Signals, Similarity and Seeds: Social Learning in the Presence of Imperfect Information and Heterogeneity.

, Policy briefs

Abstract

Social networks can help institutions spread information about agricultural innovations and are increasingly thought of as a viable complement to traditional extension services. Taking advantage of experimental variation in the information available to farmers through their social networks, this paper examines the influence of social networks on knowledge about and adoption of a new agricultural technology in rural Kenya. The results suggest that networks affect several aspects of farmer knowledge and their adoption process, but that village-level variability in soil quality makes individuals less likely to respond to their peers' experiences. This finding indicates that policy-makers ought to take the variability of the environment into account when deciding whether to allocate resources towards leveraging social learning for information diffusion, or instead focus on encouraging learning-by-doing.

Tjernstrom, E. "Signals, Similarity and Seeds: Social Learning in the Presence of Imperfect Information and Heterogeneity" Ferdi Policy brief B157, September 2016