"Associations Do Not Survive Here": Inequality, Mistrust and Obstacles to Collective Action In Oil Palm Growing Communities In Ghana

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Political Science, International Development, and International Affairs


Social Science and Global Studies


Collective action through farmer-based organisations (FBOs) could potentially improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers by opening up access to credit and inputs, overcoming market constraints, and reducing transaction costs. However, in the absence of strong or well-functioning farmer associations, the cost of market participation is likely to exacerbate economic hardships and inequalities among smallholders. Based on qualitative data from five oil palm growing communities in southwestern Ghana, we observe a general decline in associational life, driven by a breakdown of trust among farmers. The inability of poorer farmers to meet their collective obligations over time has weakened attempts at collective action and encouraged the emergence of highly individualised economic relations in the local agrarian economy. Under these circumstances, cooperation tends to be limited to small groups of better-off farmers who can afford the cost of cooperation. The result is a vicious cycle in which wealth disparities widen because the cost of participating in livelihood-enhancing collective schemes ends up excluding exactly those who need such schemes the most.

Publication Title

Journal of Asian and African Studies

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