Motivating kola farmers into collective action: it’s about social benefits more than the money.

Farmers’ perception of the usefulness of collective action is influenced by ‘ease of use.’ Photo: Charlie Pye-Smith

Collective action is touted as helping producers achieve better prices and higher levels of production. But what motivates kola nut farmers in Cameroon to band together? Surprisingly, social benefits outweigh economic incentives and benefits.

A new study by scientists from the World Agroforestry Centre shows that farmers are more likely to become involved in collection action if there are social benefits, if involvement is easy and there are no barriers.

The study, titled Producers’ motivation for collective action for kola production and marketing in Cameroon, aimed to find out what it takes for kola producers in the Western highlands of Cameroon to become involved in collective action. By understanding farmers’ attitudes, opinions and motivation for collective action, the researchers anticipate more effective messages and techniques can be developed to enhance farmer participation in group activities.

According to lead author, Amos Gyau, from the World Agroforestry Centre’s Headquarters, the social benefits which farmers experience by working in groups are extremely important.

“Farmers’ perception of the importance of collective action is influenced by ‘ease of use’. If they believe an initiative will be relatively easy to implement, they will rank its usefulness highly.”

“This is in line with earlier research showing that groups which formed initially for social purposes and later engaged in marketing activities performed better than those which were initiated solely for the purpose of marketing agricultural products,” says Dr. Gyau.

What the scientists didn’t expect to find was that the perceived usefulness of the collective action measured by its direct economic  benefits played virtually no role in a farmer’s motivation to be involved; suggesting that economic incentives or benefits from group activities might be trivial for the farmers.

From the research, it appears that if there are barriers to engaging in collective action (such as needing to wait until an agreed-upon day before selling produce) then farmers are unlikely to become involved even if their involvement could result in higher prices, market access and the acquisition of new skills.

The study, funded by the Belgium Development Cooperation and published in the Journal of Agriculture and Rural Development in the Tropics and Subtropics, surveyed 185 farmers involved in kola production and marketing in the Western highlands of Cameroon.

Kola nut is an important source of food, medicine and income in the area, but inadequate marketing, low levels of production and poor post-harvest handling mean producers do not gain full benefit from their produce.

Collective action, such as through farmers’ associations and coordinated marketing efforts, is seen by development agencies as a way to scale up production and achieve higher prices through greater bargaining power.

In conducting this research, scientists adapted the widely used Technology Acceptance Model which looks at how people come to accept and use a technology. From this, they developed a Collective Action Behaviour (CAB) model which assumes farmers’ motivation for collective action will be influenced by Perceived Usefulness (PU) and Perceived Ease of Use (PEU). The researchers formulated five hypotheses under this model to test on farmers in the study.

Based on the findings, Dr. Gyau and colleagues believe that organisations promoting group action to enhance agricultural development should make sure their extension messages emphasize the social benefits associated with collective action and the ease of involvement.

“To further increase farmers’ participation in collective action, there is a need to reduce the entry barriers by providing short-term low interest rate loans or advanced paying contracts while they wait for the group sales to take place” said Dr. Gyau.

The full article is available here:
Gyau A, Takoutsing B, Degrande, A and Franzel S: Producers’ motivation for collective action for kola production and marketing in Cameroon. Journal of Agriculture and Rural Development in the Tropics and Subtropics Vol. 113 No. 1 (2012) 43–50

For more information about the World Agroforestry Centre, please visit http://www.worldagroforestrycentre.org/

Blogpost by Wambui Kamiru, one of the GCARD2 social reporters


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