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Food Policy 34 (2009) 53–59

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Food Policy
journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/foodpol

Collective action initiatives to improve marketing performance:


Lessons from farmer groups in Tanzania
James Barham a,*, Clarence Chitemi b
a
Department of Agriculture, Marketing Services Branch, Washington, DC, United States
b
Faida Market Link Company Limited, Arusha, Tanzania

a r t i c l e i n f o a b s t r a c t

Article history: This study aims to examine the extent to which certain characteristics and asset endowments of small-
Accepted 2 October 2008 holder farmer groups facilitate collective action initiatives to improve group marketing performance. This
is approached through an evaluation of a government-led programme in Tanzania, which is attempting to
increase smallholder farmers’ incomes and food security through a market-oriented intervention. Find-
Keywords: ings suggest that more mature groups with strong internal institutions, functioning group activities,
Collective action and a good asset base of natural capital are more likely to improve their market situation. Gender com-
Agricultural marketing
position of groups also affects group marketing performance, as an enabling factor for male-dominated
Farmer groups
Social capital
groups. Structural social capital in the form of membership in other groups and ties to external service
Planned change initiatives providers, and cognitive social capital in the form of intra-group trust and altruistic behaviour are not sig-
Tanzania nificant factors in a group’s ability to improve its market situation.
Published by Elsevier Ltd.

Introduction which certain group characteristics and asset endowments facili-


tate collective action initiatives to improve group marketing per-
In recent years, the importance of smallholder agriculture has formance. This is approached through an evaluation of a
been greatly recognized. This growing recognition has led to two government-led programme in Tanzania, which aims to increase
major crosscurrents of theory and practice aimed at boosting Afri- smallholder farmers’ incomes and food security through a mar-
ca’s faltering agricultural economies. First, agricultural develop- ket-oriented intervention, and improve farmers’ marketing perfor-
ment will not occur without engaging smallholder farmers who mance by enhancing their stocks of human and social capital. This
account for the overwhelming majority of actors in this sector involves establishing new groups, strengthening existing groups,
(Magingxa and Kamara, 2003; Diao and Hazell, 2004; Resnick, providing skills training in marketing and entrepreneurship, and
2004). The second current is that the major obstacle facing small- linking these groups to other chain actors.
holder-led agricultural growth is lack of market access, which pro-
ponents contend, will lead to increased incomes and food security, Collective action and social capital
more rural employment, and sustained agricultural growth (Dor-
ward et al., 2003; Stiglitz, 2002; Poulton et al., 1998). Agrawal (2001) synthesized the works of several previous
Market access proponents make a strong case that, for small authors (including Wade, 1988; Ostrom, 1990, 1992; Baland and
farmers to thrive in the global economy, it is necessary to create Platteau, 1996) in an effort to identify a common list of enabling
an entrepreneurial culture in rural communities (Lundy et al., conditions for successful collective action outcomes in natural re-
2002). This means shifting the focus from production-related pro- source management. These conditions include: (i) small group size;
grammes to more market-oriented interventions. This has placed (ii) clearly defined boundaries; (iii) shared norms; (iv) past success-
renewed attention on institutions of collective action, such as ful experiences; (v) appropriate leadership; (vi) interdependence
farmer groups, as an efficient mechanism for enhancing marketing among group members; (vii) heterogeneity of endowments, homo-
performance (Kariuki and Place, 2005). geneity of identities and interests; and (viii) low levels of poverty.
The primary aim of this study is to identify the underlying fac- The review of collective action theory parallels the social capital
tors that enable smallholder producer groups to improve their literature. Uphoff and Wijayaratna (2000) highlight how structural
market situation. Specifically, we aim to examine the extent to forms of social capital (roles, rules, procedures and social net-
works) facilitate mutually beneficial collective action and how
* Corresponding author. Tel.: +1 571 331 1897. cognitive forms of social capital (norms, values, attitudes and trust)
E-mail addresses: james.barham@usda.gov, barhamjg@yahoo.com (J. Barham). are conducive for mutually beneficial collective action. Other

0306-9192/$ - see front matter Published by Elsevier Ltd.


