INNOVATION AND EQUITY IN RURAL DEVELOPMENT
Niels R61ing, Dep. of Extension Educ.,
Joseph Ascroft, School of Journalism,
Fred Wa Chege, Dep. of Agricultural Ec
Paper read for the Meeting of the ISA Research Committee on
Innovative Processes in Social Change at the VIIIth World
Congress of Sociology. Toronto, August 1974
The generalisations of diffusion theory are the result of observing current
practice. They do not give recommendations for optimal practice. Yet, diffusion
tenets have diffused widely and often assume a normative role for praxis, in
that they justify and reinforce current practice. Current practice boils down
to "progressive farmer extension strategies" whereby scarce government resources
are concentrated on a few progressive farmers in the hope that this effort will
be multiplied widely through diffusion.
The paper raises the question whether this is a strategy designed for equitable
development or a case of "to those who have shall be given". In itself, the
strategy seems practical and efficient, especially from an agency-centered
Theoretically, diffusion processes can be seen as equalisers in the sense that
they reflect a tendency toward entropy or sameness for as far as availability
and utilisation of information are concerned. However, in practice, a number
of imperfections of equalisation by diffusion can be mentioned which lead to
the conclusion that diffusion processes do indeed tend to increase inequity
and that diffusion generalisations can, therefore, only be used as guides for
devising strategies to avoid what they predict.
This state of affairs implies that those who seek equitable development must
not carry out more surveys of current practice.but must seek to experiment to
proto-type test alternatives to current practice. The paper concludes with a
brief report on one such experiment in Kenya which did .show that one can aim
one's efforts at laggardly farmers and not only obtain 100 % adoption among
those reached directly, but also have an immediate diffusion effect of about
three farmers for each farmer reached.
At a Farmers' Training Center is a rural district somewhere in Africa,
grass roots field workers receive systematic training for the first
time. We witness the occasion at a moment when the trainer, himself
a diploma-level extension worker, explains diffusion theory with the
help of an AID manual on extension. At issue is the presentation of the
bell-shaped diffusion curve: 2'% innovators, 121% early adopters,
34% early majority, 34% late majority..... At this point, a question
is raised: "Sir, why are early and late majority both 34%?"
The Aid manual has dug a deep. hole for the trainer. He hesitates.
Finally he says: "I think they are neighbours".
The anecdote illustrates two things. First, the extent to which diffusion theory
has diffused. And second, that diffusion processes have their weaknesses in
disseminating ideas, and thereby, in generating change.
We shall pay some attention to the first point, but it is especially the.second
which is at issue in the present paper. For we would like to examine the in-
fluence of diffusion of innovation processes on equity in rural development.
Diffusion is usually seen asa god-sent autonomous process which assures the
trickle down of income- and welfare generating ideas and thereby guarantees
their distribution among all members of a population without effort of the
Thus, one looks at how well diffusion processes distribute the benefits of new
technology. Such a viewpoint sufficed when the emphasis was on economic growth
and on breaking down the barriers of traditionalism. However, times have changed.
Instead of traditional tribesmen and warriors, we have masses of small-holders
whose lack of opportunitiesrather than resistance to change seems to be the
major bottleneck in development. Also, inequities are rapidly emerging in once
egalitarian tribal societies. Classes of landless pleasant, rural unemployed,
slum dwellers and seasonal laborers emerge, where formerly each man had a right
to farm and an independent existence. Coupled to the fact; that, in most
developing nations, alternative employment is so slow in forthcoming that more
instead of fewer members of the rapidly growing population must find a living
in rural areas, at least for the next several decades, these conditions have
a the authors wish to acknowledge the helpful comments of professor A.W. van
den Ban, Department of Extension Education,Wageningen
led to a greater interest in equity and 'distribution, next to growth. "We know
in effect, that there is no rational alternative to policies of greater social
equity" (McNamara, 1972), or, "There is no viable alternative to increasing the
productivity of small-scale agriculture if any significant advance is to be made
in solving the problems of absolute poverty in the rural areas..... or of achie-
ving long-term stable economic growth" (McNamara, 1973).
Clearly it is too early to breed a small elite of highly productive farmers who
can provide the food for masses of workers employed in industry and services.
And thus, we look not at how well diffusion processes distribute the benefits
of new technology, but at how badly they do it.
