Social Network Effects on Groundnut Farming: The case of Kenya and Uganda

Date of Completion

January 2012


Education, Leadership|Economics, Agricultural|Education, Agricultural|Sociology, Social Structure and Development




Groundnut farmers in Uganda and Kenya have experienced declines in per capita production despite research and extension efforts to increase productivity. New strategies are needed to enhance production, particularly regarding adoption of improved seed varieties. Social networks play a significant role in social learning, which can impact farmers' adoption of new agricultural technologies. To have a lasting impact, strategies need to be compatible with the structures and functions of social networks in farming communities. This study examined the effects of social networks on information acquisition, adoption, and productivity with new seed varieties among groundnut farmers in Uganda and Kenya. ^ A survey was used to collect data through face-to-face interviews from a random sample of 491 farmers (232 in Uganda and 229 in Kenya). Approximately half the farmers participated in on-farm trials and the other half did not. Two approaches were used in the analysis (a) a bivariate probit model to examine farmers' information acquisition and adoption decisions, and (b) social network analysis to visualize farmers' networks related to information acquisition, productivity, and group membership. ^ Findings from the study indicated that social network factors, particularly strong-ties with close associates and weak-ties with external agents, partially influenced information acquisition, but had no effect on adoption. Other factors like gender, credit access, prior experience, and geographic location significantly affected information acquisition; whereas education level, prior experience, gender, and geographic location impacted adoption decisions. Ugandan farmers primarily used their weak-ties for sources of information about seed varieties, but Kenyan farmers relied more on strong-ties. In both countries weak-ties had least impact on productivity. Strong-ties, natural factors, and for Kenyan farmers, their own experience with new varieties, had the strongest impact on productivity. ^ The study highlights the influence of social interactions among farmers and between farmers and external agents in advancing farmers' adoption of new technologies. In countries like Uganda and Kenya, where information infrastructure is underdeveloped, social networks act as bridges for learning among farmers and across social boundaries. Policy makers can apply the findings to develop programs that fit with farmers' interests and resources and to strategically utilize informal systems in program implementation. ^ Keywords: social networks; information acquisition; Adoption; Kenya; Uganda ^