Delayed Adopters – Limited Knowledge or Limited Means

CropSpreedOptObserving the photo to the left of a typical rain-fed rice production area in Asia, it is possible to observe approximately an eight week spread in activities. These go from land preparation with the buffalo in the middle of the photo, to seedbeds and transplanting in the top right, to already transplanted fields approaching panicle initiation at the top. It is apparent some fields have been established early, most likely according to the research and extension recommendations, while others are lagging behind.

The question is: are those who are delaying their field work doing so from:

  • lack of knowledge requiring a major extension technology transfer effort,
  • desire to spread risk, or
  • limited resources available to implement what they know and desire to do?

The underlying question is do the completed field represent some farmers getting all their land established on time and others jsut getting started. Or, did all farmers get some of thier land established on time, and are now getting around to other fields, that is all farmers have some early and some late planted fields. Which is more plausiable?

Looking at the typical adoption function (as shown in the figure taken AdoptorsOptfrom Rogers, Everett’s Diffusion of Innovations 1985), to what extent does this figure imply that adoption or non-adoption is discretionary on the part of the farmers, and that once they agreed to adopt, it can easily be done across the entire farm holdings? The resources are available.

How would you separate those farmers who:

  • Are following the innovations but waiting for additional data for confirmation, as implied in the figure, from those farmers who:
  • Have observed the innovation and are interested, but do not have the means to adopt at present,
  • Have observed the innovation and are interested in adopting but only have the means to adopt on a limited portion of their land, such as the lower lying fields in the upper section of the photo,
  • Have observed the innovation and are interested in adopting and actively sorting out the labor, equipment, or other resources needed to implement the innovation on at least a small portion of their land, or
  • Have observed the innovation and recognize that it represents the maximum yields, rather then economic optimal yields, and simply rejected the innovation as inappropriate?

An example of the effort farmers might have to go through to accept an innovation could be the shift to no-tillage dry land farming in Eastern Colorado. Once demonstrated, farmers then have to go visit their equipment dealers to see what additional equipment is needed including a larger tractor and modified planter. Next stop is the bank to get financing for the new equipment and then wait for delivery. This all has to be done once the farmer decides to be an adopter and before he can adopt.

This would most likely not apply to smallholders but they would have an alternative set of resources they would need, with a major concentration on identifying sufficient labor extending beyond family and competing for casual labor available within a community. This then becomes a community function and needs to be evaluated in terms of the community spread in an activity more than an individual farm. This could also interact with the limited amount of calories available to most people that might restrict the hours they can work to five or less.

Given the urgency of the farmers to meet their basic subsistence needs and obtain a few extra comfort items to make life easier, which of the five scenarios is most likely? Would the slow adopting be more likely to represent a lack of knowledge or lack of means? Would development efforts be more effective continuing an extension demonstration effort or facilitating the farmers’ access to the means to adopt a technology?

The bottom line of this is that there appears to be an administrative void in our evaluation of smallholder communities. The void is in understanding the availability of the resources needed to implement more intensive and productive agriculture, within the stated or implied time frame for getting maximum benefit. Who is responsible for this evaluation?

Last Revised: 29 March 2010 .

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