Technology adoption and diffusion: The System of Rice Intensification and food security in Bangladesh

Project Active from to Firms

  • We examine the role of farmers’ social networks to understand the diffusion and adoption of the 'System of Rice Intensification' (SRI) in Bangladesh. 
  • Our results show that agricultural productivity could be increased significantly by adopting SRI and diffusion through opinion leaders or role models could be an effective way for information dissemination at the village level.
  • This study also demonstrates that information can be spread among villagers by using their social networks, giving them the ‘leadership’ to train other fellow villagers in adopting SRI. Financial incentive could promote adoption and diffusion more.

Crop yields in developing countries remain low due to limited adoption of new innovations by farmers. The “System of Rice Intensification” (SRI), developed in Madagascar in the 1980s for smallholder farmers like those in Bangladesh, has demonstrated dramatic potential for increasing rice yields without requiring additional purchased inputs (seed, fertiliser, etc.), nor increased irrigation. But these gains, although widely documented in observational data from a variety of countries, are yet to be verified with adequate scientific rigour.

While SRI has been introduced at a small, pilot scale in some locations in Bangladesh, observations suggest that adoption and diffusion rates appear to be very low, as appears true in other countries. Given its purported productivity and earnings potential, low uptake of SRI technology seems rather puzzling. SRI is a knowledge-intensive cultivation technique that requires significant local adaptation and managerial skills, and evidence shows farmers are constrained by information and skills necessary for local adaptation.

Finally, because SRI fields differ visibly from traditional rice fields, social norms and conformity pressures may likewise discourage adaptation and ultimately, adoption. In rural Bangladeshi where there are resource constraints and limited access to formal finance sources, social (i.e., village, kinship, or friendship) networks may offer a viable alternative. There has been little research on how best to harness social networks to promote technology adoption and diffusion.

This project builds on an existing study implemented in collaboration with BRAC and supported by IGC and aims to investigate the issue of adoption of SRI, identify constraints, explore various adaptation possibilities, and identify SRI systems that are appropriately tailored to specific farming environments. Farmers in a randomly selected sub-set (120) of villages were offered fixed or variable financial incentives to adopt and/or to refer the new SRI technology to a friend, relative, or acquaintance in the same village.

Our findings suggest the agricultural productivity could be increased significantly by adopting SRI. They also demonstrate that information can be spread over among villagers by using their social networks, giving them the ‘leadership’ to train other fellow villagers. Financial incentive could promote the adoption and diffusion more.

The project results will directly benefit the Bangladeshi rice farming households and consumers by enhancing productivity, employment, rural incomes, and overall food security. The findings will have wider applicability for productivity improvements through adaptation and diffusion of SRI-type technologies using social networks.