Making interventions work on the farm: Unravelling the gap between technology-oriented potato interventions and livelihood building in Southern Ethiopia

Yenenesh Tadesse

Research output: Thesisinternal PhD, WU

Abstract

Poor adoption of modern technologies in sub-Saharan Africa is one of the major factors that limit food production and thereby threaten food security of smallholder farmers. This is despite the potential and emerging success stories of new technologies in increasing productivity of smallholder agriculture. Explanations for low uptake of technologies are diverse. Some studies associated it with characteristics of the farmers and their farm; others attributed it to poor access to information about a particular technology, while some others recognize the importance of technology attributes. Farmers’ adoption decision is shaped socially and the farming practices are changing, not only because of the technical changes introduced, but also because of changes in social circumstances among smallholders. All these possible reasons did, however, miss largely important insights on how local complexities influence adoption. The research presented in this thesis analyses the social dynamics of technology-oriented interventions. More specifically, the study assessed the influence of technology introduction strategies, social networks and social differentiation on the adoption, dissemination and effects of potato technologies. As a case, it used interventions introducing improved potato technologies in Chencha, Southern Ethiopia. The field work combined individual and group in-depth interviews, household surveys and field observation for data collection.

Results show that the efforts to introduce technologies for improved potato production to progressive farmers with the assumption that farmers will eventually adopt, once they become familiar with the technology is a distant prospect. Some of the production practices - agronomic field and storage practices - failed to spread to poor farmers as expected, while the majority of agronomic practices fitted well with wealthy farmers. This resulted in diverse outcomes and strategies for livelihood improvement at household level. Access to the technologies and the necessary resources and diverse needs for technology were important factors in explaining variation in adoption and effects of technology across wealth categories. Tracing the seed diffusion through farmers’ networks showed that not all households had equal access to improved seed potatoes, mainly because of social barriers formed by differences in wealth, gender and religion, and because the type of personal relationship (relatives, neighbours, friends and acquaintance) between seed providers and seed recipients affected farmer to farmer seed sharing. In addition, the set-up of farmer-group based seed production demands resources and faces contextual challenges, which could be addressed through a long-term approach that engages continually in diagnosis and responding to the emerging social as well as material challenges. Development practitioners, however, took organizing group initiatives as a one-time process of design and start-up activity. Thus, clean seed potato production and dissemination through farmers’ organizations could not be sustainable. In conclusion, the present study has indicated that through providing special attention to the social dynamics researchers can arrive at better understanding of constraints affecting technology adoption. This implies effective interventions for a range of farm contexts involve not only finding technical solutions but also integrated understanding of farmers’ production conditions and existing social dynamics.

Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Wageningen University
Supervisors/Advisors
  • Struik, Paul, Promotor
  • Almekinders, Conny, Co-promotor
  • Schulte, Rogier, Co-promotor
Award date16 Oct 2017
Place of PublicationWageningen
Publisher
Print ISBNs9789463436847
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Keywords

  • potatoes
  • crop production
  • crop physiology
  • technology
  • intervention
  • livelihood strategies
  • livelihoods
  • ethiopia
  • east africa

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