The European Journal of Development Research

, Volume 30, Issue 2, pp 297–319 | Cite as

The Long Shadow of Faith-based Social Networks on Agricultural Performance: Evidence from Ethiopian Apple Growers

  • Sintayehu Hailu AlemuEmail author
  • Luuk van Kempen
  • Ruerd Ruben
Original Article


The aim of the paper is to test the importance of social networks in the acquisition of technical know-how among apple growers in Southern Ethiopia. What contribution do social networks make in knowledge transfer alongside more formal sources such as training and education? We take special interest in the role of faith-based networks, as apple cultivation was originally introduced into the study area by individuals and organizations linked to the Protestant church. The network effect is proxied by the frequency of contact of an individual producer (‘ego’) with his/her most salient resource persons (‘alters’) as well as the number of visits to their orchards. We find a positive relation between both types of social interaction and knowledge acquisition, although the efficacy of these varies with the producers’ level of education. Protestant producers have been able to maintain a knowledge advantage with respect to Orthodox Christian producers ever since apple cultivation took off in the 1990s.


social networks tie strength peer effects knowledge transfer exclusion religion 

L’objectif de cet article est de tester l’importance des réseaux sociaux pour l’acquisition de connaissances techniques chez les producteurs de pommes dans le sud de l’Éthiopie. Quelles sortes de contributions apportent-ils aux transferts de connaissances, mis aux côtés de sources plus formelles telles que les formations professionnels et l’éducation? Nous portons un intérêt particulier au rôle des réseaux religieux, car la culture de la pomme fut initialement introduite dans la zone de recherche par des individus et organisations liées à l’église protestante. L’effet des réseaux est dépendent sur le nombre de visites à d’autres vergers et sur la fréquence du contact entre un producteur individuel (« ego ») avec ses personnes-ressources les plus saillantes (« alters »). Nous trouvons que les deux types d’interactions sociales ont un effet positif important sur l’acquisition des connaissances, bien que leur efficacité varie selon le niveau de formation des producteurs. Les producteurs protestants ont pu maintenir un avantage par rapport aux chrétiens orthodoxes depuis que la culture de pommes a décollé dans les années 1990s.


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Copyright information

© European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes (EADI) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sintayehu Hailu Alemu
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Luuk van Kempen
    • 2
  • Ruerd Ruben
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of EconomicsHawassa UniversityHawassaEthiopia
  2. 2.Department of Cultural Anthropology and Development Studies & Radboud Social Cultural ResearchRadboud University NijmegenThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Wageningen Economic ResearchWageningen UniversityThe HagueThe Netherlands

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