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Social Networks and the Diffusion of Information and Technology in a Biofortification Program in Uganda

  • 2009-2011
  • Project
McNiven, Scott, University of California-Davis

Study: “Social Networks and the Diffusion of Information and Technology in a Biofortification Program in Uganda”
PI(s): McNiven, Scott
Institution(s): University of California-Davis
Funding Scheme: IIE
Project Dates:
Start: 2009
End: 2011
Data Source(s): Panel
Methods: Randomized Controlled Trial and follow-up surveys
Geographic Location(s): Uganda

This research studies the diffusion of a biofortified crop through social networks and the impact on maternal and child health. With the goal of reducing micronutrient deficiencies, biofortification programs encourage farm households to adopt newly bred crop varieties that are denser in the deficient micronutrients. Biofortification programs are being tested in poor rural areas with weak formal product markets, so the crop and information about it diffuse by word of mouth through social networks. Thus, the architecture of social networks and strength of social norms like altruism, trust, and reciprocity will influence how rapidly, to where, and to whom the technology diffuses. By leveraging an existing prospective randomized controlled trial of a biofortified sweet potato in Uganda, this research estimates the impact both of the program and of social networks and norms on child and maternal health and on crop adoption.

The researchers find that nonmembers with even a few neighbors with seeds gained access to and planted OSP vines, but were much more likely to experience a failed harvest than those with many treated neighbors. Among nonmembers who had access to OSP, those with more treated neighbors were significantly less likely to “disadopt” cultivation (the more treated neighbors that one had, the more OSP cultivation and vitamin A information one had, and the more OSP best-practices mamagement techniques were employed). The findings suggest a few cost-effective dissemination options in order to maximize diffusion, including offering the crop to many farmers in a few communities (over disseminating to few farmers in many communities) and disseminating the crop to farmers who are the neighbors of many nonfarmers.

Research Outputs:

Gilligan, Daniel O. et al. (2014). Bargaining Power and Biofortification: The Role of Gender in Adoption of Orange Sweet Potato in Uganda (IFPRI Discussion Paper 01353).

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