Inter-firm relations and resource-based performance: a contingent relational view of small-scale farmers in Zambia

Purpose Effective and flexible organizational models have become an avenue for driving smallholder competitiveness in the agricultural sector. However, little is understood about the processes by which resource-constrained actors deploy their organizational networks to generate and retain value in rapidly changing agrifood environments. This study examines the moderating effects of business contingencies on the interplay between organizational relationships and the resource-based performance of small-scale farmers in a developing country. Design/methodology/approach The authors propose a novel conceptual framework grounded in the relational view, netchain and contingency theories. Cross-sectional data obtained from 330 maize farmers in rural Zambia were analyzed using variance-based structural equation modeling, which involves mediation-moderation analysis. Findings The results show that all relational networks – vertical, horizontal and lateral – positively mediate the effects farm resources and social capital have on farmers' performance. However, these effects change depending on the predominant agency situations. Specifically, asymmetric power from customers and reputable competitors weakens the positive effect of closer horizontal relationships on business performance, while the positive effect of tighter informal vertical relationships on farmers' performance weakens under conditions of high affective trust. Moreover, the gender-based multigroup analyses highlight variations in the contingent relational view of men- and women-headed households. Research limitations/implications The study relies on cross-sectional data from one agribusiness sector in Zambia, thus generalizations should be cautious. Originality/value The uniqueness of this study lies in the proposed theoretical framework and new empirical insights, which extend the scope of the relational view to small-scale farming households in developing countries.

    Publication Type

    Journal articles

    Publication year



    Adetoyinbo A, Mithöfer D


    Relational view, Contingency theory, Organizational relationships, Farm performance, Maize farmers, Africa, Zambia



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