Scoping study: Using network theory to promote adoption of new agricultural technologies in Sierra Leone

Project Active from to Firms and Firm capabilities

Despite substantial improvements in agricultural productivity across the world since the 1980s, productivity levels in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) have not experienced similar increases. Such agricultural stagnation has significant implications for the majority of the sub-continent’s population who are engaged in smallholder farming, as agricultural development is integral to poverty reduction.

Literature points to both information failures and coordination failures within agricultural value chains as two key obstacles that hamper agricultural development and productivity gains:

  • In terms of coordination failures, two distinct but related strands of this literature examine (1) the lack of electrification in rural areas, and (2) the lack of adoption of productivity-enhancing agricultural technologies.
  • In terms of information failures, low levels of maize adoption and production results from farmers’ incomplete information about good agricultural practices (GAP) such as input use and crop cycle timing. One promising avenue is through the application of network theory: targeting information on GAP to individuals within particular social networks who are highly connected.

This project aims to validate the bundled interventions of rural electrification, increased access to electrified farming technology, and the provision of targeted agricultural extension services in communities throughout Northern and Southern Sierra Leone. In particular, prototypes for affordable maize processing machinery (dryers/mills) have been designed by a team of Stanford engineers. This farming technology will be powered by a network of solar mini-grids being installed across the country by UNOPS. Following this, a local agriculture partner, Warc, will provide extension services and training on how to use and incorporate these technologies into farmers’ everyday practices. The objective of the scoping project is then to inform the rollout of a large-scale RCT, testing the effectiveness of these bundled interventions across the country.