design reportGlobal Communities Partners with Birmingham-Southern College to Study Cooperation Among Ugandan Farmers

Bert Morrow, Ph.D., Billy McMahon, Patrick Joyce, and Caleb McVicker Contribute to Research on Cooperatives in Uganda

Even though cooperatives are numerous in Uganda, little is known about the reasons which motivate people to join them and use their services. The DESIGN (Developing Economic Strengthening Interventions for Group Production) program is a unique research project funded by USAID, where Global Communities has developed a partnership that combines practical on-the-ground assistance to farmers with a rigorous study of issues integral to sustainable cooperative development. To conduct this study, Global Communities has partnered with the faculty and students from Birmingham-Southern College (BSC), Department of Business Administration, in Birmingham, Alabama.

The DESIGN program, starting in 2013, collaborated with Dr. Morrow of BSC to develop a research program to study community ‘willingness to cooperate’. This study revealed that apart from economic imperatives, social capital aspects of cooperation emerged as important drivers of cooperation. However, these ‘social’ drivers of motivation are much less understood. To delve into this topic the BSC team volunteered to conduct new research in the course of 2014 academic year.

Together, a survey was developed by the BSC team and the DESIGN team to assess the factors that influence the willingness to become a member of an agricultural cooperative. In particular, it looked at how farmers viewed the social benefits (social capital), as opposed to economic benefits associated with cooperation. In August 2014, the BSC team went to Bushenyi, in western Uganda, to administer the survey to 183 Ugandan farmers.

Research team
The research team was comprised of Bert Morrow, Ph.D., Billy McMahon, Patrick Joyce, and Caleb McVicker from Birmingham-Southern College.

After analyzing the results, the BSC team produced a report which identified four measures of social capital:

  • Social capital that was used by farmers to get by (bonding networks), with two dimensions: emotional support and social support, and
  • Social capital that farmers used to get ahead (bridging networks) which also had two dimensions: tangible and intangible resource sharing.

The desire to gain these social benefits from cooperation emerged as strong predictor of willingness to cooperate among most farmers.

The report’s findings and recommendations will help the DESIGN team define social capital interventions which are complementary to, and strengthen economic interventions offered under the program. Further research is planned for 2015.

You can read the report here.