doi:10.1016/j.foodpol.2008.10.002
54 J. Barham, C. Chitemi / Food Policy 34 (2009) 53–59

studies, such as Pretty and Ward (2001) and Krishna (2001), have This component was planned as a joint partnership between the
similarly shown how human and social capital formation have district governments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
been pivotal in solving many communities’ development prob- The main tasks of the NGOs – known as Partner Agencies (PAs) –
lems, particularly in natural resource management. are to train producer groups in a number of capacity-building
While there is substantial evidence for the importance of social and marketing skills and, where possible, to establish sustainable
capital in maintaining natural capital, fewer studies examine how market linkages with other chain actors. AMSDP started in January
it is utilized for collective action to improve marketing perfor- 2004 with eight PAs in eight regions of Tanzania. The research site
mance. This is particularly apparent when examining how group for this study is located in the northern highland region of Tanza-
characteristics may influence or determine marketing outcomes. nia. Our research partners were two local PAs in the Arusha and
The studies that do emerge often examine higher-tier organiza- Kilimanjaro regions: the Traditional Irrigation and Environmental
tions, such as cooperatives or agribusiness enterprises (for example Development Organization (TIP) in the district of Arumeru and Fai-
Jones, 2004; Johnson et al., 2002). This paper contributes to re- da Market Link Company Limited (FAIDA) in the district of Hai.
search into the effects of social capital and other group character-
istics on the marketing performance of lower-tier organizations
such as producer groups. Research methods

Study hypotheses To assess the effect of the intervention on producer group out-
comes, a pretest–posttest research design was utilized (Johnson,
Eight hypotheses were derived from collective action and social 1998). The pretest observations (the first round of interviews) were
capital literature to be tested to determine the extent to which cer- conducted as the groups were undergoing training with the PAs. Six
tain group assets and characteristics affect a group’s ability to im- to eight months later at the conclusion of the intervention, the same
prove its market situation. groups underwent posttest assessment (the second round of inter-
views) to ascertain changes in their market situations.
Social capital hypotheses
Farmer groups with the following attributes will be better posi- Conceptual model
tioned to improve their marketing performance:
A conceptual model was developed to understand the flow of
1. A high level of trust among members; the planned change process. The model utilizes the terminology
2. More altruistic behaviour; and perspectives of cultural materialism (Harris, 1979) and tries
3. More ties to other organizations within and outside their to separate the determining factors from the enabling or constrain-
community. ing factors that affect group marketing performance. As repre-
sented in Fig. 1, the wider and determinate infrastructure
The first two hypotheses deal with cognitive social capital while encapsulates this planned changed initiative and includes such fac-
the third hypothesis is concerned with testing the effects of struc- tors as smallholder groups’ farming systems, agro-ecological con-
tural social capital on group marketing performance. ditions, and their physical access to markets.
Farmer groups are represented under the social structure; this
Collective action hypotheses includes a number of factors affecting a group’s ability to enact
The next set of hypotheses was derived from the collective ac- successful collective action initiatives such as the group’s asset
tion literature. These state that farmer groups will be better posi- configurations, composition and characteristics. The PAs intervene
tioned to improve their marketing performance if they have to enhance human capital in the form of marketing skills, business
some or all of the following attributes: acumen and other training, represented by the solid line from the
PA to the social structure. The PAs also provide some groups with
4. Lower levels of poverty; market linkages to other chain actors; this is represented by the
5. Smaller group size; dotted line to collective action initiatives and the lines connecting
6. Past successful experiences; PA intervention to market chain actors. Farmer groups also carry
7. Heterogeneity of endowments; out collective action initiatives without linkages from the PA, rep-
8. Homogeneity of identities and interests. resented by the lines connecting collective action initiatives to the
market chain actors. The performance outcomes represent the ex-
In reference to the fourth hypothesis, poverty is broadly defined tent to which groups have improved their market situation and re-
to include varying levels of livelihood asset configurations (natural, sulted in positive livelihood outcomes.
physical, financial, human, social capital) accessible to groups.
Study sample

Background on programme and study area As shown in Table 1, the sample for this study comprised 34
groups with a mean group size of 35 members. Thirty-seven per-
This study examines a planned change initiative in Tanzania cent of all group members working with FAIDA and 29% of those
called the Agricultural Marketing Systems Development Pro- working with TIP participated in the first round of interviews
gramme (AMSDP), which targets poor smallholder farmers with and completed questionnaires about themselves and their house-
the overarching goal of increasing their incomes and food security holds. Thus, the total study sample represents 33% of all group
through improvements in market access. Within AMSDP, improv- members.
ing market access includes the following components: (1) reform-
ing the regulatory and taxation systems; (2) improving market Dependent variable: group marketing performance
infrastructure; (3) establishing agricultural marketing information
systems; and (4) strengthening producer groups and creating mar- As the primary dependent variable of this study, a marketing
ket linkages. The primary focus of this study is the fourth compo- performance rating (MPR) was constructed to evaluate concrete
nent of the programme. signs that groups’ market situation had improved through the
J. Barham, C. Chitemi / Food Policy 34 (2009) 53–59 55

