Relying on one source of income puts the livelihood system of rural households at risk. In Benin, cotton has long been the core cash crop of rural livelihood systems—until the mid-2000s, when multiple constraints led to the demise of cotton production. This paper investigates the responses of rural households to the economic shock resulting from the collapse of the cotton sector and the consecutive decrease of income from cotton. The primary data collection was carried out between 2009 and 2012 and included a household survey and focus group discussions with groups of farmers. The results reveal that households diversified their sources of income on farm, with food crops increasingly gaining a cash function. However, because the production system still depended heavily on cotton for access to fertilizers and other inputs for food crops, farmers continued to grow cotton despite its decreasing returns. In addition, because of their multiple extra-domestic activities, women seemed to be less vulnerable than men when coping with livelihood shocks; indeed, their contribution to providing for household needs increased. Further results revealed that young men devised their own ways of dealing with the crisis by temporary migration.
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