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Interhousehold variability and its effects on seed circulation networks: a case study from northern Cameroon

Jean Wencélius, Université Paris Ouest; Laboratoire d'Ethnologie et de Sociologie Comparative (LESC - UMR 7186)
Mathieu Thomas, INRA - UMR 0320/UMR 8120 Génétique Quantitative et Évolution; CNRS, Centre d'Écologie Fonctionnelle et Évolutive (CEFE - UMR 5175); CESAB/FRB
Pierre Barbillon, UMR MIA-Paris, AgroParisTech, INRA, Université Paris-Saclay
Eric Garine, Université Paris Ouest; Laboratoire d'Ethnologie et de Sociologie Comparative (LESC - UMR 7186)


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We present a detailed ethnographic case study of sorghum seed acquisitions in a smallholder farming society in northern Cameroon. The effects of variability in household demographics and socioeconomic status on observed patterns of seed provisioning are explored alongside other variables such as age and gender. Our data set comprised 223 seed acquisition events. Independence tests (Pearson’s chi-square and Fisher’s exact tests) were carried out to test for significant dependencies between individual- or household-level characteristics and properties of seed acquisition events (categories of seed source, social relationship of exchange, and type of landrace). Results indicate that wealth is a structuring factor of the local seed circulation network in as much as it is highly correlated with household composition and size. Members from wealthy households benefit from a more diverse set of seed sources. Their greater number of coresidents and the importance of intrahousehold dynamics of seed transactions also play a role in making wealthy farmers more seed secure than others. The methodological implications of our findings indicate that when documenting seed exchange networks, the collection of data through a single informant or the undertaking of social network analyses at the household level may induce important biases.

Key words

crop diversity; interhousehold variability; Masa; northern Cameroon; seed exchange networks; social network analysis; sorghum

Copyright © 2016 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article  is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.  You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087