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Graf, Sarah Lena and Oya, Carlos (2021) 'Is the system of rice intensification (SRI) pro poor? Labour, class and technological change in West Africa.' Agricultural Systems, 193 (103229).

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CONTEXT: Increasing numbers of young people enter Sub-Saharan Africa's labour markets each year while industrial jobs only grow slowly. As 62% of Sub-Saharan Africans work in agriculture and as the rural population will continue to rise, agriculture will need to provide additional income- earning opportunities. In this context agricultural technologies should be promoted that can increase food production to answer rising demand and generate decent income-earning opportunities. The System of Rice Intensification (SRI) is widely promoted in West Africa and could address these needs – but recent findings from Asia present negative social impacts on workers. OBJECTIVE: This paper explores the mechanisms that shape adoption patterns and impacts of SRI in different (West African) contexts through a labour lens. METHODS: Our innovative theoretical framework integrates analytical and empirical categories from Farming Systems research and agrarian political economy. The mixed methods approach combines: (1) quantitative analysis of existing survey data from 857 agricultural households in Ghana, Benin and Mali; and (2) qualitative analysis of an in-depth case study in the Oti Region of Ghana. RESULTS AND CONCLUSION: SRI increases yield and profitability in West African rice farming, especially when locally adapted. Farmers adjust SRI to fit lowland rice farming, where water cannot be controlled and to address labour constraints. Additional labour for transplanting (instead of broadcasting) – coinciding with an existing labour bottleneck – constrains SRI adoption. SRI is mainly practised by marginal and accumulating farmers and to a lesser extent by medium farmers. Accumulating farmers invest in agriculture, farm profit-oriented and overcome labour constraints by hiring. Thus, they can practise SRI on larger scale and their absolute benefits are higher. Nevertheless, they rely on hired labour to do so, which strengthens workers' bargaining position. Consequently, SRI benefits all: accumulating farmers who employ as well as marginal farmers and hired labourers. Contrary to findings from Asia, SRI seems to be relatively pro-poor in West Africa. SIGNIFICANCE: While seasonal labour use remains a key constraint to technology adoption, labour intensive technologies can also contribute to increasing income-earning opportunities. The social outcomes of technological change will be shaped by both the existing agricultural practices and the social relations in which a new technology is adopted. Our theoretical framework can inform further research and the application of existing evidence to new contexts.

Item Type: Journal Article
SOAS Departments & Centres: Departments and Subunits > Department of Development Studies
ISSN: 0308521X
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 19 Jul 2021 16:55
Funders: Other

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