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Networks and Constraints on the Diffusion of a Biofortified Agricultural Technology: Evidence From a Partial Population Experiment

  • 2012
  • Working Paper
McNiven, Scott & Gilligan, Daniel O.

Abstract: This paper examines the role of networks in the diffusion of a biofortified agricultural technology with potential economic and health benefits. The technology is the orange-fleshed sweet potato (OSP), which was bred to be dense in vitamin A and is higher yielding but more vulnerable to dry spells than are traditional staple sweet potato varieties. OSP was introduced in three districts in Uganda in order to fight vitamin A deficiency. A treatment of OSP vines and information on the management and potential health benefits of the crop was offered to all members of 48 farmer’s associations, one group in each of as many communities, but not to other farmers in these communities. Some of these “nonmembers” had more treated information neighbors than did others. Among nonmembers, we investigate the impact of this indirect exposure to resources on the likelihood of adopting and continuing to cultivate OSP. In doing so, we develop a new method to measure and control for self-selection on the neighborhood’s size and composition. We find that nonmembers with even a few treated information neighbors initially gained access to and planted OSP vines. However, nonmembers with only a few were much more likely to later disadopt and much more likely to experience a failed harvest than were those with many. The more treated information neighbors one had, the more OSP cultivation and vitamin A information one had and the more OSP best-practices management techniques were employed.

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