Between a Rock and a Soft Place: Investigating prima facie irrationality and farmers' decision-making in the cotton region of south-western Chad
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Over the last 20 years, farmers in south-western Chad have experienced an increasingly disruptive national cotton sector. Declining prices, decreasing material support, and inefficient administration have lead cotton production to become an unprofitable agricultural enterprise that forces farmers to reconsider their commitment to this cash-crop. Based on field-research in the sudanian zone of Chad, this dissertation examines the structural and socio-economic issues surrounding cotton growth and poses the question of why farmers continue to grow cotton despite its deficient economical outcomes. This dissertation will demonstrate that cotton production not only allows for exclusive monetary income due to a lack of alternatives, but also provides access to inputs and credit that are systemically unavailable via other crops. It will also show that social factors such as inedibility of cotton or applied informal peer-pressure to grow cotton form irrefutable elements of farmer’s agricultural decision-making. Allegedly irrational economic behaviour, a long way off theoretical models, appears to be rational within people’s specific situated socio-economic environment.