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Denis Pesche and Bruno Losch

In West Africa, how to conceive a model of agricultural development – and, more widely, rural development – consistent with the structural realities of the region and the sub-continent, namely a workforce that continues to grow, with limited non-agricultural economic alternatives, in a context where the pressure on resources remains high and rural poverty is pervasive? In the West African agricultural sector, there is a growing array of organizations representing farmers and rural inhabitants. These rural producer organizations (RPOs) play an increasing role in the development of agriculture and rural policy, in conjunction with the private sector, NGOs and other stakeholders. How to better understand this increasing institutional complexity? How to strengthen RPOs in these processes? This challenge has both an academic and a practical dimension. After a brief historical overview of the emergence of RPOs, this chapter deals with these issues by presenting a comprehensive framework of the dynamics of RPOs and their networks, with concluding remarks on capacity-building strategies.