UC Davis Agricultural and Resource Economics

Rachid Laajaj, Universidad de los Andes

On the Complexity of Farmers' Learning

Date and Location

Tuesday, April 25, 2023, 4:10 PM - 5:30 PM
ARE Library Conference Room, 4101 Social Sciences and Humanities


Farmer’s learning is a decisive driver of the process of technology adoption, and yet few studies take a close look at this process. To address this, we implemented a randomized control trial in Kenya where the treated farmers participated in agronomic research trials that gave them an opportunity to test new inputs in their own parcels during 3 rainy seasons. Drawing from detailed data collection during 6 consecutive seasons, we take a deep dive into the learning process and differentiate it by initial skills. We find that farmers react to the exposition to this new information by experimenting through frequent changes in practice and input decisions. Their farming know-how increases rapidly while their expectations about the returns of the inputs are less responsive and slower to increase. High skills farmers learn faster, experiment the most as a response to the treatment and endure a loss in profit in the short term. To reconcile many of the patterns observed, we suggest a theoretical model with a multidimensionality of input and practice decisions where complementarities and substitutabilities are at the heart of what makes the search for a better equilibrium difficult. This framework is particularly fit for sustainable practices, which typically require adjusting many inputs and practices at once.

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