Cotonou — Household wealth strongly affects farmers' decisions over whether to use improved rice varieties (IRVs), according to a study, which makes some key recommendations on how to boost IRVs affordability, accessibility and adoption.
Researchers from Benin, Ghana and Nigeria collected data from 600 randomly selected smallholder rice farmers from upland, lowland and irrigated rice farms across Nigeria.
They found that the factors determining the adoption of IRVs - from education, wealth and credit access to farm size and access to farmers' organisations - vary significantly between wealthy and less wealthy households.
"Our study showed that the adoption of IRVs depends on the wealth or social status of a rice-producing household," says Aliou Diagne, an economist at the Africa Rice Center, Benin, and co-author of the study.
"Wealthier households are more likely to adopt IRVs than their poorer counterparts," he says. "The richest rice farmers have better access to resources and may be more able to take risks. Similarly, expensive technologies are only available to - and thus adopted by - the richest farmers."
The adoption of IRVs has had a significant positive impact on household incomes and on Nigerian rice production, Diagne says.
But he adds that boosting the adoption of IRVs by all farmers, regardless of wealth, will require: improving their awareness of IRV benefits; disseminating IRV varieties more widely; investing in farmer education programmes; facilitating farmer access to credit, seeds and farmer organisations; and offering them better supervision by extension agents.
Anastase Hessou Azontondé, head of the soil science, water and environment laboratory at the National Institute of Agricultural Research of Benin, said that that the results would be "almost the same" in Benin, especially regarding the determinants and intensity of IRV adoption".
"Many efforts should be made for the adoption of new, high performance agricultural technologies by poor farmers," Azontondé says.
The study was was published in the International Journal of Sustainable Development last month (29 January).
This article has been produced by SciDev.Net's Sub-Saharan Africa desk.
International Journal of Sustainable Development Vol. 5, No. 9, pp. 11-27 (2012)