Mechanisms of Inclusion: Evidence from Zambia’s Farmer Organisations

  • Margitta MinahEmail author
  • Agustina Malvido Pérez Carletti
Original Article


Policymakers and donors increasingly rely on farmer organisations (FOs) when implementing rural development strategies, though research suggests that targeted groups such as poorer households tend to participate less in FOs than richer ones. Here, we discuss mechanisms that may contribute towards the inclusion of disadvantaged households, using primary data from Zambian FOs involved in implementing an agricultural subsidy programme, and applying qualitative comparative analysis to identify individual and combined effects of four explanatory factors on inclusion. Our results suggest long-term commitment as a necessary condition. We further identify three alternative pathways that explain inclusion while within-case analysis describes their underlying causal mechanism: inclusion develops in FOs that show commitment and either provide financial services to vulnerable members, promote social identities or compensate disadvantaged members for not being able to access subsidised inputs. These results can explain why some FOs are more effective than others in reaching disadvantaged target groups.


Agricultural cooperatives Producer organisations Smallholder farmers Input subsidy programme Qualitative comparative analysis (QCA) 


Les décideurs et les bailleurs de fonds ont de plus en plus recours aux organisations d'agriculteurs (OA) lors de la mise en œuvre de stratégies de développement rural, bien que des recherches suggèrent que les groupes ciblés tels que les ménages les plus pauvres tendent à moins participer à ces organisations que les ménages plus riches. Nous discutons ici des mécanismes pouvant contribuer à l'inclusion des ménages défavorisés, en utilisant les données primaires d’OA zambiennes impliquées dans la mise en œuvre d'un programme de subventions agricoles et en appliquant une analyse qualitative comparative pour identifier les effets individuels et combinés de quatre facteurs explicatifs sur l'inclusion. Nos résultats suggèrent que l'engagement à long terme est une condition nécessaire. Nous identifions en outre trois voies alternatives qui expliquent l'inclusion, tandis que l'analyse intra-cas décrit leur mécanisme causal sous-jacent: l'inclusion se développe dans les OA qui montrent leur engagement et fournissent des services financiers aux membres vulnérables, promeuvent les identités sociales ou indemnisent les membres désavantagés pour ne pas avoir accès à des subventions. Ces résultats peuvent expliquer pourquoi certaines OA sont plus efficaces que d’autres pour toucher des groupes cibles défavorisés.



We would like to thank Prof. Markus Hanisch, Katasha Sinyangwe, Mercy Changwe, the Centre for Rural Development (SLE) and the Förderverein für Agrar- und Gartenbauwissenschaften of the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin for their support. We also thank the  three anonymous referees for their useful comments.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

On behalf of the authors, the corresponding author confirms that there is no conflict of interest in this work.


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Copyright information

© European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes (EADI) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of Economics of Agricultural Cooperatives, Department of Agricultural EconomicsHumboldt-Universität zu BerlinBerlinGermany

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