Influence of collective action on market access among smallholder banana farmers in Imenti South District, Kenya
Collective action has re-emerged recently to organize smallholder farmers in developing countries in the wake of agricultural market liberalization. Collective action that promotes the empowerment of farmer groups will allow them to overcome specific barriers to becoming part of market economy. Smallholder farmers should therefore exploit the wave of support for cooperatives and organized farmer groups to improve their access to the input and product markets. There is need for the relevant investment in capacity building of farmer groups to deliver relevant services which allows smallholder farmers participate actively across the entire value chains through collective action approach that operate at the grass root level. If farmers market their produce collectively, they can attain economies of scale and bargaining power to negotiate for better market arrangements and prices. The primary inquiry of this study was to identify and understand the underlying factors that enable smallholder farmer groups to access the market for their bananas. The study was conducted with 10 farmer groups. Individual data were collected on approximately 80 farmer group members. The analysis considered how group composition, group characteristics, group assets and group governance characteristics, affect a farmer group’s ability to access its market for their crop. Findings suggest that more mature groups with strong internal institutions, functioning group activities, and a good asset base of natural capital are more likely to better access their market situation. Gender composition of groups also factors in better group market access. It acts as an enabling factor for male dominated and gender-balanced groups and acts as a disabling factor for female-only groups. Cognitive social capital in the form of group trust and homogeneity of identities (i.e., ethnicity, age, education, religion) are significant factors in a group’s ability to improve its market access situation.