|CERES No. 074 (FAO Ceres, 1980, 50 p.)|
About a generation ago two US university professors, George Beal and Joe Bohlen, were documenting in field research the nature of the process through which new agricultural techniques are adopted by farmers. Their findings led them to identify a number of distinct stages in the process, from initial awareness of a technique through information gathering, trial, evaluation and final adoption, as well as different categories of farmer, from innovators to those who resisted new technology.
This initial thesis was developed on the basis of experience with the introduction of hybrid maize varieties in the American Midwest, but it was later tested in other areas, including some in the developing world. What was of particular interest in these studies for anyone trying to advance an idea or a product among farmers were the information sources upon which farmers relied at different stages of the adoption process. Regardless of the source from which they first reamed of a new technique, all farmers used other sources to check its validity before risking even a partial trial on their own farm. And at this stage, the opinions and experiences of respected neighbours represented a major influence.
It is an influence too easily forgotten, especially when new systems and techniques are designed far from the place where they are to be applied. Hugh Brammer's report, beginning on page 24, reminds us that where problems are immediate the design and diffusion of a solution can be simple and direct It is this sense of immediacy, one supposes, that gives communication among peasants a clarity end a simplicity too often lacking, as Alec McCallum observes in his article on page 36, amid the bureaucracies that are supposed to help peasants to adapt to new technology.
Has anybody been keeping score on the United Nations Decade for Women? Well, perhaps, here and there. We'll do our best with available impressions and facts in our next issue.