Adoption of improved potato varieties in Ethiopia: The role of agricultural knowledge and innovation system and smallholder farmers’ quality assessment
Although potato is considered to be one of the strategic crops for ensuring food security in Ethiopia, the adoption of high yielding and disease tolerant improved potato varieties is low. Common explanations include farmers’ attitudes to risk and socio-cultural factors. We develop a system perspective that explores farmers’ decisions about adopting improved varieties (IVs) in relation to (1) their engagement with the agricultural knowledge and innovation system (AKIS) and (2) their preferences for local varieties (LVs). On the basis of original data from 346 ware Ethiopian potato farmers we show that the frequency of use of technical assistance from NGOs and access to credit positively affect the adoption of IVs while the use of the main buyer as a source of advice negatively affects IV adoption. We found that farmers have a preference for LVs because of the perceived easier crop management and better stew quality attributes. Yield, disease resistance, and maturity period are less important attributes. Higher education of the household head and the presence of a radio and/or television also have a positive effect on adoption. As to the scale of adoption, we found that only the percentage of owned land, tuber size (of ware potatoes), access to credit, stew quality, and presence of a mobile phone have an impact on ware potato farmers’ decision on the amount of land to be used for growing IVs. These results imply that improved production-related quality attributes may not be enough to induce ware potato farmers to adopt new varieties. LVs with relatively low scores on production-related criteria continue to be appreciated by farmers due to demands from their customers. We recommend putting more emphasis on market-related quality attributes in new variety development.
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