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Contingent Constraints of Soil Conservation Innovations: Case of Yam-Based Systems with Herbaceous Legumes in the Guinea-Sudan Transition Zone of Benin
Abstract and Figures
One of the most serious problems of farming systems in West Africa is the excessive reduction of agricultural productivity related to the “slash and burn” and shifting cultivation systems. With the aim of designing more sustainable yam cropping systems, the agronomic research organization in Benin implemented alternative systems including herbaceous legumes (Aeschynomene histrix and Mucuna pruriens var utilis). This study examines with end-users in the framework of focus group and individual surveys in 306 farm households, constraints degree of severity of yam-based cropping systems and participatory solutions in order to improve policy transacting in rural areas for sustainable yam-production. The results showed significantly high constraint degree of severity for herbaceous legumes biomass incorporation (52% and 46%) for Mucuna and Aeschynomene respectively during individual survey and 82% during focus group for both legumes. Crop competitions, field access (with Mucuna), animal divagation, fertilizer cost, biomass burn, seed consumption, market and grains harvest (with Aeschynomene) were additional constraints as well as in low and relatively high population density zone. On the seed production plot, the biomass of Aeschynomene at senescence could be shaken within basins to collect easily the seeds and avoid lost. The mixture of Aeschynomene seeds with dry sand (3/4 sand - 1/4 seeds) solves the problem of planting small seeds. Before the legumes reach the physiological maturity, three-quarters of biomass could be manually incorporated into the soil before the dry season during ridging and the remaining biomass could be left on the surface as mulch in order to reduce the workload related to the biomass incorporation into the soil. The practice of fire wall and fire of reference around the plot is necessary to avoid the burn of the mulch in the dry period. Mucuna seeds valorisation occurred to generate additional incomes for smallholders’ households. The animal nutrition with Mucuna grains deserves to be more investigated. The crop-livestock integration with these herbaceous should be an opportunity for yam production because of agro pastoral potential in the Guinea-Sudan transition zone of Benin.
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