Learning and power in international development partnerships: a case study of Iowa Farmers in Uganda

Owusu, Francis
Lauer, Stephen
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Mutual learning in international development partnerships, especially learning by the developed country, helping partners, is not well understood, despite convincing arguments supporting the possibility and desirability of such learning. This research explores the process of learning and its relationship to power in the ‘Bridging the Gap’ project, an international agricultural development partnership in which Iowan farmers were the helping partners and Ugandan farmers were the benefi y partners. Data were collected through semi-structured interviews of twenty-eight Ugandan farmers, seven Iowan farmers, and four programme staff and were analysed using a grounded-theory based approach. The results showed that both Ugandan and Iowan farmers learned through the project. Learning by members of both groups included ordinary learning, which helped them achieve their pre-existing goals, and transformational learning, which shifted their frames of reference and the goals and power relations embedded therein. The greater power of the Iowan farmers however presented some cognitive barriers to their learning from the Ugandan farmers. These power differences reduced slightly over time as both groups of farmers learned from each other, particularly when both groups recognized that the Iowan farmers could and did learn from the Ugandan farmers. The experiences of farmers involved in this project are consistent with the arguments that power presents barriers to learning and that learning by the helping partner can reduce power differences in international development partnerships.


This article is published as Learning and power in international development partnerships: a case study of Iowan farmers in Uganda, Community Development Journal (co-­‐author Stephen Lauer): 2016. 10.1093/cdj/bsv041. Posted with permission.