Infrastructure
• Physical access to markets
• Agro-ecological factors
• Farming systems

Social Structure
Farmer Groups Collective Performance Outcomes
• Group composition Action • Improved market situation
and characteristics and positive livelihood
• Group assets Initiatives
outcomes

PA Intervention Market Chain Actors

Fig. 1. Conceptual framework for research study.

Table 1 Table 2
Group study sample. Explanatory variables categorized by factor domains.

FAIDA TIP Sample total Infrastructure Social structure PA intervention


N % N % N % Market access Group assets Partner agency
Distance to market Wealth ranking PA linkage
Sample size 16 18 34
Road conditions Education
Size of group Providers/Partners
Mean 32 38 35 Agro-ecological factors Membership in other groups
Range 15–40 20–150 Commodity types Altruism
Total membership 507 678 1185 Reliable water source Intra-group trust (3 variables)
Land
Total membership sampled 189 37 199 29% 388 33% Group composition/characteristics
Group maturity
Group size
project intervention. Each group was given a marketing perfor- Activity level
Gender categories
mance rating ranging from 0 to 2, in the following manner:
Leadership by sex
Rating 0 – No improvement. Groups were given this rating if,
according to their own assessment, the project intervention had Group heterogeneity
led to little meaningful or concrete improvement in their market Educational
Gender
situation.
Wealth
Rating 1 – some improvement. Groups were given this rating
where they showed the ability to successfully put training into
practice. Such groups were able to provide concrete examples of
how their market situation had improved from participation in reliable water source. The distance to markets variable measures
the project. the distance from group meeting place to the major market in
Rating 2 – large improvement. A few groups showed the ability to the region. The commodity types variable refers to the crops grown
improve their market situation with a level of success that sepa- by group members that were put forward as a possible agro-enter-
rated them from the other groups. In most cases, these groups prise venture, and delineates between those groups that grow tra-
showed striking market improvements by initiating several collec- ditional staple food crops (cereals and legumes) and those groups
tive action initiatives. dealing in other commodities (vegetables, coffee, livestock, rice).
The Social structure domain includes several explanatory vari-
Explanatory variables ables that represent group assets, group composition and charac-
teristics,2 and group heterogeneity. Under the group assets
Improved marketing performance is an outcome of a number of heading, the providers/partners and membership in other groups
endogenous and exogenous factors. A number of explanatory vari- variables are used to represent structural social capital.3 Altruism4
ables affecting MPR were identified a priori based on the literature
reviewed in the previous section.1 Table 2 categorizes the explana- 2
The group maturity variable refers to whether a group existed prior to the
tory variables by the factor domains that relate to the study’s con- intervention, or was newly formed for the purposes of the intervention. The leadership
ceptual model. by sex variable is the proportion of male to female elected leaders in a group. The
The Infrastructure domain takes into account physical market activity level variable refers to the number of effectively operating internal group
access and agro-ecological factors, represented by five variables: activities.
3
The providers/partners variable refers to the number of service providers and/or
distance to markets, road conditions, staple food crops, land, and
business partners the group worked with prior to the intervention adjusted for
number of years of the group’s existence. The membership in other groups variable
refers only to membership in other agricultural and development-oriented groups.
1 4
See Barham and Chitemi (2007) for detailed description of how the variables were The altruism variable was based on group members playing a one-shot Public
constructed. Goods Game (PPG). Higher group scores represent more altruistic behaviour.
56 J. Barham, C. Chitemi / Food Policy 34 (2009) 53–59

and three intra-group trust variables (general, help, and money Table 3
trust) are used to represent cognitive social capital.5 The PA interven- Test of significance using ANOVA and Pearson’s R.

tion domain takes into account the partner agency with which the Explanatory variables N F statistic R statistic P value Test
farmer groups worked and whether or not the groups were actively Infrastructure
linked to other market chain actors in an effort to improve their mar- Market access
ket situation. Distance to market 34 0.175 0.322 Pearson’s R
Road conditions 34 0.066 0.936 ANOVA

