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La mutation d'une économie de plantation en basse Côte d'Ivoire

Jean-Philippe Colin


The Metamorphosis of a Peasant Plantation Economy in Lower Côte d'Ivoire

Texte intégral

Problem statement and research methodology

  • 1 I would like to thank Laura DeLind, Eric Crawford, Carl Eicher, and Stephan Goetz for their comment (...)

1The expression "plantation economy" often refers to a production System developed in tropical countries by foreign producers, characterized by large-scale production of tree crops for export, capital-intensive technology, and a capitalist mode of production. Although this type of System is found in Côte d'Ivoire, it is largely dominated, in both geographical and economic importance, by another production System, also based on export tree crops but operated by African smallholders. By “smallholder plantation economy" or "peasant plantation economy", we refer to this whole agricultural and economic System, not just to the physical tree crop plantations. The dominant form of the smallholder plantation economy is well-known. It has been developing in the forested zone of Côte d'Ivoire since the beginning of the century, and especially since World War II. Previous to its development, the area was characterized by subsistance agriculture, low population density, and land abundance. The introduction of coffee and cocoa led to an integrated cash/food cropping System, the food crops being temporarily associated with coffee and/or cocoa trees planted after the forest had been cut down. After one to three years of mixed cropping only coffee or cocoa trees remained. This pioneer type of cropping System, in which cash and food crops are complementary and not competitive, is based on a continual increase of cultivated area, requiring the existence of land reserves. Cultivation is extensive, with manual cultivation, minimal weeding, and no use of improved inputs such as selected seeds, fertilizer, or chemicals.

  • 2 Ensuring the proximity of Processing facilities is a necessary condition for the development of cas (...)

2Two main factors of change act upon this dominant model: increasing land shortage, and - in the Lower Coast - diversification of the cropping Systems led by agro-industrial parastatals that are developing smallholder contractual farming in addition to their own production. Understanding the evolution of the peasant plantation economy in this new and relatively specific context2 was the purpose of a three-year study conducted by ORSTOM (Institut Français de Recherche Scientifique pour le Développement en Coopération) from 1982 to 1985. Two fundamental related topics were addressed by the research: 1. the sources and features of technical and institutional change, and their incidence on the plantation economy; and 2. the production strategies adopted by farmers in this context, as a function of their different opportunities, resource availabilities, and objectives (not assumed a priori to be profit maximization).

3The study sought insights into this new poorly known form of plantation economy, and had an exploratory subject-matter focus. The purpose of the field investigation was not to give a statistically representative description of a given geographical area, but rather a "functionally representative" understanding of the behavior of economic actors in this System. It required an holistic empirical analysis, encompassing cropping systems, land tenure, labor relationships, income, etc. The theoretical and methodological approach used was in the tradition of a stream of French agricultural economics which can perhaps be likened to American Institutionalism.

4The orientation of the study determined the field research techniques used. The study focused on one entire village economy, supplemented with surveys in other villages. A study of a whole village economy affords a triple advantage. First, the village may constitute a "functional economic unit" (e.g., in terms of land or labor access) which cannot be fully understood by studying only farm households as individual entities. Second, the village is an optimal level at which to observe the relationships between production units, and the diversity of producers' constraints, strategies and practices. Third, the crosschecks permitted by this intensive and holistic research design greatly improve the quality of data, which is a crucial problem with field studies in Africa, especially of complex Systems such as the peasant plantation economy.

  • 3 PALMINDUSTRIE for oil palm trees and coconut, SAPH (Société Africaine de Plantations d'Hévéas) for (...)

5The limitations of a single village study are well-known. The village where the in-depth study was conducted, Djimini-Koffikro, in Adiaké Sous-Préfecture, was deliberately chosen to have specific characteristics of land shortage, and a wide range of crop diversification opportunities related to the simultaneous intervention of several parastatals3. Djimini-Koffikro was not intended to be representative of the majority of villages in the area. Rather, these features of Djimini-Koffikro, especially the presence of multiple diversification opportunities, were expected to give rise to a full and representative range of peasant production strategies and behavioral models. Complementary surveys were carried out in four other villages-Aboutou, Amangare, Assé-Maffia, and Kongodjan - intentionally selected for their dissimilarity, to test whether the behavioral models identified in Djimini-Koffikro could adequately explain the strategies adopted by farmers operating under different circumstances. Villages were chosen which were as different as possible from Djimini-Koffikro on three characteristics, easily discernible through a pre-survey: type of tree crops planted, ethnie composition, and size of village.

