Agriculture remains a centrally important part of the West African economy. It provides food supplies for local consumption and revenue from the export of cash crops; accounts for 30-50 per cent of GDP in most countries; and represents the major source of income and livelihoods for 70-80 per cent of West Africa’s population. Although the economies and peoples of the region are diversifying into a range of other activities, farming is likely to remain of central significance to incomes and livelihoods for the foreseeable future (Fafchamps et al. 2001). In the early years following independence, most countries followed state-led policies aimed at rapid economic growth, based on industrialisation and taxation of the agricultural sector. Such approaches brought disappointment and led to great structural changes in the 1980s, with the introduction of Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs) and greater attention to the importance of agriculture as the basis for economic growth. Current donor and government focus on meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) has refocused attention on the rural economy, given that it is estimated that 70 per cent of the world’s poorest people are rural dwellers. Improvements to returns gained from, and the productivity of, agriculture have been identified as a key means to reach the poverty reduction targets. Governments in the region are therefore interested in seeing how agriculture might be ‘modernised’ to better meet the many demands made of it.