Skip to main content

The impact of agricultural extension services on social capital: an application to the Sub-Saharan African Challenge Program in Lake Kivu region


Many participatory projects in rural Africa aim indirectly to enhance development by promoting different dimensions of social capital: cooperation in networks (formal or informal), trust, and norms of behavior that encourage mutually beneficial action. However, it is unclear whether these development initiatives can actually influence social capital, especially in the short term. To address this question, we used semi-experimental data to investigate the effects of agricultural research and development (ARD) on various indicators of social capital in the border region of Rwanda, Uganda, and the DRC. Specifically, we focused on the effects of the “Integrated Agricultural Research for Development Approach” (IAR4D) and compared it to conventional ARD efforts. We show that IAR4D has influenced the level of social capital, although not in all dimensions and not consistently for all countries. In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Uganda, for example, IAR4D strengthened the networks that link villages to the outside world (bridging social capital), but not in other countries. We also find indications that IAR4D resulted in higher levels of intra-village networks (bonding social capital) in Rwanda and improved trust and norms of cooperation (cognitive social capital) in the DRC. Finally, we showed that traditional agricultural extension (ARD) has been less successful than IAR4D in increasing the level of social capital.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.


  1. 1.

    In practice these distinctions might be less clear-cut. For example social ties can be bonding in some respects whereas they are bridging in another (Bhanderi and Yasunobu 2009). Also networks, norms of cooperation and trust are interconnected (Snijders et al. 2007; Uphoff and Wijayaratna 2000).

  2. 2.

    Previous results using this data were reported by van Rijn et al. (2012).

  3. 3.

    See Farrow et al. (2011) and Thorton et al. (2007) for a detailed discussion on site selection.

  4. 4.

    Missing data is associated with households that have a higher educated household head (0.021), more members (0.008), more assets (0.029), and bigger houses (0.023). On the other hand, less missing data is also associated with lower membership in farmer associations (−0.081) and smaller houses (−0.008). At village level we find similar patterns where less missing data is associated with more access to schools, health centers, and mobile phone networks but also with less access to radio and water.

  5. 5.

    We use a backward selection method with a 20 % significance level (P >  |t|  = <0.20) meaning that the first model includes all variables and variables are deleted one by one if not significant at 20 %. The significance level was chosen to overestimate rather than underestimate the role of the covariates in determining the impact on social capital. Using this cut-off point we include almost all variables that demonstrate significant differences for the specific treatment and control group (results not reported in his paper but available upon request).

  6. 6.

    In almost all cases we were able to calculate the propensity score and fulfil the balancing property by using the logit model as proposed in our method section. This means that all control variables included in the model have equal mean values across our treatment and control group. In two cases, the model for ARD in Rwanda and Uganda, we had to eliminate the availability of health centres as a village characteristic from our estimation to fulfil the balancing property. The models used for calculating the propensity score differ by country and by control group. Pre-treatment variables often included are the age of household head, household assets, number of rooms in the house, access to boreholes/wells, radio coverage, and mobile phone coverage. The sign and significance of the variables do not point at an obvious selection effect. The only exception might be assets, which is consistently higher in IAR4D villages in DRC and Uganda. The potential selection effect is contradicted by the fact that in these same models either the number of rooms or access to certain village resources is consistently lower.

  7. 7.

    These results are robust to different matching methods (kernel and nearest neighbour matching). The results of our main model (Model 1) and the fixed effects model (Model 3) are also robust to estimation on the common support. This means we exclude one household for DRC, 38 for Rwanda, and 29 for Uganda. Results are available upon request.

  8. 8.

    In our pooled model we include interaction terms of our control variables with the IAR4D treatment dummy. Results are not reported here but are available on request.

  9. 9.

    An alternative hypothesis that macro level institutions and (local) social capital are complements rather than supplements (Woolcock 2001) is also possible but not apparent in this context.

  10. 10.

    Also see the recent World Bank report “Localizing Development—Does participation work” by Mansuri and Rao (2012) who reach a similar conclusion based on the review of almost 500 studies on participation and decentralization.