Such a concern could lead to an exercise of old wine in new sacks, a re-
interpretation of known facts. The present paper does aim to contribute to
such a re-interpretation, to be sure. But is also attempts to offer new direc-
tions.For after examining the effect of the diffusion of innovations on equity,
both theoretically and empirically, we would like to present some results of an
effort to experimentally change current practice to achieve more equitable
development in a rural area in Kenya.
At the onset, we would like to stress one point. We work with the "African model".
That is, we assume societies with a rather egalitarian tribal past which are
only beginning to learn the meaning of relative wealth and poverty. This point
must be made, because those who work with the "Latin American model" and there-
fore assume a traditional society characterized by latifundistas, peasants
and dependency relationships, will find it difficult to understand our concern
with the diffusion of innovations as a contributing factor in inequity, over
and above structural factors and especially the distribution of land ownership.
DIFFUSION THEORY, AND EXTENSION
The diffusion of. innovations research tradition is probably unique among social
sciences in the extent of its empirical base (Havelock et al, 1969, p.11.11).
Its body of generalisations has been disseminated with enthusiasm, clarity and.
care (e.g. Rogers, 1962 and Rogers and Shoemaker, 1971). Yet, this state of affairs
may have its drawbacks. Diffusion research generalisations adequately draw conclu-
sions about current practice, which is very different from offering recommendations
for optimal practice. Yet, diffusion research generalisations often become norma-
tive for practice, precisely because they have diffused so widely.
1. The generalisations re-inforce *an extension focus on progressive farmers by
showing that innovations do trickle from progressive farmers downwards. Of
course, the generalisations derive from the fact that most extension services
follow this strategy of least resistance, but that does not mean that it is
a strategy for optimum effect.
2. The generalisations re-inforce and systematise the use of adopter categori-
sations. There are few extension workers who do not classify their farmers
in terms of progressiveness or innovativeness and make use of this classi-.
fication to concentrate on farmers who are quick to follow advice, of
sufficient means, knowledgeable and homophilous with the extension worker.
Diffusion tenets show that there are the farmers who have contact with
extension and thus justify current target group selection principles in a
situation where the extension worker has to make some choice because he
Also, generalisations on adopter categorisation allow rei-fication. The
laggards, for instance, whose main pre-occupation is said to be the rear-
view mirror (Rogers, 1962, p. 71), are deemed incapable to change, frustra-
ted, and fatalistic hardcores, even in societies where change is so recent
that late or no adoption is often still more a question of inability than
of the resistance to change bred by a long history of failure, oppression,
frustration and relative deprivation. The only real "hard cores" we
encountered in Kenya, for instance, were "local politicians", local ex-
MauMau fighters and their supporters, who were so deeply frustrated in the
Post-Independence period that they now actively resist all change.
3. The basic tenet of diffusion research that innovations diffuse autonomously
from those indirect contact with external sources of information to other
members of the community, insures a multiplier effect for the activities of
the field worker in a situation where he can only have direct contact with a
small proportion of the farmers, especially when he relies heavily on indi-
vidual farm visits as his main method of extension. Diffusion research shows,
in effect, that there is no need to focus on more than a fraction of the
It must be added here that one related lesson which the practicioner has
usually not learnt is that next year's seed and fertilizer requirements can
not be based on linear prognoses but must take account of the snowball-
fashion acceleration of adoption.
4. "The most important single strategy of change advocated to change agents by
diffusion researchers is that of working through opinion leaders" (Sen and
Bhowmik, 1970, p. 1). Most change agents have learnt this lesson well,
Albeit in a simple form. For opinion leaders are usually taken to be those
progressive farmers who are also leaders. That "interpersonal diffusion
is mostly homophilous" (Rogers and Shoemaker, 1971, p. 212) or that "the
opinion leader is very much like the person he advises" (Robertson, 1971,
p. 184) is usually forgotten and also, that,.in a rapidly stratifying
society, each stratum may have its own opinion leaders instead of a few
persons functioning as such for the whole community.
The following quote illustrates the usual short-cut which results (Republic
of Indonesia, 1973, p. 61 a.f.)..After having said that "ideal demonstrator
farmers" should be progressive, influential, sufficiently educated, represen-
tative and of sufficient means, the author continues: "Sure enough, it will
not be easy to find the ideal demonstrator farmer,........ but it must be
considered quite possible to find always a farmer who is willing to follow
advice and to play a leading part in a farmers' meeting without insisting
on being paid for that" (italics in original).
