Drivers and outcomes of smallholder market participation in Sub-Saharan Africa

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Despite agriculture being a significant contributor to sub-Saharan Africa’s economy, its exploding population puts the region at the highest global risk for food insecurity. Agricultural productivity in the region must meet the growing domestic demand and the needs of global markets. However, the central actors, smallholder farmers, face chronic challenges marketing their produce in high-value markets. While local agricultural policies encourage smallholder farmers and give them education and access, subsistence mindsets are believed to hold them back. This study approaches this challenge from a different, farmer-centric view and proposes a new construct reflecting sustained and meaningful marketing activity—smallholder market participation. With survey data from 464 smallholder farmer-entrepreneurs in Zimbabwe, we reveal how market orientation, access to ancillary services, functional literacy, entrepreneurial abilities, and marketplace metacognition allowed them to beat the odds and grow in the market. We document financial and non-financial outcomes, such as increasing credibility in the marketplace. Our findings offer agribusiness marketers and policymakers more precise indicators of smallholder engagement with markets. The study contributes to marketing theory by highlighting the marketing caliber of an understudied actor, the smallholder farmer.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of the Academy of Marketing Science
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2022


  • Agricultural marketing
  • Market credibility
  • Market orientation
  • Smallholder farmer-entrepreneurs
  • Smallholder market participation
  • Sub-Saharan Africa

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