New extension methods to speed up diffusion of agricultural innovations
Mbugua, Erastus S.
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This paper is based on field experiments carried out by researchers at the University of Nairobi's Institute for Development Studies in collaboration with Kenya District Agricultural Offices. The research has aimed at developing more efficient methods for stimulating diffusion of agricultural innovations and at the same time reducing the dualistic pattern of rural development . The governments of many developing countries have based their agricultural extension services on the diffusion theory of E.M. Rogers (Diffusion of Innovation, New York, Free Press, 1962), directing their efforts to the 'most progressive' farmers, with the expectation that the adoption of innovations would trickle down to the majority of farmers -- the 'less progressive'. Yet many researchers and planners have realised that under conditions of dualistic development agricultural innovations are rarely communicated in this direction, and furthermore, when extension efforts are directed towards the most progressive farmers the division in rural society is actually aggravated. Thus researchers and politicians in Kenya have sought alternative approaches to agricultural extension which will reach the majority of farmers without requiring a greatly expanded level of investment The research has shown that in a situation of dualistic rural development communications from more progressive farmers to less progressive farmers tend to break down. However, there is intense communication of agricultural innovations among farmers on the same or similar level of progressiveness, and more progressive farmers also readily adopt innovations from less progressive farmers if they perceive that it is to their advantage. Thus diffusion is maximised when innovations are introduced through less progressive farmers, even though it is more difficult to make less progressive farmers successful first adopters of an innovation. This paper reports on experiments carried out within the government extension organisation to find out how this can be done. The results are considered clearly encouraging.