6A different data collection System was used in Djimini-Koffikro than in the other villages. In Djimini-Koffikro, direct observation by the " immersed" researcher and the enu merator was combined with formal surveys: (a) initial agricultural and demographic census; (b) weekly survey during one year of a 34-farm sample out of 180, covering agricultural and nonagricultural activities of each farm's members, sale of products, etc.; and (c) measurement and mapping of the plots of all the village farms, as there was no previous cadastral survey, to obtain good data on land availability and use (fundamental variables in this context), and to provide a baseline for future studies of the evolution of this type of village economy. Other specific surveys included a review of land transactions for all land owned by farmers in the village; labor requirements per hectare for each crop; crop yield measures; production strategies, labor availabilities, and agricultural product sales for all farms not sampled, using multiple-visit surveys; and local processing activities.

7In the other villages, a single-visit questionnaire survey was administred to all farms in each village, without plot measurement or direct field observations. Information was collected on structural variables as land and labor availabilities, cropping systems, on historical processes as migrations, evolution of access to land, and on behavioral variables as determinants of production choices.

8Changes in the smallholder plantation economy have occurred in the cropping and production Systems, degree of market involvement through both product sale and input purchase, economic and power relationships between farmers and parastatals, landtenure System, labor relationships, and off-farm activities. The book is organised in four main parts. The first one deal with the evolution of land tenure System, and analyses the conditions of the development of a group of landless farmers. By landless, we mean farmers who have only a temporary and precarious access to land through renting or borrowing. The second part presents the evolution of the cropping systems; it is the most evident element in the metamorphosis of the peasant plantation economy. The third part analyses the labor factor: production relationships, social and sexual division of labor. The last part presents a comparative economic analysis of the different crops, and tries to verify the hypothesis of an intensification of the production systems.

9This abstract will not address all these subjects, but will deal with the core of the book, that is to say the determinants of producers‘choices of cash and food crops, and with the economic status of food crops as revealed by an analysis of changes in the plantation agriculture System. Results of the study shed light on three currently debated questions: (a) What is the impact of parastatal activity on the evolution of the plantation economy in Lower Côte d'Ivoire, and what explains its successes and failures? (b) Do land constraints and deforestation lead to a decline in food production? Some researchers in Cote d'Ivoire argue that the reduction of the land reserves will cause farmers to specialize in cash crops and become dependent upon the market for their food supplies. (c) Is sensitivity to prices a determining factor in farmers' production behavior?

10As a background, the region where the study took place is a former pioneer area; no human activity was present at the beginning of the century, except along the lagoons' shores. The pioneer phase began from the twenties to the fifties, depending on the village, and is now terminated; it was induced by substantial immigration from the forested and savanna areas of Côte d'Ivoire, from Mali and Burkina-Faso (ex-Haute-Volta), resulting in an ethnie melting-pot. The region is characterized by sandy soils, which are not considered to be optimally suitable for coffee nor for cocoa production.

Evolution of the plantation System

11The magnitude of change in the agricultural plantation System can be understood by analysing the conversion of plantations from coffee/cocoa to other tree crops, the development of pineapple production, and the change in the food crop system.

Conversion of coffee and cocoa plantations

Growth and subsequent decline in coffee and cocoa plantations in Djimini-Koffikro

