Impacts of Input Supply, Agricultural Extension and Social Networks on Technology Adoption : Evidence from a Field Experiment in Ethiopia

Although many studies have shown that sub-Saharan African countries could increase agricultural productivity through improved technologies and farming techniques, the adoption of yield-enhancing technologies by smallholder farmers in the region remains very low and thus present a major developmental challenge. Agricultural extension services have been used to accelerate the adoption of yield-enhancing technologies and recently the extension approach advances from the best practice to the best fit based on site-specific information obtained from experimentation sites and demonstration fields. However, there is a lack of rigorous evidence on how the capacity of Development Agents, extension service delivery approaches, seeds supply in small bags and farmers’ networks affect technology adoption, farm yield and technical efficiency of farmers, especially using randomized control trials. This study contributes to the rapidly growing empirical literature by examining the role of these alternative information transmission mechanisms on technology adoption and farm performance among smallholder wheat farmers in Ethiopia.

The empirical results reveal that smallholder farmers who are treated with divisible seed packages tend to have a much greater tendency to adopt the new variety, in anticipation of increased future profits. The impacts appeared to vary based on the observed characteristics of individual farmers. Specifically, the intervention which made small seed bags available impacted relatively younger and poorer farmers the most. The empirical results from the multi-treatment arms also reveal that deploying Development Agents with enhanced service delivery skills and demonstration fields results in the highest positive and statistically significant impacts on the propensity and intensity of adoption of the improved wheat variety. Farmers with a relatively higher income and larger farm size at the top quantile benefit from the improved approach. The estimates further reveal that the impact of social networks on the propensity and intensity of adoption of the new variety is positive and statistically significant. Also, social networks have a synergistic effect with improved agricultural extension services to enhance the adoption of new technologies. The study further reveals that agricultural extension services have a positive and statistically significant role in enhancing farm yields and improving the technical efficiency of wheat farmers. The findings call for revisiting the input supply in the seed system, the curriculums of the Agricultural Technical and Vocational Education and Training and Farmers’ Training Centers, and the communication strategies to leverage farmers’ networks in the extension system.


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