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Relational governance, equity and social spill-over of agricultural value chains: Cotton case in Cameroon and beyond


It is often claimed that cotton production is of significant economic and social importance in the French-speaking African countries (FSACs) but indicators of socio-economic impact are often not precisely measured, not based on updated data, and equity concerns are usually not addressed. Studies of the cotton value chains in Africa seldom account for the impacts of governance on value creation and income distribution. This paper showcases the relationship between governance and equity within the cotton sector in Cameroon in the 2017–18 season, through the concept of relational governance. It was found that the studied cotton chain was well-suited to the notion of relational governance. The interlinking between the key stakeholders (cotton company, cotton producers and their representative bodies, the State) was materialized by a combination of several types of coordination in which contracts prevailed, state intervention was kept minimal and market coordination restrained to the domain of interaction with the world market. Producer organizations were contractually compensated for performing many tasks that were traditionally completed by the cotton company Overall, the governance rules were favourable to the incomes of farmers, regardless of farm size and resources. The governance of the cotton sector in Cameroon, while not optimal in terms of equity, did lead to remarkable social impacts in villages through support to children’s education and the provision of cash credit to the most needy. The study findings could be valid for other FSACs because of similar governance measures and little local valuation of cotton fibre. This paper points out the policy implication that a relational governance model should be promoted in most agricultural value chains in Africa. In the specific case of the cotton value chains in Cameroon and FSACs, the involvement of donors in the enhancement of relational governance should result in improved social impacts from cotton production.

Photo credit: World Bank

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