12The first coffee and cocoa plantations were established by immigrants who arrived during the 1920s, with rapid expansion of plantations occuring between the end of World War II and independence. By the sixties, with the completion of the pioneer phase, the forest had completely disappeared. The ageing and subsequent decline of plantations started at that time for the first planted. A major factor in the subsequent evolution of the plantation economy is the non-renewal of coffee and cocoa plantations, explained by the non-sustainability of the coffee/cocoa economy in the local natural and technical environment. AU attempts to replant these crops after clearing old plantations failed, probably due to lack of fertilization and/or increasing weeding problems. It is suggested that the initial clearing and burning of the forest provided a fertilization for the relatively poor sandy soils and allowed a first extensive exploitation without the need for mineral fertilization and with Utile weeding labor (the plantations being abandonned from the end of food crop cultivation to coffee or cocoa production start). The same process applyed to old plantations - or even to fallows - might not permit the reconstitution of sufficient fertility capital, especially if several food crops/fallow cycles are practised before replantation. This relates directly to the failure of replantation - without technical change - with land shortage and demographic pressure. Another explanatory factor might be the introduction since the sixties of a weed, Eupatorium Odoratum, which renders the traditional low weeding practice uncertain.

Diversification of tree cropping Systems

13In the sixties, when the older coffee or coco a plantations became unproductive and Dioula traders expressed a demand for coconuts, a first diversification attempt was made by farmers by introducing the local coconut variety (Grand Ouest Africain, GOA) in areas unfit for coffee or cocoa, and substituting it for the former coffee/cocoa plantations. Farmers used the fruit of coconut trees growing naturally along the lagoons' shores to establish their plantations. But this spontaneous change turned into a failure, as the farmers experienced the deficiencies of the GOA variety, especially its late maturation and low yields. This adoption ceased completely at the end of the seventies when a lethal disease (Phytophtora heveae) attacked the GOA coconut plantations.

14Beginning in 1965, consistent with the post-Independence agricultural policy of cash crop diversification, and based on the results of agronomie research new crops were introduced by parastatals: hybrid oil palm from 1965 to 1976, during the first Oil Palm Plan, and since 1983, under the second Oil Palm Plan; hybrid coconut from 1974 to 1979, under the Coconut Plan - it should be noted that hybrid coconut is more resistant to Phytophtora heveae than GOA; and rubber since 1981. This led to new technological and new institutional settings, as the new crops were introduced via contracts associating farmers with the parastatal agro-industrial complex. Through extension and input supply on credit by parastatals, selected seedlings, monocropping, and mineral fertilization were introduced to farmers. The parastatals purchased the output at a guaranteed price.

15A few numbers illustrate the magnitude of the changes in tree crop production systems in Djimini-Koffikro, and show the marginal role of coffee and cocoa in terms of area cultivated and income. Coffee and cocoa plantations now occupy 27% of the total plantation area, and oil palm 51%; although in the past all farms grew only coffee and/or cocoa. In 1983-84, coffee and cocoa provided only 9% of the total tree-crop plantation income, while oil palm provided 82%. In fact, coffee and cocoa plantations merely represent land reserves rather than productive enterprises: average coffee or cacao yields are around 55 kg/ha, as compared to 267 kg for coffee and 464 kg for cacao under average conditions in the forested area of Côte d'Ivoire.

Oil palm domination

16A first reason for the dominance of oil palm is simply the absence of an alternative tree crop which is competitive from both economic and technical points of view. The ageing and disappearance of coffee and cocoa, and the failure of local coconut have already been mentioned. Rubber is the most recent crop introduced into the region. Adoption of rubber will suffer in the short run since, as a new crop, it is regarded as risky. Furthermore, farmers are aware that rubber demands more work than oil palm, and that production starts later (7 years compared to 3 or 4). Hybrid coconut represents a significant example of development failure. Initially, its success was largely due to good extension promotion and to the fact that PALMINDUSTRIE planned to buy unprocessed coconut from farmers. However, difficulties in the industrial Processing of nuts into copra forced the parastatal to ask farmers to produce copra, which doubled farmers' labor requirements. Other problems included lack of extension, inadequate fertilizer supply, and a copra price which stagnated at 60 FCFA/kg from 1978 to 1984. These factors led to poor husbandry practices and very low yields (average 620 kg/ha of copra versus the 3 tons/ha norm). A large price increase in 1984, from 60 to 150 FCFA/kg, revived interest in hybrid coconuts, but in 1986 the collapse of the copra oil price on international markets compelled PALMINDUSTRIE to reduce the producer price to the 1984 level, with a disastrous effect on farmers. The dominance of oil palm among tree crops is also explained by the features of the crop: it has low labor requirements, is adapted to local soil conditions, and the production starts early. The price trend over time is favorable to farmers, as is the return to labor. In this respect, an important difference between oil palm and coconut and rubber is that all the latex and most of the Ivorian copra oil is exported, unlike oil palm which therefore is less sensitive to variation in international prices. Last but not least, the efficiency of PALMINDUSTRIE's oil palm sector must be taken into account since parastatal management failure is often a major cause of a Project failure, especially its capability to ensure the weekly collection of output and monthly payments to farmers. This monthly payment is viewed by farmers as an important advantage, as it provides a regular income. As farmers say, "With oil palm, we are like civil servants".

