In the last decades substantive advance has been made in the measurement and understanding of frontier innovation in highly industrialized settings. However, little research focused on the process of learning and the introduction of novelties in smallholder farming of poor agricultural communities. Considering that 1.5 billion people in developing countries live in such smallholder households this is an essential shortcoming. In addressing three crucial questions about the measurement and promotion of endogenous local development this paper contributes to close this research gap. The three questions are: a) how can we measure social capital and innovation in poor agricultural communities, b) what is the impact of external agents on local structures and c) what are the relations between the social capital and the innovative performance of the farmer. In a first step a comprehensive questionnaire with 89 questions on diverse dimensions of social capital and innovation has been elaborated and applied to the agricultural valley of Cháparra in the South of Peru. The results allow for an indepth analysis of the capabilities, network position and innovative behavior of the farmers. In a second step, we apply social network analysis techniques to analyze the role and position of the relevant actors in the local as well as in the external technical information networks with a special focus on the influence of an external NGO. The analysis reveals a deep structural impact of the NGO and significant correlations between the network position of the farmers and their innovative performance. Three crucial issues for research on smallholder innovation are identified. First, diverse dimensions of social capital and innovation have to be differentiated when studying endogenous development. Second, it has to be assessed to which degree the modification of the existing social structures by external agents can be harmful or beneficial. Third, social network analysis can help us to gain a better understanding of the complex relations between social capital and innovation and how these can contribute to foster sustainable development projects.
social capital innovation smallholders Cháparra Peru network analysis