How change agents and social capital influence the adoption of innovations among small farmers

Evidence from social networks in rural Bolivia

This paper presents results from a study that identified patterns of social interaction among small farmers in three agricultural subsectors in Bolivia-fish culture, peanut production, and quinoa production-and analyzed how social interaction influences farmers’ behavior toward the adoption of pro-poor innovations. Twelve microregions were identified, four in each subsector, setting the terrain for an analysis of parts of social networks that deal with the diffusion of specific sets of innovations. Three hundred sixty farmers involved in theses networks as well as 60 change agents and other actors promoting directly or indirectly the diffusion of innovations were interviewed about the interactions they maintain with other agents in the network and the sociodemographic characteristics that influence their adoption behavior.

The information derived from this data collection was used to test a wide range of hypotheses on the impact that the embeddedness of farmers in social networks has on the intensity with which they adopt innovations. Evidence provided by the study suggests that persuasion, social influence, and competition are significant influences in the decisions of farmers in poor rural regions in Bolivia to adopt innovations. The results of this study are meant to attract the attention of policymakers and practitioners who are interested in the design and implementation of projects and programs fostering agricultural innovation and who may want to take into account the effects of social interaction and social capital. Meanwhile, scholars of the diffusion of innovations may find evidence to further embrace the complexity and interdependence of social interactions in their models and approaches.

Author: 
Monge, Mario
Hartwich, Frank
Halgin, Daniel
Published date: 
2008
Publisher: 
International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)
Series number: 
761
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