17To conclude, farmers' choice of developing oil palm plantations has to be understood as the result of constraints (impossibility to grow cocoa again for example, or few other diversification opportunities), and by the favorable combination of technical and economic factors such as labor requirements, income level, and income security. However, the actual dominance of oil palm must not lead to the conclusion that farmers' preference to grow this crop is given full expression. PALMINDUSTRIE supplies the selected planting material in small quantity, and present demand for oil palm greatly exceeds supply. As a consequence, some farmers have to wait before adopting or increasing the area planted to this crop, bribes are paid to parastatal extension agents, and, more important, farmers are beginning to plant second generation trees collected in their existing plantations. This practice frees the former from parastatal control (e.g., it is then possible to sell the output on the free market, or to practice mixed-cropping with food crops the first years of plantation), but those plantations supposedly produce a lower yield than those seeded with first-hybrid plants.

Changes in the tree crop system at the regional level

18There are important differences between the villages, regarding tree cropping systems. The data place the observations made in Djimini-Koffikro in perspective, but do not invalidate the explanatory processes at work. Three key points highlight these differences. First, the time-lag of the pioneer phase brings on various changes of agricultural plantation from one village to another: the disappearance of pioneer tree crops is proceeding in Djimini-Koffikro and Kongodjan, villages where the pioneer phase started some decades earlier; the disappearance of coffee is in process in Aboutou (substitution with coconut), and complete in Amangare (substitution with oil palm and rubber, after the same failure of local coconut as in Djimini-Koffikro). Second, the agroecological compatibilities of crops explain, in association with the preceding point, the differences between the villages; for example, there is no cocoa in Aboutou and Kongodjan due to soil constraints. Another important feature is the fact that the local coconut disease has not yet reached Aboutou, unlike the other villages. Third, the fact that parastatals develop their activities in some villages and not in others has a direct impact on opportunities for crop choice; for example Aboutou is not situated in the activity area of PALMINDUSTRIE, although there is a considerable demand for selected oil palm tree planting material.

The juxtaposition of pineapple production on the plantation economy

Two types of production

19Two types of pineapple production are practised in the eastern part of the Lower Coast, and are also found in the region where the study was conducted: canned-pineapple and pineapple for consumption as fresh fruit. Both are grown primarily for export. Canned-pineapple was introduced to the region in the mid-sixties by SALCI, a pineapple canning company. The company initially produced its own fruits, but soon developed the production by smallholders; it supplied inputs and extension services, and purchased the output at a fixed price. In 1977 the extension component was entrusted to a parastatal, SODEFEL, while SALCI continued as the purchasing and processing agent. Pineapple producers were grouped in "mechanized cultivation blocks" (one of them settled in Djimini-Koffikro) and organized in pre-cooperatives which rent the land from land-owners-the co-op's members subletting a plot in each cropping season - and supply the inputs on credit.

20Administrative rule prohibits the growing of exportable fresh pineapple in the region, as the level of rainfall is supposed to be too high to meet the quality requirements of European markets. This rule has not been enforced strictly since the end of the seventies. This has led to the establishment of modem capitalist farms which receive two kinds of rents relative to other areas in Cote d'Ivoire: an agroecological rent, as irrigation is not needed, and a location rent, as the transport cost is reduced by the proximity of Abidjan. These capitalistic farms have obtained export licences and started to export not only their own production but also illicitly the production of small contracting farmers. This contracted fresh pineapple production was introduced in Djimini-Koffikro in 1979. The nature of the relationships between the small producers and the buyers have been quickly established and stabilized: the buyer helps the producer by supplying fertilizers, but only once pineapples have been planted, since scarcity of shoots is currently the main constraint to extended production and cannot be solved by the buyers. Therefore, the producer has to rent a field and obtain the shoots himself. The price is guaranteed once the oral contract is concluded.