Agricultural Research for Development


Democratic Republic of Congo


Forum of Agricultural Research in Africa


Integrated Agricultural Research for Development


Innovation Platform


Lake Kivu


Propensity Score Matching


Sub-Saharan Africa Challenge Program


  1. Ahlerup, P., O. Olsson, and D. Yanagizawa. 2009. Social capital vs. institutions in the growth process. European Journal of Political Economy 25: 1–14.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Alesina, A., and E. La Ferrara. 2005. Preferences for redistribution in the land of opportunities. Journal of Public Economics 89(5): 897–931.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Arrow, K. J. 2000. Observations on social capital. Social capital: A multifaceted perspective. 3–5.

  4. Bandiera, O., and I. Rasul. 2006. Social networks and technology adoption in Northern Mozambique. Economic Journal 116: 869–902.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Beard, V.A. 2005. Individual determinants of participation in community development in Indonesia. Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy 23: 21–39.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Bebbington, A., and T. Carroll. 2002. Induced social capital and federations of the rural poor in the Andes. In The role of social capital in development: An empirical assessment, ed. C. Grootaert, and T. Bastelaer, 234–278. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  7. Bekunda, M., E.B. Mudwanga, E. Lundall-Magnuson, K. Makinde, P. Okoth, P. Sanginga, E. Twinamasiko, and P.L. Woomer. 2005. Findings of the Lake Kivu Pilot Learning Site Validation Team: A mission undertaken to identify key entry points for agricultural research and rural enterprise development in East and Central Africa. Accra, Ghana: FARA.

  8. Besley, T., S. Coate, and G. Loury. 1993. The economics of rotating savings and credit associations. American Economic Review 83: 792–810.

    Google Scholar 

  9. Bhandari, H., and K. Yasunobu. 2009. What is social capital? A comprehensive review of the concept. Asian Journal of Social Science 37: 480–510.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Boahene, K., T.A.B. Snijders, and H. Folmer. 1999. An Integrated Socioeconomic Analysis of Innovation Adoption: The Case of Hybrid Cocoa in Ghana. Journal of Policy Modeling 21(2): 167–184.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Bourdieu, P. 1986. The forms of capital. In Handbook of theory and research for the sociology of education, ed. J.G. Richardson. New York: Greenwood.

    Google Scholar 

  12. Bowles, S., and H. Gintis. 2004. Persistent parochialism: Trust and exclusion in ethnic networks. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization 55(1): 1–23.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Bowles, S., and H. Gintis. 2002. Social capital and community governance. The Economic Journal 112(483): F419–F436.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Caliendo, M., and S. Kopeinig. 2005. Some practical guidance for the implementation of propensity score matching. Journal of Economic Surveys 22: 31–72.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Coleman, J.S. 1988. Social capital in the creation of human capital. The American Journal of Sociology 94: S95–S120.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Collier, P. 2002. Social capital and poverty: A microeconomic perspective. In The role of social capital in development: An empirical assessment, ed. C. Grootaert, and T. Bastelaer, 19–41. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  17. Dakhli, M., and D. De Clercq. 2004. Human capital, social capital, and innovation: A multi-country study. Entrepreneurship and Regional Development 16(2): 107–128.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Dasgupta, P. 2005. Economics of social capital. Economic Record 81: S2–S21.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. David, S., and C. Asamoah. 2011. The impact of farmer field schools on human and social capital: A case study from Ghana. The Journal of Agricultural Education and Extension 17(3): 239–252.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Deaton, A. 2010. Instruments, randomization, and learning about development. Journal of Economic Literature 48(2): 424–455.

  21. De Janvry, A. 2010. Agriculture for development: New paradigm and options for success. Agricultural Economics 41(SUPPL. 1): 17–36.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Fafchamps, M., and B. Minten. 2002. Returns to social network capital among traders. Oxford Economic Papers (New Series) 54: 173–206.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. FARA (Forum of Agricultural Research in Africa). 2009. Sub Saharan Africa Challenge Program (SSA CP)—Impact Assessment Plan. Accra: FARA.

