Partnerships for learning and innovation in agri-export industries: A case study of farmer-exporter partnerships in Kenya's flower industry

Bolo, Maurice Ochieng (2011). Partnerships for learning and innovation in agri-export industries: A case study of farmer-exporter partnerships in Kenya's flower industry. PhD thesis The Open University.



This study examines the role of partnerships, institutions and governance arrangements in building cut flower farmers' innovation capabilities. It interrogates whether partnerships between farmers (both small scale and large scale) with exporters contribute to building the farmers' capabilities; how the institutional (contractual versus non-contractual) and governance patterns (captive versus relational) influence the ability of such partnerships to enhance farmers' capabilities and the role of other actors (research institutes, universities, regulatory agencies, input suppliers and NGOs) in supporting these partnerships and contributing to building farmer capabilities.

This focus was motivated by the declining performance of small scale farmers in Kenya and the fact that small scale farmers appear to be excluded from high value cut flower export business. Whereas this exclusion is often explained in terms of limited access to capital; infrastructure and stringent market standards and regulations, this thesis takes the view that (besides these factors) exclusion of small scale farmers results from choices that different actors make about enhancing farmers' capabilities to innovate, as well as the policy and institutional environment that underpins and reinforces such choices. The study follows largely a case study approach and employs different methods including structured surveys; in-depth interviews and ethnography.

Our findings show that even though farmers' production capabilities have benefitted from their partnerships with exporters, value addition capabilities have only improved modestly and remain a key challenge to small scale farmers. Similarly, marketing is dependent on knowledge and information passed on by the exporters. Secondly, the findings further show that interactions between farmers and R&D actors are undermined largely by the structural, cultural and operational procedures of the R&D institutes and universities. Lastly, the study finds that institutions, power dynamics and governance patterns are the key determinants influencing the opportunities for interactions, learning and innovation within these partnerships.

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