Two opposite trends

21These two types of pineapple production follow very different trends, with the collapse of canned-pineapple and a dramatic boom of fresh pineapple. Here again, a few numbers show this clearly: canned pineapple average yield decreased from 60 to 17 tons/ha between 1980 and 1983; half of the fresh pineapple growers interviewed in 1983-84 started the production in 1983 or 1984; the net income in 1983-84, for all the village farms, was 93,000 FCFA for canned-pineapple, 22,767,000 FCFA for fresh pineapple although only part of the farmers had then harvested their first planted plot, and 27,853,000 for tree-crop products. The decline of canned-pineapple can be explaned by several factors. First, the financial difficulties of the canning factory due to dumping on the international market by Thailand have been directly transfered to small-holder producers who had to wait 8 to 12 months for payment. Second, the price of canned-pineapple stagnated from 1977 to 1984 (i.e. the price decreased by one-half in constant francs) and at the same time there has been an increase in production costs. From the 1983 harvest on the average net income per grower became negative; almost all producers have not covered production costs and have debts at the end of the season. Third, a growing mistrust has arisen between parastatal agents and members of the cooperative. Fourth, the fresh-pineapple production development has had two main impacts, leading to a misappropriation of inputs from the co-op to the private export-pineapple plots, and turning canned-pineapple producers toward fresh production. Canned-pineapple growers were mainly landless, so they had no opportunity to grow other cash crops-tree crops, historically - before the development of fresh-pineapple. Finally, the profitability of fresh production regarding the net income per hectare or labor day is sizeable. The efficiency of the informal and illicit fresh-fruits contracting production sector must be underlined, as must its great uncertainty, given the position of the Agriculture Ministry on this illicit activity.

A relatively clear separation of tree crops and pineapple production between different farms

22In 1983-84, 81 farms grew tree-crop plantations, 56 grew pineapples, and only 16 both kinds of crops. The landless grew only pineapples, since tree crop production requires long term and secured land access. In fact, there is no option between pineapple or tree crops for landless. The main question then is why have only some land-owning farmers adopted pineapple production? Here again, there are several reasons. First, a number (34 out of 97) of land-owner farmers work in the urban sector and do not reside in the village; high labor pineapple cultivation and its close technical control requirement are not readily compatible with a parallel urban wage-earning activity. Second, pineapple is a labor intensive crop, whereas resident farmers are old (on average 52 years) and have limited available family labor and capital, and are already occupied with tree crops and food crops. Landless immigrants from northern Cote d’Ivoire, Mali or Burkina-Faso are much younger on average (35 years) and solve the labor constraint by organizing "mutual aid groups". They also plan the creation of their pineapple plantation in a way which allows complementarity between the labor needs of the farms. Lastly, in the past land-owner farmers were not interested in canned-pineapple production, since it required substantial labor input relative to the return. In contrast, the landless who already grew pineapple for canned production, had an advantage when the opportunity to grow fresh-pineapple-very attractive from an economic point of view, even regarding the income per labor day - arose. They were somewhat familiar with the production techniques, could pick up the shoots on their canned-pineapple plots, and misappropriate the inputs from the cooperative to their private export fresh-pineapple plots.

Food crop systems and food self-sufficiency

Changes in the main crops cultivated

23During the pioneer phase, the main food crops included plantain, yam and taro. Cassava was only a secondary crop. Now, they are cassava, maize, yam, and sweet potato. The evolution of the agroecological environment and agricultural System were unfavorable to crops like plantain and taro which required-at least with local techniques-planting on newly cleared land, or to crops like yam which require a long fallow, since food crops are now mainly produced within a short-fallow System, without fertilization. As the farmers say, "now the land is tired". The near-disappearance of plantain banana is typical of the prior pioneer areas; the moving of the plantain banana production area with the pioneer front is a well known phenomena in Côte d'Ivoire, verified here. Another factor explaining this evolution is the arrival of migrants from the northern savannas, who favored maize production due to their cereals consumption habit, and to a lesser degree sweet potato production. Above all, the introduction during the sixties from a neighboring region, o f a new sweet cassava variety which was more productive than the older bitter variety, and for which there was an urban market demand, overcame the decline in the "traditional" food crops production.

