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The Technology Adoption Puzzle: What Can We Learn From Field Experiments?

Agricultural & Applied Economics Association (AAEA) Annual Galbraith Memorial Lecture

ATAI Board Member and researcher Alain de Janvry presented to agricultural economists at the AAEA annual meeting about the use of field experiments to understand effective agricultural technology adoption by small-scale farmers. De Janvry reviewed  ATAI research results, with a focus on his work with co-authors on flood and drought-tolerant rice varieties.

“A puzzle in developing country agriculture is the low adoption rate of technological innovations presumed to be privately profitable. Field experiments offer a unique opportunity to crack this puzzle with rigorous research. In using them, important methodological advances have been made. We review these advances and show options to adapt the approach to address some of the remaining unresolved issues, while also suggesting how to combine field experiments with other research methods according to the question asked.”

The main message was a call for further investment in research by groups like the CGIAR and ATAI to understand how the existence, local availability, and effective information about new technologies can be achieved. De Janvry concluded with a call for

  1. more discovery-type research on new technologies for smallholder farming in rainfed areas
  2. a redefinition of extension systems so they correspond to the way farmers learn, and
  3. more emphasis on putting into place private agents in value chains that can be local sources of information and technologies.

ATAI Board Member and researcher Alain de Janvry is an agricultural economist working on international economic development with expertise in agriculture and rural development. He is a professor of Agriculture and Resource Economics and of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley. He was co-director of the World Bank’s “World Development Report 2008 on Agriculture for Development and author with Elisabeth Sadoulet of Development Economics: Theory and Practice, Routledge” (2016). He is a member of the French National Academy of Agriculture and a Fellow of the Agricultural & Applied Economics Association.