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Planners or performers?: Reflections on indigenous dryland farming in Northern Burkina Faso

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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>1996
<mark>Journal</mark>Agriculture and Human Values
Issue number3
Number of pages11
Pages (from-to)12-22
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Indigenous agricultural practices in semiarid West Africa must be seen as dynamic operations that serve different ends. These ends are not only agricultural, but symbolic. By highlighting how farmers in the Central Plateau region of Burkina Faso organize their farming strategies, the "agriculture as performance" arguments developed by Richards (1987, 1993) can be both challenged and extended from the humid forest zone of West Africa. Farmers, it can be argued, are also keen "planners;" in order to meet their goals they invest considerable effort in overcoming ecological constraints, and also spend time forging links with various institutions working for agricultural development. Technologies and ideas from multiple sources - including those from some innovative development institutions -are incorporated in agricultural planning and practices in different ways, by different farmers, and for different reasons. The prospect of locally initiated and managed agricultural change emerging on the Central Plateau will be dependent upon this dialogue between farmer innovation, local organizations, and development projects. Agricultural systems are, in many cases, consciously "constructed" through sustained investment in the land and in natural resource management. Dryland management efforts need to recognize the strategic and planned nature of these activities, if they are to work with farmers who are actively building and improving their own livelihood systems.