Counting Down To Change: Identifying Early Adopters and Effective Extension Multipliers of Cashew Agroforestry in Senegal

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Title: Counting Down To Change: Identifying Early Adopters and Effective Extension Multipliers of Cashew Agroforestry in Senegal
Author: Dawson, Nevin Scott
Advisors: Toddi Steelman, Committee Member
Erin O. Sills, Committee Chair
Anne Schiller, Committee Member
Abstract: Soil degradation, persistent drought, and a continuous decline in peanut market prices combine to put Senegalese farmers in a difficult position. To avoid a complete system collapse, many have called for a paradigm shift from production to resource conservation and regeneration with the participation of rural populations (Advisory Committee on the Sahel et al., 1986; Cook, 1989; Rodale Institute, 1989; Chemonics International Inc., 2000; Franzel and Scherr, 2002). Cashew (Anacardium occidentale) alley-cropping represents an ideal opportunity for restoring soils while maintaining productivity, but farmers take time to adopt such new technologies. Some farmers are naturally more receptive to these new ideas than others ("early adopters"), and some farmers are more likely to encourage others to try new ideas ("effective advisors"). This thesis defines and identifies observable characteristics of these two types of farmers, arguing that they are the best extension multipliers and therefore good points of contact for extension agents to effect quick diffusion of the innovation through the village. This thesis contributes to the literature first, by considering time of adoption using quantitative methods that have typically been applied only to the decision whether or not to adopt at a particular point in time, and second, by incorporating into the model spatial and social relationships that are often ignored in adoption literature. The study was conducted in two small farming villages in the Sine-Saloum region of Senegal—Mamouda and Simong. I lived with a family in Simong for nine months and learned about the local culture and environment (June 2003-February 2004), and returned for three months of interviews and spatial data collection (February-April 2005). Qualitative and spatial data were analyzed, and quantitative data were used to estimate survival and probit regression models for time until cashew adoption, and OLS models for advisor effectiveness in cashew promotion. It was found that an effective extension multiplier will have assets and land with which to absorb any possible costs of failure, will have fields that are highly visible and centrally located in an area appropriate for cashew production, will be in the elder age class (more than 60 years old), and will be socially well-placed as an advisor to many and an advisee to none. Understanding the characteristics of early adopters and effective advisors will allow extension agents to quickly identify the few farmers who are most likely to adopt on the advice of an outsider and without the prior sanction of their peers, and who will then demonstrate and extend the innovation with little outside assistance. Focusing efforts on these key players should increase the effectiveness of the agent's time spent in the village, and after a successful training and trial, the new technology should then spread with little further intervention through farmer to farmer contacts (Advisory Committee on the Sahel et al., 1986; Bunch, 1982; Rodale Institute, 1989). This should result in a quicker and more effective impact of extension on the welfare of these poor farming communities.
Date: 2006-11-05
Degree: MS
Discipline: Forestry

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