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Doctoral thesis, 2013

Trust, identity and beer

Otto, Opira

Abstract

This thesis explores the role and influence of institutions on agricultural labour transactions in Isunga village in Kiryandongo District, Midwestern Uganda. It primarily focuses on how farmers structure, maintain and enforce their labour relationships during crop farming. The study is based on semi-structured interviews of twenty households and unstructured interviews with representatives of farmers associations. These interviews show that other than household labour, the other common labour arrangements in the village include farm work sharing, labour exchanges and casual wage labour. Farm work sharing and labour exchanges involve farmers temporarily pooling their labour into work groups to complete tasks such as planting, weeding or harvesting crops on members' farms in succession. This is done under strict rules and rewarded with 'good' beer and food. Against this background, the study asks what institutions really are, why they matter and what we can learn about them. Literature suggests that institutions influence labour transactions by their effects on transaction costs and the protection of contractual rights. However, literature does not suggest which institutions are best for agricultural labour transactions. Taking institutions to be the 'rules of the game', with farmers as 'players' who strategically use these rules to their advantage, the study focused on the interaction between institutions and farmers. The major findings of the study are: (a) farmers' choices of institutions are influenced by the characteristics of transactions, the costs of using institutions for handling labour dealings, the fairness and predictability of the outcome of contract enforcement mechanisms, and socio-cultural factors such as kin/ethnic status, morality and affection, (b) formal institutions in Isunga are either weak, ineffective or absent. So, farmers rely heavily on institutions embedded in social norms and networks to structure their transactional relationships, to ensure the performance of the respective parties, and to settle disputes if they arise. The study concludes that agricultural labour transactions in Isunga involve judgements of personal characteristics and social roles expressed as reputation and trustworthiness.

Keywords

uganda; institutions; labour transactions; contracts; embeddedness; reputation; trust; beer

Published in

Acta Universitatis Agriculturae Sueciae
2013, number: 2013:76
ISBN: 978-91-576-7890-4, eISBN: 978-91-576-7891-1
Publisher: Dept. of Urban and Rural Development, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

Authors' information

Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Urban and Rural Development

UKÄ Subject classification

Economic History
Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
Economics
Agricultural Science
Other Social Sciences not elsewhere specified
Gender Studies

URI (permanent link to this page)

https://res.slu.se/id/publ/77537