Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Development of wetlands in Sierra Leone: farmers' rationality opposed to government policy.

Abstract

Over 100 years of government development efforts to stimulate wet rice cultivation in the wetlands of Sierra Leone is reviewed. New technologies such as drainage to mangrove swamps, intensive drainage of inland swamps and mechanized soil management were unable to achieve the desired objectives, to make the country self sufficient in rice. The introduction of these new technologies frequently had opposite results: acidification, drying out and economic disaster. Only those innovations which fitted into the traditional rice cultivation and which proved to be a success were adapted, namely transplanting methods and the construction of mounds to allow the growing of dryland crops in the wetlands during the dry season, but only after long-term adaptation and trying out by the farmers themselves, following which spontaneous adoption took place. This is substantiated by a case study carried out in inland swamps through Farming Systems Research methods. Government policies appear to run contrary to the objectives of farmers, the former striving to reach national self sufficiency in rice by introduction of large schemes and completely new and/or alien production systems, whereas the latter attempt to sustain their subsistence production levels through stepwise innovation. The suggestion is made that government in formulating its development policies should take into account the traditional knowledge system of farmers and stimulate participatory research. This would ultimately and more successfully lead to sustainable yield increases without deterioration of the physical environment.