The net effect of.the diffusion of difussion research tenets, themselves based
on observations of current practice, has been to re-inforce, condone and
systematise current practice. That practice is to provide intensive service:;
to a handful of innovative, wealthy, large, educated and information seeking
farmers and to.expect that the effect of these services will reach other farmers
by autonomous diffusion processes.
*) personal communication Kees van Woerkum, dep. of Ext. Educ, Wageningen.
Van den Ban (1963, p. 182/83)also found that farmers choose, as advisors,
not very progressive farmers, but people who are somewhat more progressive
than they themselves.
The question is: How realistic is this expectation? Is it a case of "to those
who have shall be given", or is it a strategy designed for equitable development?
In trying to answer this question we assume a responsibility. For if we were to
show that the "progressive farmer strategy", as currently practiced, is detrimen-
tal to the achievement of equitable development, it will be upon us to provide
alternatives for the very practical "progressive farmer strategy".
1. Progressive farmers have large farms so that the extension worker's direct
effect on total production is greater than if he works with less progressive
2. Progressive farmers are those who can be expected to form the future core
of commercial farmers who provide the nation with food and export earnings.
3. Progressive farmers have a high sense of efficacy.(Smith and Inkeles, 1966).
Thus they are eager for information. They follow advice. One does not waste
time convincing them. One gets quick results for annual reports and promotion.
4. Progressive farmers.demand services. One cannot by-pass them. The complain
if they are neglected. Some are powerful enough to threaten the career of
the extension-worker (Leonard, in prep.).
5. Progressive farmers have means to try new ideas. They do not always complain
of lack of money. Others need credit, the provision of which is notoriously
difficult in case of small-holders in developing nations. For these reasons
also, demonstration plots are usually laid out on the farms of the progres-
sives. Governments do not usually pay for the necessary inputs.
6. Progressive farmers are usually homophilous with the extension worker. It is
easy for them to communicate. In some cases, the progressive farmers are
more knowledgeable.and sophisticated than the field workers. They go directly
to high officials. Such situations are seen as an embarrassment to the
service. "Our field workers cannot face the farmers".
7. Progressive farmers provide a challenge to the fieldworker. They keep him on
his toes and thus invigorate the service.
8. Extension workers learn from progressive farmers what to tell other farmers.
In all, the progressive farmer strategy is clearly a very efficient and attractive
one, especially from an agency-centered viewpoint.
e van den Ban, personal comm.
That diffusion research, with its emphasis on survey methods, developed genera-
lisations whichpresuppose the progressive farmer strategy shows that the strate-
gy is indeed widely practiced. Should diffusion researchers stop surveying and
start proto-type testing alternatives to current practice? We shall examine the
question from value .judgement that equitable development is desirable. We
define equitable development as social change processes which increase the
extent to which members of a population are able to elicit similar outcomes, re-
garding their physical, security and social needs, from their environment.
DIFFUSION AND ENTROPY
In theory, diffusionprocesses are equalisers. Assume a tribal village some hundred
years ago. It was largely closed to new information. As a result, the village
was characterized by sameness or entropy. In fact, the anthropologist could visit
the place, describe one house, one farm and he had described them all.
He had no need for statistics.
Some years later, some of the villagers who had been taken away as slaves to
work in Brazilian cocoa plantations, return. They have done away with the bark
cloth the villagers are wearing. Instead, they drape colorful cottons around
their bodies. They alo plant cocoa to be able to buy corrugated iron roofs.
These attractive outcomes for some create relative povertyamong the rest.
And the normal reaction to relative.poverty is innovation. The rest thus also
plants cocoa and also buys cotton dresses and iron sheets.
This caricaturised version of early development in Yoruba land nevertheless
demonstrates that diffusion processes can be seen as restorers of equity after
a difference in outcomes has been introduced. One could even go so far as to
say that the "natural tendency" for communities is to reach a stable state,
i.e., a condition of sameness or equity, and that diffusion processes are the
main mechanism for reaching that stable state. The S-curve describing the
diffusion of an innovation in a community describes the restoration of equity
And thus, the anthropologist could go back to look at the cocoa farm. Or could
he? If diffusion processes tend to restore equity, why does UNRISD (Griffin,
1972) and others (Freebairn, 1973) worry so much about the social consequences
of the "Green Revolution"? Why do such great inequities emerge also in previ-
ously more egalitarian societies?
THE IMPERFECTIONS OF EQUALISATION BY DIFFUSION
Diffusion processes are, in fact, imperfect equalisers. Several reasons for this
state of affairs can be logically deduced and empirically shown.
