Collective Action in On-Farm Tree Growing in Uganda – A student research

“Mugyebaleko…!” (‘well-done you all’ in Luganda). My name is Joab Nuwasasira, a student of Master of Science in Environment and Natural Resources Management at Makerere University, Uganda. In partial fulfillment of the requirements for the award of the degree of Master at Makerere university and also to meet the WoodCluster reearch objectives, I conducted a study on “The Role of Collective Action in On-Farm Tree Growing in Mubende and Kassanda Districts, Central Uganda.” Empirical evidence from various studies across the world indicate that collective action initiatives offer  smallholder farmers opportunities to overcome various constraints related to farm inputs, cultivation, access to extension services and marketing information as well as prices for their outputs. In central Uganda particularly Mubende and Kasanda districts, there are various collective action initiatives’ that are mainly involved in forestry and a bit in agricultural food crops production.

Joab getting advice from Dr. Auch

Joab seeking guidance from Dr. Eckhard Auch © WoodCluster

It is evident from past studies that collective action offers smallholder farmers opportunities to overcome marketing constraints, access to planting materials and access to extension services. However, despite the extent of small and medium scale tree planting in the country, most of the farmers have continued to act individually, thus constrained in various aspects including access to planting materials, extension services and markets. This is likely to affect the quantity and quality of wood produced and thus, constrained contribution to addressing the wood supply gap in the country.

My study was to document the organizational structures, motivational factors for collective action, the benefits of collective action and performance of collective action initiatives related to farm forestry in Mubende and Kassanda Districts. Specifically, the study sought to characterize the collective action initiatives that exist in the area of study and determining the factors  governing the emergence of collective action. The motivational factors and benefits for participating in Collective Action initiatives as well as assessing the  performance of collective action initiatives in on farm tree growing were explored.

The study adopted descriptive, exploratory and interpretive research design with a mixed approach of both qualitative and quantitative methods of data collection and analysis. Data collection was done over a period of ten months, using face to face interviews with the collective action group members and their leaders. I enjoyed warm information sharing interviews with 63 members of the studied collective action groups, commercial forest plantation community liaison officers and the different local government officials. The data collection exercise was very informative, sharing experiences from the local tree farmers.

The study findings revealed that most collective action initiatives in Mubende and Kassanda were operating informally and localized. There was only one initiative that was formally registered and had operations across three sub-counties. Despite having specific objectives and activities undertaken, the initiatives in the area were involved in more than one economic activity and each of them had a component of tree growing or trading in it as long as each group members abided by their rules and regulations that govern them. With regard to motivational factors, members from each groups had their specific motivating factors, however, factors such as desire to get farm inputs at subsidized prices, acquiring silviculture knowledge, easy access to market information and getting better market prices for outputs as well as getting good interest on cash savings were among the motivating factors that cut across all the four groups.

The study also found out that while all groups had an element of tree growing on-farm, the motivation and benefits in some groups were beyond tree growing. For instance, one of the benefits derived from participating in collective action initiatives was a source of compassion support during hard times like in cases of sickness or death of beloved ones.  The study also revealed that, good performance across the four collective action initiatives depended on member registration, having manageable group size, transparency of the leadership, trust and reputation, general consultation of rules and regulations during decision making, commitment of member to joint activities, leadership performance of group and accountability, benefit sharing. The severity of challenges was found to differ across the four groups, however, challenges such as unstable wood produce prices, poor quality forest outputs, exploitation by brokers, poor road networks were the most prevalent and affected farmers across the four initiatives thus suggesting that belonging to the collective action initiative has not adequately addressed them.

Joab presenting at PIP

Joab sharing research findings with local communities during the PIP workshop © WoodCluster   

Based on the study findings, the study recommends sensitization of tree farmers in such groups to be formally registered for the security of their funds and also to increase their chances of enhancing their bargaining power for better prices of their tree products as well as accessing credit facilities from financial institutions. Costs and bureaucracy involved in registering groups needs to be addressed to incentivize their formalization.  The women in the area need to be encouraged and supported to be part of collective action initiatives to enable them harness from the benefits.  Groups need to improve opportunities for lending their members through increasing their finances through existing financial institutions or membership subscription. Leaders of the groups also need to improve on transparency, consultation and participation of all group members to improve governance.

It is to this regard that I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to the people who have contributed their time, energy, ideas, experience and encouragement to help me complete this study. To my supervisors Dr. Justine Namaalwa Jjumba and Dr. Patrick Byakagaba whose constructive advice and intellectual inspirations have been invaluable to me. Their motivations, friendly treatment, encouragement and regular discussions gave me impetus to complete this dissertation amidst challenging conditions. I thank my entire family for the overwhelming support by doing what they could to offer me education up to university level; this was a good foundation for my Masters Education and professional life.  Particularly I thank my dear wife Bakubagana Jane who supported me in everything she could especially emotionally. My utmost appreciation goes to the Wood Cluster project for having availed me the opportunity and financial support to undertake my MSc. Research and finally accomplish the thesis. I also extend my appreciation to my former class mates who encouraged me to read hard and for the constructive guidance in conducting this study. To all people who helped me get information especially respondents in Mubende and other key participants, thank you for making the study a success.

By Joab Nuwasasira

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