensive production practices (with high level of fertilisers and other chemical inputs, high average yield, etc.). Direct seedling-Mulch based-cropping systems (DMC) extension program in the northern Cameroon began in 2007 within the Soil Conservation Project (PCS) following the pilot experimental phase in the Water-Soil-Tree Project (ESA) from 2002 to 2006. Since the two soil conservation projects were monitored by SODECOTON (cotton development company), the newly emerging DMC extension program had to choose between two different extension approaches: a structured extension approach laying on Sodecoton performed and experienced extension team which implies well defined technical message to disseminate; and a spontaneous extension, laying on progressive construction of on-farm technical messages, permanent adaptive processes on cropping systems, and hence little need of a highly structured extension team but rather of an agricultural based progressive approach to change. This study examines the two approaches not by offering a final answer to the best suitable extension approach, but through investigations on the advantages and constraints of each approach and common determinants of DMC extension programs like seed supply and community based experimentations and up scaling. The study is based on seven years of experience on DMC experimentation and extension program in northern Cameroon including on-farm trials and spontaneous disseminations around the village-based cropping systems trials as well as three years of DMC pre-extension program. According to the study, structured dissemination approach may be adapted to dissemination through an extension team performing its activities on simple but definitive cropping systems. Consequently, any additional amelioration within the system may need high input investment (skills and materials). This may be of interest in familiarising farmers with DMC techniques but may limit DMC appropriation by them since simple and rigid options may not fulfil their main constraints like less fertiliser use, and appropriate integrated weed control. DMC spontaneous extension approach aims at permanent adaptation of DMC techniques to each given context. This means that various DMC options may be suited to different contexts, thus excluding or avoiding a single "able to disseminate" technical message. Therefore, for an extension team, the need of permanent on-farm construction of technical messages may imply new adaptive skills for taking into account the diverse socio-economic and ecological constraints of farmers which are always ignored in the structured extension approach. On the other hand, this maximum farmer's engagement in decision-making implies minimum input from the structured extension agents' team. Thus, the farmers' uptake rate of techniques and know-how will be determined either by extension agent dissemination rate (area or farmers he/she is able to supervise) for the structured extension approach or by the ability of the DMC options to respond to farmers constraints for spontaneous extension....

Mots-clés : gossypium; semis direct; cameroun; cameroun nord

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