Differentiated strategies key to uptake of collective action interventions in Cameroon?
Kola nuts are an important product in West Africa, where they are used as stimulants and medicine, and sold to generate income. Despite their importance, the market chain is poorly developed. Collective action initiatives have been used to address this for many years, but farmers’ perceptions of these initiatives are not very clear. Centre scientists set out to investigate producers’ perceptions of the effectiveness and usefulness of such initiatives in the production and marketing of kola nuts in Cameroon. Improving smallholder production systems, markets, productivity, sustainability and incomes is a key focus of the CGIAR’s Collaborative Research Project 6 on Trees, Forests and Agroforestry—of which the World Agroforestry Centre is a key partner.
Interviews with 203 kola farmers in the West and North West regions of Cameroon revealed that farmers evaluate collective action in the context of four main benefits: its ability to reduce transaction costs, improve financial performance, enhance social networks and status, and improve skills. They also noted the negative dimensions of collective action, namely loss of negotiating autonomy and added work.
Producers were generally positive about collective action initiatives, agreeing on the benefits it can bring. Whilst the majority of producers (76%) have a positive perception of collective action initiatives, a lesser percentage (24%) view it negatively. The positive group relied more on kola for income than the unimpressed group; and a higher proportion of women than men were seen to be dissatisfied with collective action.
The findings have implications for the organization of future collective action activities. With 76% of farmers reporting a positive perception of collective action interventions, certainly these initiatives can be used to link smallholders to markets, and contribute to their financial and social development. However, differentiated strategies have to be used for the farmers in the two different groups. The study found that farmers are dissatisfied with skill strengthening in marketing, conservation, storing of kola to reduce post-harvest losses, and value adding along the supply chain. Future initiatives will need to pay particular attention to those areas. For the unimpressed group, the lack of autonomy in negotiation and the time involved were major constraints, and interventions will have address those if interventions are to appeal to the minority as well.
The study identified the various dimensions farmers value in evaluating collective action, but did not consider their relative importance. Yet, such information would be useful in situations where tradeoffs might become necessary. Prioritising the factors viewed as important by farmers is, therefore, an important area for future research.
Producers’ Perception of Collective Action Initiatives in the Production and Marketing of Kola in Cameroon, Amos Gyau, Bertin Takoutsing, Steven Franzel, Journal of Agricultural Science Vol. 4, No. 4; 2012