    Google Scholar 

  24. Farrow, A., C. Opondo, K. Rao, M. Tenywa, R. Njeru, I. Kashaija, R. Kamugisha, M. Ramazani, E. Nkonya, D. Kayiranga, L. Lubanda, L. Nabahungu, K. Kamale, J. Mugabo, and S. Mutabazi. 2011. Selecting sites to prove the concept of IAR4D in the Lake Kivu Pilot Learning Site: Sub Saharan Africa Challenge Program (SSA CP). Accra, Ghana: FARA.

  25. Fearon, J.D., M. Humphreys, and M. Weinstein. 2009. Can development aid contribute to social cohesion after civil war? Evidence from a field experiment in post-conflict Liberia. American Economic Review 99: 287–291.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Fukuyama, F. 1995. Trust: The social virtues and the creation of prosperity. New York: Free Press.

    Google Scholar 

  27. Groenewald, S.F., and E. Bulte. 2013. Trust and livelihood adaptation: Evidence from rural Mexico. Agriculture and Human Values 30(1): 41–55.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Grootaert, C., and T. Bastelaer. 2002. The role of social capital in development: An empirical assessment. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  29. Grootaert, C., Narayan, D., Jones, V. N. and M. Woolcock 2004. Measuring social capital: An integrated questionnaire. In Measuring social capital: An integrated questionnaire, World Bank Working Paper, 1–53.

  30. Gugerty, M.K., and M. Kremer. 2002. The impact of development assistance on social capital: Evidence from Kenya. In The role of social capital in development: An empirical assessment, ed. C. Grootaert, and T. Bastelaer, 213–233. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  31. Guiso, L., Sapienza, P. and L. Zingales. 2010. Civic capital as the missing link, National Bureau of Economic Research.

  32. Haki Pamuk, H., E. Bulte, A. Adekunle, and A. Diagne. 2014. Decentralized innovation systems and poverty reduction: Experimental evidence from Central Africa. European Review of Agricultural Economics. doi:10.1093/erae/jbu007.

    Google Scholar 

  33. Hawkins, R., Heemskerk, W., Booth, R., Daane, J. and A. Maatman. 2008. Integrated Agricultural Research for Development (IR4AD). Concept paper for FARA and SSA CP, 1–86: ICRA and Royal Tropical Institute.

  34. Isham, J. 2002. The effect of social capital on fertilizer adoption: Evidence from rural Tanzania. Journal of African Economies 11: 39–60.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Kaasa, A. 2009. Effects of different dimensions of social capital on innovative activity: evidence from Europe at the regional level. Technovation 29: 218–233.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. Kiptot, E., and S. Franzel. 2014. Voluntarism as an investment in human, social, and financial capital: Evidence from a farmer-to-farmer extension program in Kenya. Agriculture and Human Values 31(2): 231–243.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Knack, S., and P. Keefer. 1997. Does social capital have an economic payoff? A cross-country investigation. Quarterly Journal of Economics 112: 1251–1288.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. Krishna, A., and N. Uphoff. 2002. Mapping and measuring social capital through assessment of collective action to conserve and develop watersheds in Rajastan, India. In The role of social capital in development: an empirical assessment, ed. C. Grootaert, and T. Bastelaer, 85–124. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  39. Labonne, J., and R.S. Chase. 2011. Do community-driven development projects enhance social capital? Evidence from the Philippines. Journal of Development Economics 96: 348–358.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. Leeuwis, C., and A. van den Ban. 2004. Communication for rural innovation: Rethinking agricultural extension. Oxford/ Wageningen: Blackwell Science/CTA.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  41. Mansuri, G., and V. Rao. 2004. Community-based and -driven development: A critical review. World Bank Research Observer 19: 1–39.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  42. Mansuri, G., and V. Rao. 2012. Localizing development: Does participation work? Washington, DC: World Bank Publications.