Results
Agro-ecological Factors
Commodity types 34 4.670 0.005*** ANOVA
Through a number of collective action measures, 19 farmer Reliable water source 34 19.806 0.000*** ANOVA
groups (56%) improved their market situation. Thirteen farmer Land 32 0.097 0.596 Pearson’s R
groups had some market improvement with a MPR of 1, and six
groups had large improvements with a MPR of 2. Social structure
A number of group assets, characteristics, and other explanatory Group assets
Wealth ranking 34 0.199 0.260 Pearson’s R
variables were tested to ascertain how these might play a determin-
Education 34 0.313 0.072* Pearson’s R
ing factor in group marketing performance. Tests of association and Providers/Partners 34 0.048 0.788 Pearson’s R
correlation (ANOVA and Pearson’s R) were conducted to analyse the Membership in other groups 32 0.068 0.710 Pearson’s R
statistical significance of mean values between farmer groups. Ta- Altruism 34 0.030 0.867 Pearson’s R
ble 3 provides a summary of the results of the bivariate analyses.6 General trust 32 0.099 0.590 Pearson’s R
Help trust 32 0.033 0.859 Pearson’s R
Six variables are statistically significant (p < 0.10), and two
Money trust 32 0.049 0.792 Pearson’s R
other variables are marginally significant (p < 0.11).7 Those vari-
ables most strongly associated with improved marketing perfor-
Group composition/characteristics
mance are reliable water source, activity level and commodity Maturity 34 4.375 0.045** ANOVA
types. Group maturity, partner agency, and education variables are Size of groupa 33 0.106 0.557 Pearson’s R
also statistically significant factors in improved marketing perfor- Activity level 34 0.579 0.000*** Pearson’s R
Gender categories 34 0.411 0.747 ANOVA
mance. PA linkages and leadership by sex show some association
Leadership by sex 34 0.281 0.108 Pearson’s R
with improved performance, which warrants further examination.
Group heterogeneity
Discussion Educational 34 0.147 0.406 Pearson’s R
Gender 34 0.182 0.304 Pearson’s R
The following tables provide descriptive statistics of the signif- Wealth 34 0.073 0.681 Pearson’s R

icant factors associated with improved group Marketing Perfor-


mance Ratings, categorized by the three factor domains of the PA intervention
Partner agency 34 3.160 0.085* ANOVA
study’s conceptual model. The MPR is shown on a scale of 0–2;
PA market linkages 34 2.753 0.107 ANOVA
‘market improvement’ classifies groups into those that did and
*
did not improve their market situation8 (Table 4). **
p < 0.10.
p < 0.05.
***
p < 0.01.
Infrastructure a
The size of group statistic excludes one group with 150 members because it acts
as an extreme outlier.
Reliable water source
Eighty-four percent of the groups with market improvements
had a reliable water source. There is little question that when
Table 4
Infrastructure variables associated with improved marketing performance.

5
Three statements concerning intra-group trust were presented using a three-point Explanatory variables Marketing performance rating Market improvement
Likert scale, with participants responding that they: (1) agreed with the statement; 0 1 2 No Yes % Improved
(2) felt neutral or ‘‘middle” about the statement; or (3) disagreed with the statement.
They responded to the following three statements: Most members in your group can Reliable water source
be trusted (General Trust); Most members in your group are willing to help if you Yes 3 9 6 3 15 84
need it (Help Trust); In your group, members can generally trust each other in matters No 12 4 0 12 4 25
of lending and borrowing money (Money Trust). These answers were then coded from
1 to 3 and aggregated to the group level to provide three general measurements of Commodity types
intra-group trust. Cereals/legumes 10 4 0 10 4 29
6
The reliance on bivariate analyses for this study has its obvious shortcomings. Coffee 2 0 1 2 1 33
Such analyses can only describe the association of one independent variable to the Livestock 3 1 1 3 2 40
dependent variable, without accounting or controlling for the other independent Rice 0 1 1 0 2 100
variables in the study. Unfortunately, due to the small sample size and large number Vegetables/fruit 0 7 3 0 10 100
of independent variables to be tested, the use of multivariate analyses was concluded
to be an unreliable test to render statistically reliable results. To offset this, attempts
have been made in the discussion sections of this paper to explain how several of the groups rely solely on rain-fed agriculture, they have a more limited
independent factors interact with one another to affect group marketing
range of opportunities to exploit market potentials and improve
performance.
7
Due to the small sample size (n = 34), all independent variables with a p value their situation. It is also worth noting that all six groups with an
below 0.10 are considered statistically significant, to bring attention to variables that MPR of 2, or large market improvements, had access to a reliable
warrant further examination. water source. This is not to say that improvements cannot be made
8
The discussion of results focuses exclusively on statistically significant factors without a reliable water source, as evidenced by the four groups
positively associated with improved group marketing performance. See Barham
(2007) for descriptive statistics on all independent variables tested in this study,
that were able to do this. But in all four cases, water was not as lim-
including a discussion on why certain variables were or were not found to be iting in improving marketing performance as it was for other
statistically significant factors in improving group marketing performance. groups. For example, two interventions did not require a reliable
J. Barham, C. Chitemi / Food Policy 34 (2009) 53–59 57

