News Confronting the challenge of low adoption of agricultural technologies

28 Sep 2018


Since December 2017 the CCARDESA discussion group community was sharing ideas on how to improve adoption of agricultural technologies. The discussion emanated from the concern that research is generating technologies at a rate faster than their adoption. Is there a problem with the research system, extension system, or farmers themselves? If so, how is it solved? The discussion generated several reasons for failure of farmers to adopt the new technologies, possible solutions and a lot of questions demanding further consideration and more research. Below is a summary of points raised and classified as problems, proposed solutions, hot questions and conclusive statements.


The discussion pointed out the following as key problems leading to lower adoption rate of new technologies:

  • Low capacity of farmers in terms of skill, finance and other resources.
  • Weak stakeholder participation during development and evaluation of technologies leading to weak ownership of the technology by farmers.
  • Technologies do not immediately change farmers food preferences and income.
  • Technologies are not sensitive to norms and culture of communities.
  • Public extension is poorly supported.
  • Poor linkages between research and farmers. [weak extension]
  • New Technology is not responding to the needs of farmers
  • Failure to convince farmers that new techs are better than current practices.
  • Limited market opportunities with new technologies.
  • Farmer tend to tell donors and governments what they think the donor or government wants to hear instead of telling the trueth especially when feedback in negative.
  • Poor feedback mechanisms between research and extensions; extension can provide suggestions to research based on their interactions with farmers.
  • How movement of informations from research to extension is not systematic. Farmers trust their extension agents but extension receives incomplete information from research.
  • For NGO driven dissemination efforts, sustainability is not well incorporated to cater for adoption beyond the project lifespan. [Adoption is a long process but projects are short-lived.
  • Lack of supporting government policies .eg, government giving out tractors for supporting Conservation Agriculture work.
  • New Technologies are not simple and flexible enough.
  • Scarcity of required tools to support technologies (on the market).
  • Generation of technologies is not demand driven.
  • Too much capital needed for adoption, eg-cost of equipment … labour.
  • Too much adjustment of management style needed in adopting new technologies.
  • Low capacity of the extension to understand the technology, and to design appropriate mode of dissemination e.t.c.


Without specifically referring to any of the above problems, the following were identified as solutions which may assist to boost technology adoption:

  • Specialisation of duties, researchers should do what they do best and leave dissemination to extension (public to private) to do what they can do best
  • Put farmers at the center of the innovation process by engaging them throughout the technology generation process.
  • Understand the psychological and social drivers for adoption e.g values and norms of the farmer community
  • Consider collaboration of all the key players: researchers, extension workers and farmers and create an information sharing platform.
  • Build trust of farmers through trials i.e on-farm trials and demonstration plots
  • Communication should be done through languages and mechanisms which farmers understand
  • Holistic packaging of technologies to include post harvest handling, markets access and linkages to necessary partners
  • Privatise and commercialise technologies
  • Establish active value chains and better enabling environments
  • Recognise that farmers have knowledge despite their low literacy levels in some cases (consult them). i.e tap on indigenous knowledge
  • The challenge lies on the mindset of researcher, extension and farmers. There is need to work towards changing mindsets based on the principles to understand the farmer than to be understood by the farmer.
  • Involve social scientists in research and extension
  • Farmer organisations should also be involved in shaping research and extension.
  • Policy makers should take part in similar debates

Hot questions

The discussion generated questions without necessarily giving comprehensive solutions. These may  inform further research. These could be summarised as follows:

  • At what point do we engage a farmer during technology development and how do we do so?
  • When we provide incentives for adoption, what incentives (social or economic) shoud they be? And how sustainable and effective are they?
  • Can we define what adoption is?
  • When do we say there is adoption?
  • Technology is being adopted in blocks and not 100%. Maybe we need to redefine what adoption is. Who defines these adoption blocks and where are they?
  • Farmers cannot demand what they do not know. Is it true that farmers do not know what they want?
  • When do we involve farmers -how many of them? -To what extent do their views represent all farmers?
  • Who are the originators of research?
  • Misconception of the demand driven concept. “What is demand driven?” At what stage should farmers be engaged in order to qualify the process as demand driven?
  • How best can technologies be disseminated to maximise adoption?
  • Need to learn from technologies which have been widely adopted.

What can be done to find a solution

Citing the complexity of the issue some discussants did not prescribe a specific solution to the challenge but opted to recommend what may be done in order for the region to move towards solutions.

  • Africa should drive its own research Agenda
  • Go commercial (commercial marketing)
  • Organise a workshop preferably in Maputo
  • Constraints maybe value chain or geographic specific. Can we look deeper into one e.g. CSA
  • Develop an R&D system with a strong interface with the farmer
  • Adopt commercial oriented marketing e.g. soccer stars and musicians can be used to promote agricultural technology
  • Conduct research to ascertain, why farmers are not adopting technologies
  • Can we carry out a study to assess the adoption stages and conclude with evidence?
  • Need to learn from technologies which have been widely adopted

Conclusive statements

The discussion closed with conclusive statements and questions which may be answered by further research or a deeper reflection of the issues. Such statements are summarised as below:

  • The question of adoption is complicated, it requires an assessment of the entire value chain and the psycho social circumstances of the intended adoptees
  • It needs to be deeper
  • Adoption is not a straightforward matter, it is a slow process
  • There is no easy way to involve farmers
  • Variability of farmers especially smallholder farmers makes is challenging to develop blanket solutions

Contributors to the discussion

 A. N.Chikomola, C. Hamusimbi, T. Gumede, S. Ngcamphalala, P. Chikungwa, W. Kanyika, M. Njuru, H. Ngwenya, B. Mvubu, G. Makombe, S. Mwale, S. Gee, O. J. Bertol, S. R. Noga, S. N. Adediran, E. Chuma, P. Mponela, C. Mazereku, D. Gondwe, I. Fandika, M. Kokwe, M. Mweshi, M. Etiete, S. Shongwe, I. Wakindiki, M. Phiri, P. Sakala, A. S. Kumwenda, M. Yusuf, P. Chikungwa, M. E. Alberto, V. Gedze, D. Domingos, N. R. Nhlane, T. Ndlovu, B. L. Njah, N. Tselaesele, S. Aggrey, M. Siambi, D. Gondwe, S. Ashipala, E. B. Perry, B. Simpson, B. Ginindza, B. Luzobe, A. S. Adediran, S. Dube, M. Mwala, P. Rakotoson, W. Sakala, V. Chinoko, M. O. Olupot, J. Mulila-Miti, O. Ajayi, M. Muleba, B. Mhlanga, G. Ramokapane, M. Ramatu, E. Chuma, I. Goggin, K Sunghoon, D. Zengenene

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