'Because of poverty, we had to come together': collective action for improved food security in rural Kenya and Uganda

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Agricultural productivity in East African smallholder systems is notoriously low and food production faces multiple challenges, including soil degradation, decreasing land availability, poor market integration, disease burdens and climate change impacts. However, recent evidence from an in-depth study from two sites in Kenya and Uganda shows signs of new social dynamics as a response to these multiple stressors. This paper focuses on the emergence of local social institutions for collective action, in which particularly women farmers organize themselves. Although previous research on collective action has largely focused on common-pool resource management, we argue that collective action is one potential pathway to livelihood and sustainability improvements also in a setting of private land ownership. Trust building, awareness raising and actions to improve livelihood security through risk sharing and pooling of labour and other limited assets have given people more time and resources available for diversification, preventative activities, experimentation and resource conservation. It thereby strengthens farmers' capacity to cope with and adapt to change, as well as contributes to the agency at the local level.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Social Sciences Interdisciplinary


  • collective action, communities of practice, food security, Kenya, smallholder farming, Uganda
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)245-262
JournalInternational Journal of Agricultural Sustainability
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Publication categoryResearch