The European Journal of Development Research

, Volume 30, Issue 5, pp 823–841 | Cite as

The Fine Line between Trusting and Cheating: Exploring Relationships between Actors in Ugandan Pineapple Value Chains

  • Katharine TrögerEmail author
  • Margareta Amy Lelea
  • Brigitte Kaufmann
Original Article


Inclusive food value chain development is particularly challenging when numerous smallholders engage in production and trade of non-standardised food products within spatially dispersed systems. Drawing on the concept of human activity systems with an emphasis on purposefulness, we provide a situated account of the activities and relations that shape the pineapple value chain in Uganda. Based on semi-structured interviews with farmers, brokers and traders, we examined the creation and maintenance of business relationships as well as challenges faced. Findings show how trust unfolds to mediate exchange relations that structure chain organisation. Reflecting the uncertain business environment and vulnerability of actors, trustful relationships are simultaneously threatened by opportunities for short-term gain, referred to as “cheating”. Embracing the importance of trust-based relational exchanges for sustaining local economic systems can provide critical leverage for development that puts smallholder farmers and other small-scale value chain actors at the centre.


actor-oriented relationships systems approach traditional food chain trust food value chain inclusive value chain development Uganda 

Le développement d’une chaîne de valeur alimentaire inclusive est particulièrement difficile lorsque de nombreux petits exploitants s’engagent dans la production et le commerce de produits alimentaires non standardisés dans des systèmes spatialement dispersés. En nous appuyant sur le concept de système d’activité humaine avec l’accent sur son utilité, nous fournissons un compte rendu des activités et des relations qui façonnent la chaîne de valeur de l’ananas en Ouganda. Sur la base d’entretiens semi-structurés avec des agriculteurs, des courtiers et des commerçants, nous avons examiné la création et le maintien de relations d’affaires ainsi que les défis rencontrés. Les résultats montrent comment la confiance se développe pour faire l’intermédiaire dans les relations d’échange qui structurent l’organisation de la chaîne. Reflétant l’environnement commercial incertain et la vulnérabilité des acteurs, les relations de confiance sont simultanément menacées par des opportunités de gain à court terme, appelées «tricheries». Le fait d’accepter l’importance des échanges fondés sur la confiance pour l’appui aux systèmes économiques locaux peut fournir un levier essentiel pour le développement qui place au centre les petits exploitants et d’autres acteurs de la chaîne de valeur à petite échelle.



The authors are extremely grateful for the kindness and willingness of different farmers, brokers and traders to share their perspectives. Appreciation is also extended to our Ugandan research assistants, Robinah Makomero, Carolyn Nakakeeto, Joan Atukunda and Nsubuga Caesar, for their cross-cultural work including translation in the field. Special thanks go to master’s student Katharina Bitzan for her support during and after 2015 fieldwork. This article is an outcome of the project Reduction of Post-Harvest Losses and Value Addition in East African Food Value Chains (RELOAD), funded through an initiative for Research on the Global Food Supply (GlobE) by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) in cooperation with the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) (Grant No. 031A247D). Further, we thank the editor and the anonymous reviewers for engaging with our work and offering helpful feedback.


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Copyright information

© European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes (EADI) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Agricultural and Biosystems EngineeringUniversity of KasselWitzenhausenGermany
  2. 2.German Institute for Tropical and Subtropical Agriculture (DITSL)WitzenhausenGermany
  3. 3.Social Ecology of Tropical and Subtropical Land-Use Systems, Institute of Agricultural Sciences in the Tropics (Hans-Ruthenberg-Institute)University of HohenheimStuttgartGermany

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