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Graeme Reed, M.Sc.

B.ES Honours International Development, & Diploma in Environmental Assessment, University of Waterloo; MSc. Renewable Resources, McGill University.

 

 

 

 

 

 


MSc. Thesis:

 

ASSESSING THE ROLE OF SOCIAL NETWORKS IN AGRICULTURAL COOPERATIVES IN THE NIAYES REGION OF SENEGAL

 

Abstract

Agricultural cooperatives are fast becoming one of the most prominent contributors to rural development internationally. Policymakers, academics, and donors have identified these cooperatives as being an essential mechanism to facilitate information exchange, improve collaboration, disseminate agricultural innovation, and improve market access among smallholder farmers in diverse settings. However, despite significant international support, empirical research on the benefits of agricultural cooperatives has been equivocal, revealing both successes and failures, and raising questions about the ability of cooperatives to equitably and sustainably facilitate change. Further, many existing studies have tended to overlook the dual social and economic identity of agricultural cooperatives, instead focusing on their economic functioning with comparatively little attention being paid to social relationships.

This thesis seeks to better understand how the internal social organization of agricultural cooperatives can influence their function and performance with a view to inform research and policy. More specifically, the research seeks to 1) analyze how social networks within a formal cooperative can influence their ability to facilitate knowledge flow and innovation dissemination; 2) assess how agricultural cooperatives can contribute to developing the sustainable livelihoods of their members; and 3) inform future research and development efforts directed towards ensuring more equitable and resilience-focused agricultural cooperative policy frameworks. Using case studies in the Niayes Region of Senegal, this study reveals the complexity of the social relationships that can underpin agricultural cooperative development in Senegal and how these relationships can impact their overall performance and service provision to members. Results highlight that economic analyses of cooperatives can only partially account for the impacts of existing power arrangements, social structures, and socio-economic diversity present among smallholder farmers in developing areas, often leading to inappropriate power asymmetries and inequitable distribution of benefits. Based on our findings, agricultural development initiatives seeking to establish or collaborate with agricultural cooperatives could benefit from conducting a priori assessments of the existing social relations and networks affecting producer interactions in the cooperative. There remains a need for better merging economic analyses (i.e. the impact of cooperative membership on farm income, market access, commodity prices, etc.) with social analyses (such as who is benefiting from being a cooperative member, how are members interacting and sharing knowledge, and how are collective decisions being made) in cooperatives-related research in order to better address their dual-identity and multiple objectives in developing areas context. Such an approach has the potential to better contextualize their design, operation, and function in order to facilitate innovation and resource access for members.

 


Awards and Scholarships:

Amy and Tim Dauphinee Fellowship, Canadian Association for the Study of Cooperation (CASC), 2015

Graduate Excellence Award (2015), McGill University

Graduate Excellence Award (2014), McGill University

Joseph Armand Bombardier: Canada Graduate Scholarship-Master’s (CGS M), SSHRC, McGill University, QU, ($17500)

 


Project Publications:

Reed, G. and Hickey, G.M. (2016). Contrasting innovation networks in smallholder agricultural producer cooperatives: Insights from the Niayes Region of Senegal. Journal of Co-operative Organization and Management 4(2): 97–107.

 


 

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