24Two broad food cropping Systems can be defined: a yam-cassava-fallow System, and a maize-cassava-fallow System, with a possible insertion of sweet potatoes at different stages of each System. A simple cassava-fallow system is also common. It is worth noting that there has been no modification in production techniques since the pioneer phase regarding the use of fertilization, Chemicals, or mechanization. This leads to a dual production system on the same farm, employing modem techniques on cash crops, and "traditional" techniques on food crops.

Economic status of food crops

25Globally the economic status of the crops differs with each crop: yam and maize are primarily produced for home-consumption, sweet potato for sale, and cassava both for consumption and/or sale, depending on the production units. Here again there has been an evolution over time: in the past, it seems that yam, taro and plantain were produced for both consumption and sale. It is worth noticing that the economic function of a crop may have a direct incidence on the production techniques and social control of the product. The best example is cassava produced for sale, which is cultivated in a monocropping system (higher planting density produces yield increase), and by a change in the sexual division of labor and control of the product, with a shift from female to male cultivation.

Cassava as a dominant food crop for sale

26In 1983-84, cassava represented 78% of the value of food crop sold, and the share of food crop sale was not marginal, representing 22% of total village farms agricultural income, pineapple 35%, tree crop products 43%. The dominance of cassava can be explained by technical and economic advantages. (a) Cassava present a great advantage, regarding soil quality and fallow duration requirements, as it tolerates poor soils. Conversely, yams require at least a three year fallow. (b) The need for seed also disadvantages yams, the planting of which requires around 2 tons/ha of tuber pieces, out of an average production of 6 tons/ha; this constitutes an important constraint for new growers who have to buy them (100,000 FCFA/ha in 1983-84), although sweet potato and cassava production require pieces of stem (reproduction by cuttings), and maize seed - if not self-produced - costs only 1,500 FCFA/ha. (c) Labor requirements: the difference between yam and cassava are important. Two constraints must be underlined regarding sweet potato: its short cropping cycle (4 months) concentrates the work on a short time, and - as yams - it has arduous mounding requirements. (d) Cassava demand is more stable than the demand for other food crops and thus entails a better economic security; at times, for example, there is no demand at all for sweet potatoes. (e) At current price levels, cassava income per hectare and per labor day are the most attractive, excepting sweet potato, but we saw that the labor and market constraints for this crop. Sweet potato is grown mainly on very small plots by women from the Sudanian zone to the north, while males prefer cassava or pineapple. A cassava price "explosion" in 1984 strengthened its role as a main food crop for sale.

Food self-sufficiency status

27Almost all farms are theoretically self-sufficient from a calorie point of view, but surveys reveal self-sufficiency only for all farms practicing yam-cassava cropping System (61% of the farms). Food deficient households buy rice with wage income (part-time hired labor) or agricultural income (cash crops or food crops for sale). Understanding food strategies requires relating food cropping Systems, food status, ethnic origin and access to land. Schematically, land-owning farmers practise the yam-cassava system and are self-sufficient. They are Baoulé, an ethnie group from central Côte d’Ivoire for whom yam is a basic staple. The landless farmers practise the maize-cassava system and are not self-sufficient. Cereals are the basic staple for these farmers coming from the northern savonnas. Cassava production is not a discriminating factor between those two groups.

28Land-owning farmers have a successful strategy of food self-sufficiency. The yam-cassava System is very efficient from a consumption viewpoint, for there is a complementarity in the local agroclimatological conditions of the consumption periods of the two crops. In some cases, the food self-sufficiency strategy is not contradictory with land dependency strategy: priority is given to tree crops for land-owned occupation when land availability is limited (less than 5 ha especially); food crops are then grown on rented or borrowed plots. But at least in the short run, the hypothesis of an abandonment of food crops by planters when the pioneer phase is ended is not verified. The food self-sufficiency strategy percludes neither sale of surpluses once consumption has been secured, nor the sale of food production strategy, using mainly cassava.

