Fostering Capacity Building Among Groups of Disadvantaged Farmers, Southeastern North Carolina (USA)
AbstractWe present preliminary results from a qualitative comparative case study involving small-scale and disadvantaged (predominantly African American) farmers in southeastern North Carolina. Agricultural assistance organizations have promoted development of farmer cooperatives as an adaptive strategy for these farmers, with only limited success. This research explores factors that contribute to or detract from the capacity of disadvantaged rural households to take advantage of new opportunities, and the role of both tangible intangible assets in shaping outcomes. We gained rich insights about these factors through the provision of tangible assets and business planning assistance to four small groups of disadvantaged farmers attempting to adopt the innovation of collaboration. Provision of tangible assets is insufficient to ensure success; our findings suggest that capacity-building efforts focused too narrowly on assets can lead assistance providers to neglect critical mediating factors that influence outcomes. A key mediating factor is the strength of trust-based relationships among group members and between groups and assistance providers; establishment of such relationships is a necessary precursor to cooperation and capacity development. One implication is that assistance organizations might improve outcomes of programs aimed at disadvantaged populations by focusing on trust-building interactions and by providing coaching and facilitation services.
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