Farmers’ characteristics and entrepreneurial competences for innovation in Ugandan multi-stakeholder platforms

Farmers’ characteristics and entrepreneurial competences for innovation in Ugandan multi-stakeholder platforms

This paper investigates the role of farmer characteristics and entrepreneurial competences on farmers’ innovation in the context of Ugandan multi-stakeholder platforms for innovation (MSPs). Different types of platforms have started operating to trigger innovation in the latest decade (Ballon, 2009; Gawer & Cusumano, 2014). The present research will focus on the context of MSPs that develop knowledge and promote innovation across multiple actors in food and agriculture value chains, such as researchers, farmers, NGOs and agribusinesses (Amerasinghe, Cofie, & Drechsel, 2013).

MSPs have not always been successful in stimulating innovation adoption in sub-Saharan Africa, and the literature attributed the major causes to heterogeneity in farmers’ characteristics and farmers’ attitudes (Abate et al., 2011). In the present research, innovation adoption represents the ability of the farmers to use knowledge from MSPs in order to introduce or spread technologies that make their participation to value chains more efficient and profitable (Damanpour & Wischnevsky, 2006). Furthermore, demographics, farm size and access to resources have been chosen as farmers’ characteristics, as well as farmers’ entrepreneurial competences as an individual feature related to farmers’ attitudes.

Based on this literature review, the following four key hypotheses have been developed:

H1: Farmers’ age, male gender and education level have a positive effect on farmers’ innovation.

H2: Farm size has a positive effect on farmers’ innovation.

H3: Farmers’ access to resources has a positive effect on farmers’ innovation.

H4: Farmers’ entrepreneurial competences have a positive effect on farmers’ innovation.

Farmers participating in Ugandan MSPs stimulating innovation in coffee and honey value chains in Manafwa district constituted the case study of this paper. Manafwa is located in the eastern part of Uganda, in the Elgon region, and the sub-counties in which coffee and honey farmers live and work are represented by Mukoto, Namabya, Bukhofu and Namboko. The sub-counties have been selected with regard to their landscape (lowland, midland, highland), since the different landscapes may drive heterogeneity in coffee and honey farmer characteristics, competencies and levels of innovation.

To test the hypotheses, a sample of 152 coffee and honey farmers participating in Ugandan MSPs and located in the sub-counties of Mukoto, Namabya, Bukhofu and Namboko has been analysed. The respondents were asked to answer a short questionnaire about their characteristics, entrepreneurial competences and level of innovation within their coffee or honey value chains. As far as measuring entrepreneurial competences of Ugandan coffee and honey farmers’ concerns, a personality trait approach was used (Krauss et al., 2005; Lai et al., 2017; George et al., 2015). Among the personality traits which characterize the good entrepreneur, innovativeness, risk-taking, proactiveness and intentions have been selected from the literature, and adapted to the local context afterwards. Furthermore, four different dimensions of farmer innovation have been considered: product innovation, process innovation (in terms of new agricultural practices based on suggestions from fellow farmers and other actors in their value chains) and market innovation.

Descriptive statistics showed that farmers’ characteristics are heterogeneous. Conversely, farmers’ self-assessed entrepreneurship and innovation were mostly high, perhaps showing a research limitation in terms of desirability bias. The average values were similar across coffee and honey farmers. Males represent the majority of the respondents; most farmers are between 31 and 50 years of age; the level of education corresponds to primary or secondary the most; the size for coffee and honey vale chains, and in particular for the honey one, is relatively small; everyone has more or less access to resources, but just a few have access to the physical ones, such as artificial fertilizers for the coffee part and equipment to keep the bees for the honey part (see details in the full report).  

Findings revealed the interaction effect between farmers’ characteristics and entrepreneurial competences on farmers’ innovation. First, surprisingly, entrepreneurial competences showed a positive effect on farmers’ innovation only if interacting with farm size. Second, opposite to our initial hypothesis, farm size has a negative effect on farmers’ innovation. In particular, when farmers show have levels of entrepreneurial innovativeness, smaller farms have a more positive effect on farmers’ innovation. Instead, entrepreneurial proactiveness triggers larger farmers to have a more positive effect on farmers’ innovation. Finally, farmers’ education and access to resources had the strongest effect on farmers’ innovation.

Recommendations from these findings need to take into account of the research limitations in terms of multicollinearity among variables, sample size reliability and validity in farmers’ answers. Said that, these preliminary findings lead to the following messages:

  • Honey and coffee farmers participating to MSPs in Manafwa district engage in product, process and market innovation differently depending on their education level, access to resources, and entrepreneurial competencies in interaction with their farm size. Therefore, to effectively stimulate innovation, MSP coordinators should tailor their intervention based on these farmers’ competencies and characteristics. In particular:
  • The higher their education and access to resources, the higher their level of innovation. This suggests that MSPs may need to coordinate with farmers’ field schools, other available education institutions and other resource providers to unlock farmers’ access to education and other resources.
  • The lower their farm size, the higher their innovation. This may suggest that farmers with smaller plots may be critical for MSPs to diffuse innovations.
  • The higher their entrepreneurial innovativeness, the stronger is the negative effect of farm size on their innovation. This may suggest that, if MSPs or other institutions could trigger entrepreneurial innovativeness, smaller farmers could uptake and diffuse more innovation.
  • The higher their entrepreneurial proactiveness, the weaker is the negative effect of farm size on their innovation. This may suggest that, if MSPs or other institutions could trigger entrepreneurial proactiveness, farmers with larger plots could uptake and diffuse more innovation.

In the continuation of the VIP4FS project, these data will be used as a baseline to assess changes in farmers’ entrepreneurial competencies and innovation as part of the MSP activities. As such, preliminary findings will be integrated with further data collection and analysis to make these results more robust over time.