Technological innovation, food safety and economic development in lower middle-income countries

Sarah Wairimu Kariuki

Research output: Thesisinternal PhD, WU


Food safety plays an important role in economic development, as it contributes towards the general health and well-being of people, improved nutrition, and reduced poverty. This thesis examines the role of technological innovation in improving i) the livelihood of farmers and ii) the safety of food consumed by farmers & urban consumers in low and middle-income countries.

Chapter 1 highlights the importance of food safety in low and middle-income countries, provides a general background of the core chapters, and highlights the research questions used to evaluate the main objective. The chapter also provides an overview of the methods used in the thesis.

Chapter 2 studies the role of information in stimulating consumer demand for safe food. Results show that while providing consumers with information about the existing safer brands results in increased awareness of the existence of these brands, it does not increase the likelihood of consuming safer brands. Providing additional information on household exposure to hazard increases both the awareness and the likelihood of consuming safer brands. We learn that consumer demand, through the provision of relative risk information, can potentially be leveraged to indirectly incentivize the supply of safe food.

Chapter 3 studies the role of market-based instruments (a premium price) on the adoption of food safety technology by small-scale farmers. These farmers produce for home consumption but typically sell their surplus produce. A modest price premium did not affect the probability of adopting food safety technology. However, the premium increased the amount of technology adopted. While the main motivation for adopting the technology in this context was to produce safe food for home consumption, the premium increases the value of excess produce above home consumption needs, in case the farmer experiences a good harvest. In a bad season, the farmer has sufficient treated produce for home consumption. Therefore, a modest premium can have significant health benefits for the farmers and the consumers of their surplus. Farmers can also earn additional revenue from the sale of safe produce.

Chapter 4 studies the role of producer organizations in the adoption of food safety technology. Specifically, the chapter examines the correlation between members’ adoption of a food safety technology and the structural characteristics of their producer organizations. Results show that a member’s probability of adoption is negatively correlated with the size of the group and member heterogeneity in education, age, asset ownership, and scale of operation. Results suggest that these characteristics affect members' adoption by facilitating information sharing and learning among the members.

Chapter 5 tests the effectiveness of new technology in farmers’ fields under varying levels of training and support. Farmers who received a one-time training acquired the necessary knowledge about the technology, but some failed to use the technology at the correct time. Farmers who received additional support above the one-off training were more likely to use the technology at the correct time, and thus the effectiveness of the technology for these farmers was significantly higher than for the farmers who received a one-time training. These results indicate that returns to new technologies, and the subsequent adoption, may depend on the level of farmer training and support. Also, sufficient farmer training and support is needed to realize the benefit of improved health.

Chapter 6 provides a general discussion of the new evidence generated in the thesis in the light of existing literature and provides some policy recommendations. The limitations of the current thesis are also highlighted, including recommendations for future work.



Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Wageningen University
  • Bulte, Erwin, Promotor
  • Pieters, Janneke, Co-promotor
  • Hoffmann, V., Co-promotor, External person
Award date8 Dec 2020
Place of PublicationWageningen
Print ISBNs9789463955713
Publication statusPublished - 8 Dec 2020


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