1. Innovations do not arrive in rural communities one by one, nor is there time
for equalizing processes to catch up on each innovation. Instead, innovations
come in rapid succession. While some members of the community are still adop-
ting an earlier innovation, others are already reaping benefits from more
recently introduced ones.
READ CASE 1
2. Innovations take time to diffuse. But even if it takes only ten years for a
new cash crop to diffuse, those who plant early receive an income over an
additional numberof years which may put them ahead so much that later adopters
may find it impossible to catch up.
READ CASE 2
3. Early adopters reap windfall profits (Rogers, 1962, p. 276). They start
producing at a time when the product is still relatively scarce and prices
are high or when subsidies or inputs are still offered as incentives. Later
adopters may find prices low, while some may be frustrated by actual prohi-
bitions to further adopt. An example are the coffee quota imposed as a
result of international commodity agreements.
4. Having money or more money relatively earlier than others allows acquisition
of additional resources when they are still cheap.
READ CASE 3
CASE 1: PROGRESSIVENESS BY ADOPTION*
INNOVATION most upper lower least TOTAL
progr. middle middle progr.
1. grade cattle 93% 70% 49% 11% 60%
2. coffee 72 68 30 0 45
3. tea 22 12 3 0 10
4. pyrethrum 22 13 10 0 12
5. hybrid maize 63 32 22 0 31
6. certified potatoes 9 2 1 0 21
7. maccadamia nuts 30 31 16 0 21
8. pigs 57 35 21 0 30
TOTAL PERCENT 368% 263% 152% 11% 212%
BASE 92 97 102 63 354
Source: J. Ascroft, et al. (1973, p. 23)
In 1970, we carried out a survey (Ascroft et al, 1971) in Tetu Division of
Central Province Kenya, among a random sample of 354 registered farmers. Using
the 8 innovations in the table above, the farmers were given a progressiveness
score based on the sum of the number of years a farmer had been using any of the
eight innovations. The scores were then used to categorise the farmers in most
progressives, upper middle, lower middle en least progressives.
The two variables in the above table are thus not independent. Yet the figures
show the magnitude of difference between most and least progressive farmers.
"TOTAL PERCENT" shows that the most progressives had adopted an average of
3.7 innovations, while the least progressives had adopted an average of 0.1
-----------------. --- -------------------------
CASE 2: PROGRESSIVENESS BY INCOMEX
INCOME IN KSHS most upper lower least TOTAL
progr. middle middle progr.
299 and less 11% 13% 35% 81% 32%
300-999 19 43 35 16 30
1000 and over 70 44 30 3 38
TOTAL PERCENT 100% 100% 100% 100% 100%
BASE 79 91 112 59 341
2 Source: F. Chege (in preparation).
In 1973, the same farmers interviewed in 1970 were interviewed again for a panel
study (Chege, in prep). Income had not been studied in 1970 for fear of useless
data. We tried in 1973, asking each respondent how much he had made from his
beans, his tea, his milk, off-farm employment, etc. If one adds the total for
each respondent, one obtains a figure which may not reflect actual income, but
which seems comparable across respondents. The variable does discriminate
between progressiveness categories, with 70% of the most progressives making
1000 shillings or more and 81% of the least progressives making 299 shillings
CASE 3: PROGRESSIVENESS BY FARM FRAGMENTATION*
most upper lower least TOTAL
progr middle middle progr
1 plot 60% 76% .91% 96% 80%
2 plots 32 18 7 2 15
3 or more plots 8 6 2 2 5
TOTAL 100% 100% 100% 100% 100%
BASE 92 97 102 63 354
Source: J. Ascroft et al. (1973, p. 29)
When land registration and adjudication had been completed in the area of study
in 1959, each farmer had one parcel of land. In 1970, 40% of the most progressi-
ves had acquired 1 or more additional plots, as against only 4% of the least
5. Ideas diffuse easily. They are not subject to scarcity. One can pass on
an idea and keep it. But implementation of ideas takes resources which
are subject to scarity. Differences in resource endowment, such as the
power to command traditional land rights or input supplies, differences
in health, available family labor to clear virgin land for cashcrops,
intelligence, etc., may imply great differences between farm households
in the extent to which they can benefit from innovations. There are some
practicioners who believe that late adopters have only themselves to
blame, in that they are stupid, lack entrepreneurship, and so on.
