Understanding Social Capital, Networks & Institutions: A Guide to Support Compost Entrepreneurship for Rural Development

  •  Timothy Silberg    
  •  Maria Claudia Lopez    
  •  Robert Richardson    
  •  Theresa Pesl Murphrey    
  •  Gary Wingenbach    
  •  Leonardo Lombardini    
  •  Taya Brown    


Compost micro-entrepreneurship has been used as strategy to increase the incomes of poor and rural farming communities. Nevertheless, several difficulties can arise to sustain these small businesses. The conversion of organic material into compost requires labor, tools and infrastructure. Many poor and rural microenterprises cannot afford all of these inputs to sustain operations. Literature suggests that social capital and collective action can address challenges related to limited resources for communities and small businesses. Little research, however, has explored how coworker characteristics and their cooperative efforts affect the financial sustainability of compost micro-enterprises. The objective of this study was to unveil whether rural compost microenterprises use social capital and/or collective action to address various challenges related to natural and financial capital, and if so, in what manner. A multisite case study framework was implemented using participant observation to identify common challenges faced by compost microenterprises in Chimaltenanago, Guatemala. Focus groups and semi-structured interviews were conducted to determine if coworker characteristics (related to social capital) addressed these challenges, and if so, how. Four characteristics related to social capital emerged from a thematic analysis, including 1) raw material access based on coworker occupation, 2) overhead savings from human capital, 3) credit/market-entry granted from social networks, and 4) consumer trust gained from social capital/gender. It appears the investigation and development of compost microenterprises should be more cognizant of opportunities related to coworker characteristics, especially those related to social capital and collective action. As a result, management training can be integrated within entrepreneurship development to sustain urban and rural economies.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.