Food Security

, Volume 10, Issue 1, pp 141–150 | Cite as

Relevance of informal institutions for achieving sustainable crop intensification in Uganda

  • Mastewal YamiEmail author
  • Piet van Asten
Original Paper


Informal institutions play an important role in the socio-cultural lives of rural communities in Uganda. However, little attention is given in research and development to understanding the influence of informal institutions in efforts to achieve Sustainable Crop Intensification (SCI). Such evidence is, however, pertinent to addressing low crop productivity by designing and implementing interventions that take into account the socio-cultural and institutional barriers and opportunities for SCI. This paper analyzes the influence of informal institutions on farmers’ access to land resources, financial resources, and farm inputs. The analysis is based on qualitative and quantitative data collected between January and May 2015 using 61 in-depth interviews, field surveys with 120 farmers and 18 gender-segregated focus group discussions in Eastern and Southwestern Uganda. Results indicate that informal institutions play a central role in enhancing farmers’ investment in SCI interventions by facilitating access to land through inheritance, land rentals, and labor sharing arrangements, although they are biased against non-clan members and female members of the communities. Informal institutions also enable access to financial resources by farmers at lower transaction cost compared to formal financial institutions. Yet, the informal institutions face challenges related to poor rule enforcement and limited financial reserves. The contribution of informal institutions in improving farmers’ access to (i) external farm inputs, (ii) serving as forums for knowledge sharing and (iii) regulating quality of farm inputs is minimal. Findings imply that development interventions could benefit from using informal institutions as entry points for investment in SCI and building on institutions’ strengths in influencing access to land and financial resources. Policies and programs that promote the SCI approach need to recognize the role of informal institutions for increased implementation and impact.


Crop productivity Customary land tenure Gender equity Governance Rule enforcement Sub Saharan Africa 



The study is part of a Policy Action for Sustainable Intensification of Ugandan Cropping Systems (PASIC) project funded by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Uganda. We would like to thank all the participants for their kind cooperation. We also appreciate the support of Happy Providence, Elizabeth Asiimwe, Stella Nalule, and Richard Nabigunda in data collection, and Dennis Ochola in mapping the study areas. We would like to acknowledge the CGIAR Research Programs on Humid tropics and Roots, Tubers, and Bananas (RTB) for providing the institutional support and embedding the research.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

We would like to confirm that there are no conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature and International Society for Plant Pathology 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA)KampalaUganda
  2. 2.Olam International LtdKampalaUganda

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