Adopters, testers or pseudo-adopters? Dynamics of the use of improved tree fallows by farmers in western Kenya

E. Kiptot, P.G.M. Hebinck, S. Franzel, P. Richards

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

    78 Citations (Scopus)


    Although there has been increasing research on the adoption of agroforestry technologies over the last decade, few such studies have assessed uptake over a long period and many are based on a single snapshot in time. Furthermore, most of these studies have mainly looked at non-adopters and adopters: only recently have social scientists considered testers. A further category of users neglected in adoption studies has been re-adopters of technologies. Studying this group provides an interesting and more nuanced understanding of adoption and re-adoption. Methodologically, most adoption studies use quantitative methods and fail to link their findings to wider socio-economic, political and institutional settings. This paper presents a study of the dynamics of improved tree fallow use by farmers in Siaya and Vihiga districts of western Kenya over a period of eight years. It uses both qualitative and quantitative data to critically discuss the motivations of adopters, testers/rejecters and re-adopters. The results show that the process of adoption is highly dynamic and variable with farmers planting improved fallows and discontinuing or re-adopting them due to a whole range of factors, of which soil fertility improvement is just one. These factors included incentives from projects, the tying of adoption to credit programmes, prestige, participation in seminars/tours and the availability of a seed market from projects promoting improved fallows. Farmers planting improved fallows for such reasons may be termed `pseudo-adopters¿. There were significant differences in adoption between the two districts, with more farmers in Siaya planting improved fallows than in Vihiga. A majority of farmers in Vihiga (53%) who were given seed never planted improved fallows, even though they had been exposed to the technology. Some 40% of farmers in Siaya and 38% in Vihiga planted improved fallows but later rejected them. This has some important implications for research and development. For improved fallow technologies to be attractive to farmers, they must provide other tangible economic benefits besides soil fertility improvement. This presents a challenge to researchers who must better attune themselves to the needs and demands of farmers if they wish to see their research findings widely adopted.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)509-519
    JournalAgricultural Systems
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2007


    • developing-countries
    • technology adoption
    • planted fallows
    • agroforestry
    • tropics
    • zambia
    • soil
    • innovations
    • highlands
    • africa

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