As said, very many reasons, most of which cannot be blamed on the farmer,
can be mentioned. Another reason may be, for instance, that an important
innovation "strikes" at a time when the family circumstances of the
life cycle of the individual make early adoption impossible)
READ CASE 4
6. As we saw earlier, extension services tend to focus on progressive
farmers. These farmers tend to become a fixed clientele of the
extension worker, so that new information is always channeled to the
same farmers, strengthening their advantages through early adoption.
READ CASES 5 + 6
verbal communication of W.-Meynen, ISS, the Hague.
CASE 4: PROGRESSIVENESS BY AVERAGE FARMSIZEx)
most upper lower least TOTAL
progr. middle middle progr.
AV. FARMSIZE (ACRES) 9,7 6,7 4,2 2,6 6,0
X Source: J. Ascroft et al (1973, p. 29)
Whether as a result of recent acquisition, or as a result of having more land
to start with, the most progressives had a farm which was, on average, nearly
four times the size of the farm of the least progressives.
CASE 5: PROGRESSIVENESS BY EXTENSION VISITS)
FARMVISIT BY EXTENSION most upper lower least TOTAL
AT LEAST ONCE LAST YEAR progr. middle middle progr.
crop extension worker 100% 96% 85% 41% 84%
livestock extension w. 93 77 63 22 68
home economics 10 7 3 2 6
TOTAL PERCENT" 203% 180% 151% 65% 158%
BASE 92 97 4102 63 354
CASE 6: PROGRESSIVENESS BY GROUP EXTENSION CONTACT"
TYPES OF CONTACT AT most upper lower least TOTAL
LEAST ONCE LAST YEAR progr. middle middle progr.
Farmers' Training Center 48% 26% 13% 5% 24%
Crop Demonstration 92 76 76 37 70
Livestock Demonstration 91 72 61 32 67
Home Ec. Demonstration 74 60 50 32 56
TOTAL PERCENT) 305% 234% 200% 156% 217%
BASE 92 97 102 63. 354
Source: J. Ascroft et al, (1973, p. 32).
Totals add up to more than 100% because farmers may have received different
types of workers or visited more than one type of group extension activity,
at last once since "the.same time last year".
All figures demonstrate a highly skewed distribution of the provision of exten-
sion services. It should be noted, however, that a very high proportion of the
farmers had been visited. Kenya has a very favourable extension/farmer ratio.
Interesting is also that the four home-economics extension workers had reached
56% (+ 5%) of the 12.000 registered farm families in the area througireliance
on group extension methods instead of, the individual farm visit.
It is indeed likely that an extension worker gradually develops a fixed clientele.
When an extension worker starts in a traditional village,-he will at first spend
most of his time on promoting innovations. The more he succeeds, however, the more
time he will have to devote to follow-up and maintenance of adopted innovations,
until he reaches a point where he cannot handle more farmers. If he has further
innovations to promote, he will do so on farms where he comes for maintenance.
We have some tentative empirical support for this contention.
READ CASE 7
7. Credit is given to those who can give collateral. Thus costly, and therefore
often profitable, innovations can easiest be adopted by those who are
relatively well off.
READ CASE 8
8. Research stations usually concentrate on developing recommendations which
benefit especially the larger farmers and the high-potential areas, and
couch their recommendations in terms which only allow their application by
large, educated farmers (Mbithi, 1972).
9. Although ideas are not subject to scarcity, they are subject to loss of
fidelity. Those who receive information second, third, or nth mouth, will
have less, less specific and less reliable information. One experiment in
India (Sinha and Mehta, 1972) showed that, of information broadcast to a
primary audience, only 14% reached a secondary audience via informal chan-
nels. Lowdermilk (1972) observed in Pakistan that, of a whole package of
practices required for the successful production of HYV grains, only the
new seed diffused to the smaller farmers. In our experiment we observed that,
of those who'adopted as a result of hearing from those we had trained,
all adopted the recommended maize variety, but only 40% used the compound
fertilisers recommended, while 69% did not apply dust against stalkborers.
