Psychosocial factors in rural smallholder farmers’ decisions to accept orange-fleshed Sweet potato in Uganda

With vitamin A deficiency enduring as a major public health concern in many developing countries, orange-fleshed sweetpotato (OFSP) continues to be promoted as a food- based alleviation strategy for the deficiency. It is also noteworthy that while a multiplicity of studies have determined that consumers tend to be inclined to pay for OFSP, limited attention has been paid to household level social-cognitive mechanisms that drive the OFSP acceptance process. This study sought to enhance understanding of the role of rural smallholder farmers’ socio-cognitive contexts in OFSP acceptance in Uganda. It specifically aimed to: (i) determine whether farmers’ beliefs about sweetpotato varieties influence OFSP cultivation; (ii) assess the extent to which perceptions of health risk correspond to OFSP cultivation and; (iii) determine whether farmers’ perceived control over production assets and peer approval influence OFSP cultivation. The research was conducted in two Ugandan rural sub-counties that had participated in an NGO sponsored, nation-wide OFSP delivery program for three contiguous years. A multimethods approach involving a survey of farmers’ perceptions of OFSP cultivation, and in-depth key informant interviews were used to collect data about sweetpotato producers. The ANOVA showed that farmers at the various stages of the OFSP cultivation process differed in the belief sets they held. Additionally, sustained OFSP cultivation was positively influenced by social pressure and farmers’ valuation of their capability to cultivate OFSP relative to WFSP (Adj.R2 = .189, p ≤ .001) and health-related risk (Adj.R2 =.102, p ≤ .001). Through compliance and conformity, farmers created a cycle of low cultivation intensity that led to limited access to vines, and the attendant cultivation defections. This study points to a cardinal role for processes that create supportive social and cognitive environments for the acceptance of bio-fortified technologies such as the orange-fleshed sweetpotato.
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Region Focus: 
East Africa
RUFORUM Theses and Dissertations
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Dr. Frank Matsiko; Dr. Richard Miro
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