water source, while two others entered a contract agreement with Table 5
an agricultural company to grow artemisia.9 These two groups met Social structure variables associated with improved marketing performance.

the criteria determined by the company for contract availability, Explanatory variables Marketing performance Market improvement
which were based largely on soil types and land availability, as well rating
as rainfall. 0 1 2 No Yes % Improved
Activity level 0.53 1.46 2.17 0.53 1.68
Commodity types
This variable proved to be statistically significant because cer- Maturity
tain crops have greater market potential, especially in local mar- Newly formed groups 8 6 0 8 6 43
Existing groups 7 7 6 7 13 65
kets. Cereals and legumes are the traditional staple food crops for
many smallholders. When these staple food crops are grown on a Leadership by sex (m:f) 0.49 0.60 0.71 0.49 0.64
large scale, they offer substantial regional and international market
potential. But most farmer groups lack both the production scale Education 6.6 7.1 7.6 6.6 7.2
and the contacts to exploit these markets. Only 4 out of 14 groups
promoting cereals/legumes as an agro-enterprise improved their
market situation.
However, this finding is misleading, since two of these groups Table 6
improved their market situation by entering into contracts with PA Intervention variables associated with improved marketing performance.

agribusinesses – one group growing artemisia and the other grow- Explanatory variables Marketing performance rating Market improvement
ing flower seeds – essentially diversifying away from maize and 0 1 2 No Yes % Improved
beans with these cash crops. The other two groups improved their
Partner agency (PA)
market situation through maize: one by bulk storing its crop and FAIDA 9 6 1 9 7 44
fetching a higher price later in the season, and the other by a com- TIP 6 7 5 6 12 67
bination of bulk purchasing (of hybrid seed and fertilizer) and col-
lectively marketing to a new buyer. These two groups succeeded PA linkage
because of their capacity to mobilize capital investments, which Linked 3 7 3 3 10 77
is beyond the present capacity of most of the groups in this study. Not linked 12 6 3 12 9 43
Another significant finding is that all ten groups promoting veg-
etables and fruits saw their market situation improve. The obvious Group maturity
reason for these groups’ success lies in the substantial market de- The maturity of the group refers to whether groups were newly
mand for these crops, but the less obvious reason is that it appears formed at the beginning of the project or already existing. Sixty-
the PA training was particularly well suited to exploiting these five percent of the existing groups (13 out of 20) were able to im-
commodities’ market potentials. Training in such areas as cost- prove their market situation compared to fewer than half of the
benefit analysis and negotiation skills allowed many groups to newly formed groups (43%). This finding is associated with the
reorient their production to the more profitable vegetable and fruit activity level variable, since those with maturity and functioning
crops, and to negotiate for higher prices. group activities are better positioned to mobilize resources and
But these findings also point to the larger issue of agro-ecology take advantage of emerging market opportunities than groups that
and farming systems. Many farmers grow cereals and legumes be- have just started and lack such experience. For the six newly
cause it is what the land can support, especially where they rely on formed groups that did improve their market situation, four did
rain-fed agriculture. Only 29% of the groups growing staple food so by entering into contract arrangements with agribusinesses.
crops have a reliable water source, compared to 70% of the groups They were thus less in need of a cohesive group, and relied instead
growing non-staple food crops. Even with the most well inten- on the strength and connections of their leaders, the right agro-
tioned training, many of the groups growing cereals and legumes ecological conditions, and the PA’s help in establishing linkages.
simply do not have the natural assets to pursue alternative market-
ing strategies (Table 5). Leadership by sex
The data show that groups with a greater ratio of male to female
Social structure leaders are more likely to improve their market situation. Further-
more, where the rest of the gender categories10 show a fairly even
Activity level mix of groups with and without improvement, in the category of
Groups with a greater number of activities were found to be male-dominated groups, 75% of the groups (6 out of 8) showed im-
more likely to improve their market situation. Eighty-four percent proved marketing performance. Female-only groups are clearly of-
of the groups with improved marketing performance had at least ten disadvantaged compared to their male counterparts when it
one group activity. Even more telling is that 10 out of 19 groups comes to marketing.
with market improvement had two or more activities, whereas
none of the groups with no market improvement had more than Education
one group activity. Although not quite expected, this finding makes The findings show that groups with no market improvement
sense: a certain vitality was observed in groups that have function- averaged fewer than seven years of schooling (i.e. primary educa-
ing group activities. It gives groups an ongoing sense of identity tion only), while groups with improvement averaged over seven
and purpose, and sustaining these activities requires the group to years of schooling (some secondary education). Given that this
establish internal institutions to guide the effective coordination intervention dealt primarily with training, groups with higher edu-
and rapid mobilization of group resources. cation levels were probably able to absorb more content and put it
into practice (Table 6).