29A food self-sufficiency strategy is difficult for landless farmers: yam production requires at least 3 prior years of fallow, although when land is rented this is generally not achieved; and food consumption based on a maize-cassava System requires that the producer can hold the plot during the ground storage time of cassava which, unlike yam, cannot be stored after harvest for more than a few days. But land access conditions oblige the landless to return the plot to the owner when the cassava reachs maturity; hence gradual consumption is impossible sale is implicitly obligatory. Nevertheless, there is no food self-sufficiency target for the majority of the landless, but a food for sale production strategy based on cassava and a preference for purchased rice related to dietary preference and ease of cooking. Only so me landless who have a big family display a food self-sufficiency strategy because of the uncertainty and cost of relying on markets for their food supply. In general, these landless have been settled in the village for long years and have privileged relationships with landowners. This allows them to have access to proper land and produce yam, and sometimes to retain the cassava plot longer than the norm.

30Land access conditions lead to a restriction and instability in food cropping systems of the landless. Furthermore, their present food production level appears to be ultimately condemned by the extension of tree crop plantations. Present land availabilities for landless are due to the reconversion of the coffee and cocoa plantations, which makes land available between the cutting of those plantations and the replantation. As the reconversion process progresses, rented land will become scarce, a rise in the land rent can be predicted which ultimately could only be supported by high value crop such as pineapple.

The absence of a long term food-crop-for-sale production strategy

31Even producers who pursue a food for sale strategy do not consider it a long run strategy. Land-owning farmers do not reserve land for this purpose and prefer to grow oil palm trees and, some of them, fresh pineapple; while landless producers prefer to grow fresh-pineapple. Food crops destinated for sale is always a temporary strategy responding to a temporary availability of production factors which cannot be invested in oil palm tree or in pineapple production, mainly because of a lack of planting material. How can this absence of a long-term food for sale strategy be explained, especially when the income per hectare may be greatly higher than the o ne earned with tree crops? Three key factors play a role here with an intensity varying according to the farm: land constraint, labor constraint and market uncertainty. Land constraint is related to the fallow-food cropping System which requires land availability several times the area cultivated during a given season. In terms of the quantity and arduousness of laborfood crop labor requirements are undoubtedly high when compared with tree crops from a land-owning farmer's perspective. Once planted, tree crops require little work, while food crops and pineapple require hard work for planting each new season. Food crop income per hectare is indeed good, but returns to labor are low, even when compared with pineapple, another labor intensive crop. So, food crops are not really competitive with other production activities, given current price levels. They will be produced for sale only if there is no available alternative or in special circumstances such as when cassava prices increased so that this crop became extremely valuable to grow. Food crops for sale are more commonly practised by new immigrants and by family members other than the farm head. Finally, uncertainty regarding prices and even demand of food crops is a major factor explaining the lack of a long term food production for sale strategy.

Plantation economy transformation and farmers’ choices

32The dominant form of plantation economy as described in the beginning of this paper is no longer borne out. To understand plantation economy changes and farmers' choices, it is necessary to combine several factors, both macro and micro, economic and non economic.

33The weight of natural determinants has to be integrated into analysis; non-reproducibility of the coffee/cocoa economy in the local natural and technical environment, time-lag of the pioneer phase between villages and consequently of the ageing of the first plantations, agroecological crops adaptation, and the evolution of the agroecological environment.

34Simultaneous or successive crop diversification or reconversion timeliness where induced by parastatals activity (introduction of new crops or new selected varieties, new production techniques, extension, input supplies, creation of outlets for the production), or from market demand. Peasant innovation ability in reaction to market incentives must not be underestimated. Parastatal activity in some cases facilitates the development of more autonomous economic activity: we have seen the example of fresh-pineapple production grounded on the canned-pineapple technical experience of the producers, or the plantations of second hybrid generation oil palm trees. The direct link with macro factors such as international price variation and national agricultural policy is clear.

