Impact of social capital on food security in southeast Uganda
Betty L. Wells
Assuring food security in Uganda is a fundamental challenge that the government and development agencies face. Recent analyses indicate that some successes have been achieved, but food insecurity gaps still exist, with implications for more concerted investments in a multiplicity of community assets to achieve better results. This study assessed whether social capital is a key asset for achievement of food security in Kamuli district, southeast Uganda. More specifically, it focused on the determinants and levels of participation in food security groups. The study also explored the status, challenges and gaps of information flows in rural communities. Potential relationships between social capital and food security were also examined.
Data were collected using a survey (378 randomly sampled households from six sub-counties), group discussions (21 groups) and community interviews (12 communities), and analyzed using SPSS and NVIVO. Results indicated that participation in food security groups is affected by socio-demographic, economic and spatial factors. These included age, education level of the household head, a household's possession of a non-agricultural income source, land acreage owned and distance to health facilities.
Participation in a food security group is motivated by perceived benefits such as access to material incentives and capacity building opportunities available to members as well as group leadership style and mutual trust among members. The level of partnerships -- other groups, organizations and institutions with which groups work in development interventions -- was low. For groups with partnerships, members wished that they continue working with them for an indefinite period, an indication of dependency. Information was accessed from a variety of sources including local community members and leaders, private business entities and staff from government and non-governmental organizations. Reliability and applicability of some of the information, from the perspective of the community members, was low and community members had no capacity to demand accountability. Information linkages among different types of actors were low or non-existent.
Bridging and linking social capital characterized by household membership in groups, access to information from external institutions, and observance of norms in groups were positively associated with food security. In addition, cognitive social capital, characterized by observance of generalized norms in the village (trust and belief in helpfulness of residents) was positively associated with food security. Human capital (education levels) and physical capital (access to water sources) were also significantly associated with food security.
The key policy implications include promotion of both formal and non-formal education opportunities such that rural communities attain skills with potential for augmenting the capacity for better management of their resources and improving their livelihoods. Strengthening of linkages is necessary and these should include an exit/ sustainability strategy. Finally, farmers' associations and local institutions need a supportive legislative and regulatory framework in which they can thrive and assume greater responsibilities related to demanding accountability.