9
Artemisia (Artemisia annua) is a herbal plant that is processed into artemisinin,
10
used in the treatment of malaria. See Barham (2007) for the full description of gender category variables.
58 J. Barham, C. Chitemi / Food Policy 34 (2009) 53–59

PA Intervention lective action initiatives. Groups with no market improvement had


an average total trust score of 2.48, while groups with market
Partner agency and PA linkages improvement averaged 2.49. While the difference is statistically
The two partner agencies had varying levels of success improv- insignificant, it shows that practically all groups have a high level
ing farmer groups’ marketing performance. TIP fared better than of trust among members.
FAIDA with two-thirds of its groups (67%) improving their situa-
tion, including five with large improvements, whereas FAIDA saw Hypotheses relating to group composition and characteristics
fewer than half of its groups (44%) improving, and only one large
improvement. TIP and FAIDA together were involved in actively The second set of hypotheses states that farmer groups will be
linking 13 groups to other chain actors, 10 of which (77%) im- better positioned to improve their marketing performance if the
proved their market situation. TIP’s higher success rate can be ex- group has some or all of the following attributes:
plained by the fact that more of their groups had access to more
collective resources that could be harnessed to positively change  Smaller group size (hypothesis 5);
their market situation. More often than not, TIP groups were better  Past successful activities (hypothesis 6);13
educated, had more internal cohesion, were endowed with more  Heterogeneity of endowments (hypothesis 7);
natural assets, and worked with commodities that had greater  Homogeneity of identities (hypothesis 8).14
market potential.
This also explains why TIP had more opportunities to actively Group size did not have any effect on group marketing perfor-
link their groups to other chain actors. TIP initiated linkages of nine mance, and there is no evidence in this study to support the
farmers groups with other chain actors (seven led to an improved hypothesis that smaller farmer groups will be better positioned
market situation), whereas FAIDA initiated four farmer group link- to improve their market situation over larger groups. In regard to
ages (three led to an improved market situation). hypothesis 6, it is clear that the group maturity and activity level
variables are positively associated with a group’s ability to improve
Hypotheses revisited its market situation. The association was particularly strong for the
In this section, the study hypotheses are revisited to ascertain activity level variable. A set of rules must be followed in order to
the extent to which they can be supported or rejected based on run successful group activities, and especially with multiple group
the results of the bivariate analyses. activities. The positive association of group maturity to improved
marketing performance bolsters this finding. A far greater number
Hypotheses relating to group assets of the groups in existence before the project intervention was able
to implement collective action initiatives to improve their market
The study hypothesised that farmer groups will be better posi- situation. Unlike new groups, mature groups had a set of institu-
tioned to improve their marketing performance if the group has tions to guide group behaviour. The combination of functioning
some or all of the following attributes: internal institutions and successful group activities provides the
confidence for groups to take on new initiatives, and enables them
 High level of trust among members (hypothesis 1);11 to undertake PA training and put it into practice.
 More altruistic rather than self-interested behaviour (hypothesis There is no evidence from this study sample to support the
2); hypotheses that heterogeneity of endowments (hypothesis 7) or
 More ties to other organizations within and outside the commu- homogeneity of identities (hypothesis 8) will better position
nity (hypothesis 3); groups to improve their market situation.
 Lower levels of poverty (hypothesis 4).12 A final important finding that does not fit neatly within the
hypotheses is that groups with a higher proportion of male to fe-
Beginning with poverty, bivariate analysis highlighted the male leaders were more likely to improve their market situation.
importance of natural assets – water and commodity types – as Many female-only and female-dominated groups find themselves
significant factors in improved marketing performance. Likewise, disadvantaged compared to their male counterparts when search-
groups with more years of schooling were more likely to improve ing for and accessing new markets for existing products, and pos-
their market situation. Surprisingly, group wealth ranking (a mea- sibly even more so in pursuing new products, as would be found
sure of groups’ physical and financial assets) did not prove to be a under contract arrangements. Women generally assume more of
significant factor in an improved market situation. These findings the responsibility for their households’ production and reproduc-
partially support hypothesis 4, which can be restated as follows: tion activities and simply do not have time to spend searching
Better educated groups with a good stock of natural capital and out new market opportunities. This is compounded by the fact that
favourable agro-ecological conditions will be better positioned to women do not have the same socio-political networks as men,
improve their marketing performance. which hinders their access to new resources and services that
A similar conclusion, however, cannot be put forward in rela- could lead to new market opportunities.
tion to the three social capital hypotheses. In the bivariate analysis,
neither the proxy indicators for cognitive social capital (intra-
group trust and altruistic behaviour) nor those for structural social Study conclusions
capital (membership in other groups and providers/partners) were
statistically significant factors in improved marketing perfor- In the final summation of these findings, it is appropriate to re-
mance. These findings do not, however, reject the hypothesis that turn to the study’s conceptual model. Within the infrastructure do-
trust among members is an important attribute for successful col- main, the two driving forces for improved marketing performance
are determined by the commodities being promoted (e.g., growing
11
The first three hypotheses were tested using: general trust, help trust, money
13
trust, and altruism (cognitive social capital); and providers/partners and membership Hypothesis 6 was tested using the maturity and activity level variables.
14
in other groups (structural social capital). Hypotheses 7 and 8 were tested using the variables: leadership by sex; gender
12
This hypothesis was tested by using the following variables: wealth ranking; composition categories; and three heterogeneity variables (education, gender,
reliable water source; land; education; and commodity types. wealth).
J. Barham, C. Chitemi / Food Policy 34 (2009) 53–59 59

