Harnessing social capital for maize seed diffusion in Timor-Leste

M. Lopes, Harold Nesbitt, L. Spyckerelle, Natasha Pauli, Julian Clifton, William Erskine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


© 2015, INRA and Springer-Verlag France. Collective action through farmer groups has contributed widely to improved rural welfare through more effective utilization of resources such as labour, knowledge and influence. The identification of characteristics of farmer groups that are successful today helps develop tomorrow’s effective groups. This case study examines characteristics associated with the success of community seed production groups in multiplying and disseminating high-yielding maize seed in Timor-Leste. Previous research from Timor-Leste indicates that the likelihood of an individual adopting a new variety is strongly related to the closeness of social relationships with growers already using that variety. This research explored the hypothesis that social capital, that is social relationships within a farmer group, can be leveraged for development through seed production groups. The groups were established in 2011 for seed production as part of the National Seed System for Released Varieties primarily through previously existing farmer groups. After 2 years, in 2013, a survey was conducted on 30 seed production groups. Successful groups produced sufficient seed for multiplication at a larger scale the following year, as well as surplus seed for distribution to group members or for sale. Several characteristics were correlated with the quantity of shared seed distributed to individual group members, as a measure of group effectiveness: meeting frequency, with r of 0.69; the number of positive leadership traits, with r of 0.57; the level of group trust, with r of 0.51; and the number of defined management roles within the group, with r of 0.41. These traits all reflect the strength of social capital and group governance. We conclude that development can be furthered through positively aligning and leveraging existing social capital among farmers for technology dissemination.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)847-855
JournalAgronomy for Sustainable Development
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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