Homophily as a Safety Net: Investigating When Smallholder Farmers Decide to Buy Hybrid Seed in Northern Ghana

Vincent Ricciardi


Dynamic social relationships can enhance farmer adoption or lead to the rejection of modern seed varieties. Different social pathways provide farmers with information about traditional and commercial seeds. Identifying how social relationships facilitate different varietal use may reveal the informal safety nets indigenous farmers rely on when transitioning to modern varieties. While homophilous relationships have been observed to stifle farmers’ adoption of agricultural innovations, these bonded social relationships are the basis for informal seed exchange. Through homophilous relationships, farmers are able to communicate pertinent risks and foster greater support systems. By examining two communities in Northern Ghana, this study tests whether homophilous relationships function as safety nets that prevent farmers from using modern seed or if they mitigate risks of agrobiodiversity decline. Through social network analysis, particular relationships were observed to act as necessary safety nets for farmers’ adoption of commercial seed; whom farmers commonly interact with may protect indigenous groups from adverse risk.


Informal seed systems; Ghana; social network analysis, agrobiodiversity; homophily


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