ThumbnailLow productivity of staple crops is often attributed to the poor management practices of smallholder farmers. ‘Improved’ crop management practices for many staple crops in Ethiopia have been widely promoted.
Adopting these practices can result in significant yield increases under on-farm conditions but, in spite of these benefits, they are often not adopted by smallholders in the longer-term.Possible reasons for non-adoption or dis-adoption of improved weed management practice packages for faba bean are based on the hypothesis that smallholders do not use improved management practices because they do not increase the overall benefit farmers derive from the traditional management faba bean plots.
Africa RISING diagnostic studies found that men and women farmers in two sites deliberately weed their faba bean fields much later than is recommended for improved management systems. This allows volunteer ‘weeds’ like oats and Trifolium species—which are relatively nutritious fodders—to create an ad hoc forage intercrop in areas with limited grazing land.
Key messages

  • Using the terms ‘improved’ and ‘weed’ indiscriminately, without properly understanding the multiple benefits
    farmers derive from the plots they cultivate, can be highly misleading.
  • Accepting these terms uncritically can lead to misperceptions of farmer irrationality because they do
    not adopt ‘improved’ practices. Studies such as this take a broader, ‘systems’ view of the factors
    constraining adoption. They are demonstrably more informative and help to identify more adoptable
    intensification strategies.
  • These strategies might prove to be stepwise, i.e. progressive experimentation starting from the existing
    indigenous practice leading ultimately to greater specialization, e.g. allocating land systematically to both
    grain and forage production. Future studies should examine the benefits of managed forage—bean
    intercrops to increase total plot productivity and the quality of the forage component of the system.

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