Understanding Social Infrastructure to Increase Uptake of Improved Technologies
The traditional role of cooperatives has provided farmers with collective bargaining power. Cooperatives are now playing an increasingly significant role as a trusted vehicle to provide farmers with new agronomic information on inputs, improved practices and technologies that enable them to gain greater access to agricultural markets. However, to ensure the effective transfer of information on new techniques and technologies, it is necessary to understand the social infrastructure, including existing cooperative networks and trust levels between its members and different entities.
Since 2013, under USAID’s Cooperative Development Program, Land O’Lakes International Development (Land O’Lakes) has implemented the Seed Cooperative Alliance (SCA) project. Through SCA, Land O’Lakes is working with cooperatives to increase Rwandan farmers’ access to hybrid maize seed and improve their productivity. After a visit to the project in Rwanda, a staff member of Winfield United Suppliers (Winfield US), a division of Land O’Lakes Inc., suggested that SCA take a closer look at the social dynamics of knowledge and technology transfer between input suppliers and cooperative members that lead to an increased uptake of the hybrid maize. SCA began a social capital study in 2015 to understand how the cooperative members get information, who they communicated with in their cooperative, and who they trust. The research findings have been used to strengthen SCA’s implementation and Land O’Lakes’ global approaches to technology transfer in current and future programming. The analysis built a culture of collaborating, learning, and adapting (CLA) and embedded CLA throughout the SCA project lifecycle.