non-staple food crops) and whether or not the groups have a reli- time frame by which to expect poor smallholder farmers to make
able water source. The findings support the premise that groups substantive gains in their market situation. This certainly requires
endowed with favourable agro-ecological factors, such as a reliable a project cycle period beyond the typical three years, and it will in-
water source, good lands and soils, and crops with inherent market volve substantial asset building in natural and financial capitals
potential, are far better positioned to improve their market situa- (e.g., rotating credit schemes), alongside such human and social
tion. Groups lacking these natural assets will find their marketing capital building as promoted in AMSDP. This also necessitates
alternatives severely limited. change agents to have the appropriate methods and tools to assess
Variables in the social structure domain can play an enabling a farmer group’s asset levels and resource mobilization capacity.
role in a group’s ability to take advantage of market opportunities. This is all the more crucial since one of the more dangerous
The enabling factors found here to be positively associated with assumptions made by market advocates is that promotion of mar-
improved marketing performance included: group maturity, num- ket-oriented interventions will lead to greater food security; yet, it
ber of group activities, a higher proportion of male leaders, and is all too clear that failed attempts to engage in the market are
better educated groups. more likely to lead to greater food insecurity and other detrimental
The PA intervention in the form of direct market linkages was livelihood outcomes.15 Careful analysis of group assets and capacity
also an important factor in group market success. However, in are essential to discern the level of risk and the type of collective ac-
most cases the PA was able to link these groups to agribusinesses tion initiatives most appropriate to bring about significant improve-
because they were endowed with assets (water, land and soils) that ments to their market situation.
made the partnership worthwhile for the agribusiness, bolstering
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This does not mean that market-oriented interventions should 15
See Barham (2007) for a more lengthy discussion on programmatic and policy
only target ‘‘wealthy” farmers and exclude the poor. It means that recommendations for engaging smallholder farmers in agro-enterprise development
promoters of this approach must be far more realistic about the initiatives.