CASE 7: LEVEL OF AGRIC. DEVELOPMENT ,IN THE SUBLOCATION BY FIELDWORKER'S
SELF-PROFESSED MAINTENANCE/INITIATOR FUNCTION
LEVEL OF SUBLOCATION DEVELOPMENT
"What do you usually Score of 6 Score of 5 Score or 4 TOTAL
spend more time on:" and over or less
1. helping farmers solve
problems with crops or 50% 40% 33% 43%
livestock they already have
2. Making farmers know crops
or livestocks they.did not 50% 60% 67% 57%
know before ("innovation
TOTAL 100% 100% 100% 100%
BASE 10 5 6 21*
Total N is very small. These figures provide, therefore, no-more than
tentative support for the relationship. One of the problems in studying
the relationship is that one needs large numbers of farmers to get develop-
ment scores for only a few areas of work of extension workers.
The 23 sublocations making up the area of study were rankordered with the aid
of scalogram analysis, using as items the aggregated data of the 1970 survey (R6ing
1972). The sublocations were then divided into three categories based on the
number of dichotomised items on which they scored. The scale reflects a measure
of agricultural development. Extension workers responsible for the agriculturally
most advanced sublocations tend to claim they spend more time on "MAINTENANCE"
than their colleagues responsible for less developed sublocations.
CASE 8: PROGRESSIVENESS BY NUMBER OF LOANS OBTAINED)
most upper lower, least TOTAL
progr. middle middle progr.
no loans 66% 73% 85% 95% 79%
1 or more loans 34% 27% 15% 5% 21%
TOTAL 100% 100% 100% 100% 100%
BASE 73 91 111 59 339
Source: F.E. Chege (in prep.)
Nearly one-third of the most progressive farmers have obtained one or more
loans, as against one-twentieth of the least progressives.
And that goes for adopters with second mouth information who adopted the
same year. The experience with rumcur clinics shows what to expect for
those further down the trickle down process.
It is probably distortion of information and possibly complete blockage
of further information transmission because of the absence of channels
between subsystems, that can account for such situations as we encountered
in Kenya: In the area where we worked, hybrid maize had been introduced
in 1963. Maize is the local staple food, There were no complaints about the taste
of the new varieties, while farmers growing local maize had very low.yields,
forcing them to buy maize every year, and making the area'a net importer.
Farmers who adopted hybrid were enthusiastic about the results. In our
experimental training we had no trouble achieving 100% adoption rates
among farmers who had not yet adopted hybrid. The Kikuyu's who inhabit.
the area are known as one of the most change-prone peoples of Africa.
*Yet, when we did our survey in 1970, only 31% had adopted hybrid maize.
Autonomous diffusion processes seem indeed very unreliable when it
comes to solving such problems as the threatening food crisis.
9. There is another, more psychological reason, for imperfections of
diffusion processes in equalising outcomes. As inequities begin to
emerge, farmers start to experience feelings of relative success and
failure. Those who experience success begin to learn that they can
determine their own fate ("efficacy" (Smith and Inkeles, 1966),
"expectancy of internal control" (Rotter, 1966)).
Thus, success. breeds success, while those who experience failure lose
confidence. The highly.efficacious start seeking information more eagerly
and get more of it, a reason for Havelock et al (1969, p. 11, 25) to
remark that knowledge tends to go where there is most of it already and
also a reason why the model of the problem solving, information seeking
client, as advocated by Westley (1970), may be a dangerous one to follow
for a change agent..... if he is concerned with equity, that is.
Other reasons for the imperfections of diffusion processes as equalisers-
could probably be mentioned. However, the reasons given are sufficient
to draw a few conclusions.
1. Diffusion processes do indeed lead to inequitable development unless-
correcting measures are undertaken. At present, the tendency of diffu-
sion processes to enhance inequity is only reinforced by the services,
which follow progressive farmer strategies.
2. The normative role which diffusion theory de facto plays, is detrimental
for equitable development. Diffusion researchers, including some of the
present authors, can even be blamed for the error of ommision of not having
highlighted the inequity-producing aspects of innovation diffusion, although
these aspects have always been very clear from their main findings.
The researchers might have focused on how to avoid what they predict.
3. The third conclusion must.be somewhat tentative and is meant to be of
heuristic value. For a long time, students of modernization were interested
in studying individual modernity with a view to determine the factors which
change traditional into modern people, i.e., to discover the key for making
the world modern. The assumption thus was that the following sequence exists:
TRADITIONAL ------------------- MODERN
However, the data collected in-this pursuit could very well be interpreted
differently. The fact that one finds laggards and progressives with very much
the same characteristics as traditional and modern people also in developed
nations may mean that research on modernity has used an incorrect paradigm.
It may well be that "modern" and "traditional" are dyadic concepts, i.e.,
the one is there because of the other.