35Comparative technical and economical crop advantages. The "natural" factors and diversification/reconversion opportunities combined define the realm of the potential production possibilities. But farms seize opportunities taking into account several factors. (a) First, apply crops technical features, like cropping cycle duration, soil quality and fallow duration requirements, needs for inputs (planting material, fertilizers), or quantity and physically demanding work. (b) Economic security, defined as the guarantees of market outlet, price and payment, is also a key determinant. This security is related with parastatal or market efficiency: absence of management or technical parastatal dysfunctions, low sensitivity to international export cash crop prices decline, low price variation and guaranty of a demand for food crops produced for the domestic market. (c) The level and the evolution of income come up when the choice concerns a cash crop, compared with other opportunities and with resource requirements. Land return might be a less accurate indicator than labor return. This is clear in the case of food crops relative to tree crops: food crops have a higher value per hectare, but the farmers' preference for oil palm is obvious. A high sensitivity to price variation is revealed by the reaction to cassava price increases, or copra price variations, etc., clearly contradicting the "target income" hypothesis. But farmers’ economic calculation must be understood from a broad perspective. The "price" variable has to be interpreted in two dimensions-level and certainty-in relation to an analysis including agronomical or sociological factors as well as purely economic consideration. It is not possible to draw a direct link from price variation to farmers' reaction, and it is necessary to integrate the constraints and the entire set of opportunities facing the farmer.

36Farm level determinants: (a) The severity of constraints varies by farm and may include land, labor, capital, and technical skills availability. A great advantage of contractual farming is that the parastatal's provision of services removes the two latter constraints, given that the farmers application to the program has been accepted, and within the limits of the parastatal capability to supply the inputs and extension to fullfil demand. (b) Consumption habits, food access strategy, cash crop/food crop choice strategy are linked at the farm level with socio-demographic features (ethnie group, size of the consumption group), and the impact of various constraints as availability of land, of familial labor, etc.. (c) Past production activity of the farm is often underestimated as a major production decision factor. It has a direct impact on land occupation, technical skills, knowledge about the crops' economic features, diversification strategy, or income effects. The rigidity of production plan with tree cropping is a main feature of the plantation economy, its direct economic effect being a reduced shorf-run price-elasticity of supply.


37This case study shows a dramatic and complex dynamic. It shows that even at a local scale there is considerable diversity, and that a differentiated analysis is required beyond average figures and broad schemes. Beyond a better factual understanding of a specific kind of smallholder plantation System, this study shows the necessity to mix, in an evolutionary and holistic perspective, technical and institutional changes with natural factors, constraints and farmers' economic rationality, to understand farming Systems dynamics. Various farmers' economic calculations and behaviors - especially regarding price sensitivity - must be understood within the general context of technology available and used, resource availability and entitlements.

38Even if conducted at a local scale, this analysis is also relevant for agricultural development policy. We have seen the prodigious impact of parastal activities, the importance of close support for building up a production System for a new crop, and highlighted the rationality of the farmers' response to development programs, as regards their adherence, rejection, or "reinterpretation" in an opportunistic way. The dynamism of the smallholders, independently or only on the margin of state intervention, attests to the importance of the growing attention paid to the design of new development policies aimed at the "responsabilization" of the producers and a redesigning of the role of parastatals; in other words, the transformation of the "receiving-peasant" into an "actor-peasant".


1 I would like to thank Laura DeLind, Eric Crawford, Carl Eicher, and Stephan Goetz for their comments on this abstract. I remain responsible for its imperfections.

2 Ensuring the proximity of Processing facilities is a necessary condition for the development of cash crops such as canned-pineapple or oil palm tree which require quick Processing after harvest, and whose transportation costs are significant.

3 PALMINDUSTRIE for oil palm trees and coconut, SAPH (Société Africaine de Plantations d'Hévéas) for rubber, and SODEFEL (Société d'Etat pour le Développement de la production des Fruits et Légumes en Côte d'ivoire) for canned-pineapple. Unlike the other parastatals, SODEFEL does not process the output which is delivered to SALCI (Société des Ananas de Côte d'ivoire).

© IRD Éditions, 1990

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