  43. Narayan, D., and L. Pritchett. 1999. Cents and sociability: Household income and social capital in rural Tanzania. Economic Development and Cultural Change 47: 871–897.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  44. Nunn, N. 2007. The long-term effects of Africa’s slave trades. Quarterly Journal of Economics 123(1): 139–176.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  45. Pargal, S., D. Gilligan, and M. Huq. 2002. Does social capital increase participation in voluntary solid waste management? Evidence from Dhaka, Bangladesh. In The role of social capital in development: An empirical assessment, ed. C. Grootaert, and T. Bastelaer, 188–212. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  46. Pronyk, P.M., T. Harpham, J. Busza, G. Phetla, L.A. Morison, J.R. Hargreaves, J.C. Kim, C.H. Watts, and J.D. Porter. 2008. Can social capital be intentionally generated? A randomized trial from rural South Africa. Social Science and Medicine 67: 1559–1570.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  47. Putnam, R.D. 1993. Making democracy work: Civic traditions in modern Italy. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  48. Putnam, R.D. 2000. Bowling alone: The collapse and revival of American community. New York: Simon & Schuster.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  49. Ravallion, M. 2005. Evaluating anti-poverty programs. World Bank Policy Research Working Paper Series, number 3625. Accessed 1 June 2014.

  50. Robison, L.J., A.A. Schmid, and M.E. Siles. 2002. Is social capital really capital? Review of Social Economy 60: 1–21.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  51. Röling, N. 2009. Pathways for impact: Scientists’ different perspectives on agricultural innovation. International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability 7: 83–94.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  52. Rubin, D.B. 1979. Using multivariate matched sampling and regression adjustment to control bias in observational studies. Journal of the American Statistical Association 74: 318–328.

    Google Scholar 

  53. Sabatini, F. 2005. The role of social capital in economic development. Investigating the causal nexus through structural equations models. Sapienza University of Rome - Department of Economics and Law.

  54. Sanginga, P.C., J. Tumwine, and N.K. Lilja. 2006. Patterns of participation in farmers’ research groups: Lessons from the highlands of southwestern Uganda. Agriculture and Human Values 23(4): 501–512.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  55. Snijders, T., C. Steglich, and M. Schweinbergerm. 2007. Modeling the co-evolution of networks and behavior. In Longitudinal models in the behavioral and related sciences, ed. K. Montfort, J. Oud, and A. Satorra, 41–71. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

  56. Thornton, P.K., A. Stroud, N. Hatibu, C. Legg, S. Ly, S. Twomlow, K. Molapong, A. Notenbaert, R. Kruska, and R. von Kaufmann. 2007. Site selection to test an integrated approach to agricultural research for development: Combining expert knowledge and participatory geographic information system methods. International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability 4: 39–60.

    Google Scholar 

  57. Uphoff, N., and C.M. Wijayaratna. 2000. Demonstrated benefits from social capital: The productivity of farmer organizations in Gal Oya, Sri Lanka. World Development 28: 1875–1890.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  58. van Rijn, F., E. Bulte, and A. Adekunle. 2012. Social capital and agricultural innovation in Sub-Saharan Africa. Agricultural Systems 108: 112–122.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  59. Woolcock, M. 2010. The rise and routinization of social capital, 1988–2008. Annual Review of Political Science 13: 469–487.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  60. Woolcock, M. 2001. Microenterprise and social capital: A framework for theory, research, and policy. Journal of Socio-Economics 30: 193–198.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  61. Yujiro, H. 2009. Social capital, human capital, and the community mechanism: Toward a conceptual framework for economists. The Journal of Development Studies 45: 96–123.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  62. Zak, P.J., and S. Knack. 2001. Trust and growth. Economic Journal 111: 295–321.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


We would like to thank the Sub Saharan African Challenge Program, coordinated by the Forum of Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), for the data used in this study. We also would like to thank Erwin Bulte, Marrit van den Berg, and an anonymous reviewer for their useful comments and suggestions.

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Fédes van Rijn.



See Tables 8 and 9.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

van Rijn, F., Nkonya, E. & Adekunle, A. The impact of agricultural extension services on social capital: an application to the Sub-Saharan African Challenge Program in Lake Kivu region. Agric Hum Values 32, 597–615 (2015).

Download citation


  • Agricultural research and development
  • Social capital
  • Impact assessment
  • East Africa