How Do Farmers Learn From Extension Services?: Evidence From Malawi
Maertens A., Michelson H, and V. Nourani. 2020. How do farmers learn from extension services: Evidence from Malawi. American Journal of Agricultural Economics. Accepted.
76 Pages Posted: 7 Feb 2019 Last revised: 29 Dec 2020
Date Written: November 25, 2018
Agricultural extension services can play an important role in increasing farmer yields and incomes yet evidence of the effectiveness of extension services in Sub-Saharan Africa has been mixed. We study farmers learning about agricultural technologies using a (quasi) randomized controlled trial in which farmers differ in their exposure to commonly used extension methods that range in their intensity of interaction. We find that farmers who participated in season-long farmer-led demonstration plot cultivation learn about the critical adoption details of production processes and adopt more components of a new, multi-component technology. Farmers invited to attend farmer field day events learn considerably less about production process details. Building on qualitative interviews, we then develop a two-stage learning process in which farmers first form yield expectations and then choose how much to invest in learning the details of the production processes subject to yield beliefs and the learning costs. We test this model using detailed data on beliefs, knowledge, adoption and constraints and find evidence that farmers yield beliefs hinge around observed yield, and these observed yields affect learning efforts.
Keywords: Africa, Malawi, Agricultural Extension, Learning
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