A "traditionalist", "laggard", farmer may have few resources, is not reached
by extension and may have lost confidence in his ability to affect his future
precisely because "progressive", "modern", farmers have resources, are reached
by Government services and have confidence. The paradigm may thus read as fol-
That the traditionalist may, once inequities have increased, become severely
frustrated in his effort to soothe his relative poverty, has been explained
elsewhere, as well as the various forms his reactions to frustration may'take
(Roling, 1970). Suffice it to say here,,that modernity may not be a desirable
state to be reached by everyone. It may be a state of mind which can only be
maintained by virtue of the presence of traditionalists. Modernity may be the
product of an inequitable development.
CHANGING CURRENT PRACTICE TO ENHANCE EQUITABLE DEVELOPMENT
If one takes seriously the need for a rapid spread of new technology and the
need for a more.equitable development in the rural areas of developing nations,
,it seems unavoidable to seek alternatives to the progressive farmer strategy
and its concomitant reliance on autonomous diffusion to others. Consequently.
it behooves diffusion researchers to experiment with such alternatives.
In Kenya, efforts have been going on to do just that. The aim was to find
replicable strategies for accelerating the flow of income-generating inno-
.vations to less progressive farmers. We shall not describe the whole experi-
ment here. The design, research method and main results haven been published
elsewhere (Ascroft et al (1973,), Roling (1974 a), Roling (1974 b)). .Suffice
it here to describe our method of farmer selection and the main results we
We asked extension workers to select, in their sublocation, 25 farmers for a
special farmer training course on hybrid maize, by taking only those who did
not have hybrid maize, coffee and grade cattle on their farm. The extension
workers did, at first, not believe we could succeed, so most of them picked
fairly progressive farmers or people, such as city workers who recently re-
turned home, whom they felt could easily "make it". As a result, the partici-
pants in our first set of experimental courses were, on average, only slightly
below average compared to the random sample, and included many most progressive
We changed our strategy for the second set of courses, making it less repli-
cable in the process. We explained the selection procedure more clearly to the
extension workers and discussed their doubts. To please them, we allowed them
to select up to three progressive farmers as "examples" for each group of 25.
To select the rest, the extension workers filled out cards for 40 less pro-
gressive farmers lacking common innovations on their farms. On these cards,
we asked for such information as farm size, innovations adopted, etc.
From the 40 cards, we ourselves picked the 25 smallest, least progressive.
farmers. Table 1 shows the result of this selection procedure.
TABLE 1: COMPARISON PROGRESSIVENESS PARTICIPANTS OF
SECOND TRIAL AND RANDOM SAMPLE
participants random sample
most progressive 5% 26%
upper middle 15 25
lower middle 38 25
least progr. 42 24
TOTAL 100% 100%
BASE 308 253
only lower areas of Tetu from which also the participants were drawn.
The table shows that we succeeded in recruiting less progressive farmers.
In fact, 80% were below average. There was no trouble in getting these farmers
to come to the courses. As a result of them, nearly all of the 308 farmers
(97%) accepted the credit offered, bought the inputs and planted the hybrid
maize promoted during the course. What's more, for every farmer trained,
about three other farmers also adopted in the same year, be it that some aspects
of the innovation package did not get perfectly diffused.
If "interpersonal diffusion" is mostly homophilous, one can expect that the
second-mouth adopters were also less progressive. Unfortunately, we only had
time to check this homophily for the diffusion effect of the first set of
courses. For these courses, the second-mouth adopters were slightly less pro-
gressive than those trained, a result which conforms to expectations based on
other research (Rogers and Shoemaker, 1971, p. 211).
We cannot claim that one field experiment (with all the shortcomings field
experiments are bound to have, considering such factors as ongoing government
activities, the difficulty to find controls (we used the sample survey results),
etc.), carried out among a very gung-ho people (the Kikuyu's), on an innovation
which had been introduced about nine years earlier, can prove our case. Yet, we
feel to have shown that it seems possible to find alternatives to the progres-
sive farmer strategy which work and have better consequences for the equity of
the ensuing development.
As a result of our field experiment, we came to believe that it is not
the characteristics of the farmers, such as their progressiveness, which
are the prime determinants of the outcomes of development efforts.
We believe rather, that it is the characteristics and deployment of Govern-
ment services which matter, and especially their ability to provide and
structure opportunities. Of course, the Government services are the more
manipulable factor in rural development processes.
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