Barriers to Social Learning Among Smallholder Farmers

Investigators: CDEP Affiliate Jack Willis, Raissa Fabregas

Social learning is a key source of information diffusion in developing economies. Yet research on the adoption of new technologies in agriculture suggests that information diffusion can be remarkably limited. For example, across different contexts: farmers are uninformed about farming practices of their neighbors (Duflo et al 2011); information diffusion only occurs within selected networks (Bandiera et al 2018); incentives are necessary to increase the flow of information in villages (BenYishay and Mobarak 2017).

Is social learning in agriculture indeed limited? If so, what are the barriers and how can we overcome them? Recent papers have begun to dig into different barriers to sharing or seeking information, such as stigma in appearing uninformed and not wishing to be blamed for bad outcomes (Chandrasekhar and Golub 2018, Chandrasekhar et al. 2022). We add to this literature, in the setting of small-holder farmers in Kenya, studying the willingness to pay for, and the diffusion of, two types of information: external information - that which may be provided by agricultural extension, and is not currently available among farmers in the village; and internal information - that which is already known to some farmers in the village.

For the external information, we elicit willingness to pay for soil test results, under different scenarios of who else will also receive the information. For the internal information - information about the farming practices of a knowledgeable farmer in the village - we test willingness to pay for the information, and run information sharing games in which we incentivize seeking or sharing the information, and vary whether or not incentives are made common knowledge.

The project is part of CDEP’s Firms and Innovation Initiative.