Network effect: A mechanism for the acceptance of orange-fleshed sweetpotato among rural households in Uganda

With vitamin A deficiency enduring as a major public health challenge for developing countries, the need for successful orange-fleshed sweetpotato (OFSP) delivery campaigns to fight the deficiency remains relevant. However, despite decades of OFSP delivery efforts in Uganda, OFSP acceptance is still low. This study examined the role of network effect (Metcalfe’s Law) on OFSP cultivation behavior among rural households in Uganda using a mixed methods design. Data were obtained from a cross-sectional survey data of 341 randomly selected farmers drawn from two rural districts in Uganda and an interview with a subsample of 42 farmers. The interviews were analyzed using content analysis where network effect concepts were used as data organizing themes. The study revealed OFSP acceptance to be associated with self-reinforcing socially-oriented factors espoused in network effect tradition. Specifically, mutual observation regarding OFSP agriculture resulted in low OFSP cultivation intensity, thereby making access to vines difficult, slowing experienced gratification of OFSP qualities and the attendant cultivation defections over time. The result has curtailed OFSP acceptance at community level, leading to the conclusion that network effects moderate farmers’ decisions to switch from cultivating white-fleshed sweetpotato (WFSP) to OFSP. We recommend the adaption of delivery strategies used in telecommunication innovations in delivery efforts of innovations such as OFSP, in order to nurture self-driven acceptance trajectories of these nutrient rich crops.
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East Africa
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