In Africa, although research and field-testing of transgenic crops is being actively pursued in countries such as Kenya and Egypt, South Africa is the only country where transgenic crops are grown commercially (Bt maize and Bt cotton). The challenges faced by potential adopters in Africa can be characterized by the findings of Ismael et al. (2001) in their study on the adoption of Bt cotton in a South African province for the 1998 and 1999 seasons. The farmers in this area are primarily small landholders—rural households and farms on land allocated by their tribal chiefs. The landholders face many difficulties. Tenure arrangements are uncertain, high quality land is scarce, and land is unfenced and threatened by livestock damage. In addition, pests, excessive rain, and drought are significant concerns, and labor is constrained when younger men leave the rural area and migrate to towns to seek work.
Ismael et al. (2001) found several factors affecting adoption. The most experienced farmers and those that owned more land were more likely to adopt the technology, probably because these farmers can more easily obtain credit or afford higher seed costs. Farmers who adopted in the initial year also planted Bt cotton in the second year. When asked for their main reasons for adoption, farmers cited expected savings in input costs (chemicals and pesticides), pest problems, increases in yields, and saving labor. Overall, the authors found adoption of Bt cotton by the surveyed farmers had a positive impact—Bt adopters had higher yields and higher gross margins than nonadopters. The increase in yields and reduction in input costs outweighed the higher cost of seed. Given the results of this study, benefits of transgenic crops can be expected to spread to other regions, assuming that most issues faced by farmers included in this analysis are common to farmers in other regions of Africa.
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