What is technology adoption? Exploring the agricultural research value chain for smallholder farmers in Lao PDR

  • Kim S. AlexanderEmail author
  • Garry Greenhalgh
  • Magnus Moglia
  • Manithaythip Thephavanh
  • Phonevilay Sinavong
  • Silva Larson
  • Tom Jovanovic
  • Peter Case


A common and driving assumption in agricultural research is that the introduction of research trials, new practices and innovative technologies will result in technology adoption, and will subsequently generate benefits for farmers and other stakeholders. In Lao PDR, the potential benefits of introduced technologies have not been fully realised by beneficiaries. We report on an analysis of a survey of 735 smallholder farmers in Southern Lao PDR who were questioned about factors that influenced their decisions to adopt new technologies. In this study, we have constructed measures or states of adoption which identify key elements of an adoption decision-making nexus. Analysis was conducted to statistically group explanatory factors of adoption. The key explanatory factors represented attributes of the farmer, the factors considered when undertaking production decisions and elements of the agricultural value chain that present as opportunities or constraints. We describe the combination of farmer’s personal attributes, perceptions of the value chain, and the introduction of new technologies by external actors as an “agricultural research value chain”, where agricultural research activities intervene to derive greater benefits for local farmers. A generalised linear model, via Poisson (multiple) regression analysis on the identified explanatory factors, was applied to explore how they influence adoption measures and we found several significant relationships.


Measures of adoption Agricultural research value chain Adoption Lao PDR Technologies 



Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research


District Agriculture and Forestry Officers


Department of Technical Extension and Agro-Processing


Integrated pest management


Japan International Cooperation Agency


Lao People’s Democratic Republic


National Agriculture and Forestry Institute


National University of Laos



We are grateful to ACIAR for their support. We would also like to thank staff based in our Lao partner institutions for their support and assistance, namely, colleagues at: the National University of Laos, the National Agriculture and Forestry Institute and the Department of Technical Extension and Agro-Processing. Fieldwork conducted for the study was approved by James Cook University’s Human Ethics Research Committee: Approval H6109. Declarations of interest: none.


This works was supported by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) [Project No. ASEM/2014/052: “Smallholder farmer decision-making and technology adoption in southern Lao PDR: opportunities and constraints”].


  1. Agbamu, J.U. 2006. Essentials of agricultural communication in Nigeria. Lagos: Malthouse.Google Scholar
  2. Alcon, F., S. Tapsuwan, J.M. Martínez-paz, R. Brouwer, and M.D. De Miguel. 2014. Forecasting deficit irrigation adoption using a mixed stakeholder assessment methodology. Technological Forecasting and Social Change 83: 183–193.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Alexander, K., and S. Larson. 2016. Smallholder farmer decision-making and technology adoption in southern Lao PDR: Opportunities and constraints. Activity 1.5: Stakeholders perceptions. Report for ACIAR ASEM/2014/052 project Smallholder farmer decision-making and technology adoption in southern Laos: opportunities and constraints. Canberra, ACT, Australia: ACIAR. Accessed 2 June 2017.
  4. Alexander, K., L. Parry, P. Thammavong, S. Sacklokham, S. Pasouvang, J. Connell, T. Jovanovic, M. Moglia, S. Larson, and P. Case. 2018. Rice farming systems in Southern Lao PDR: Interpreting farmers’ agricultural production decisions using Q methodology. Agricultural Systems 160: 1–10.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Alexander, K.S., J. Miller, and N. Lipscombe. 2010. Sustainable development in the uplands of Lao PDR. Sustainable Development 18: 62–70.Google Scholar
  6. Ayele, S., A. Duncan, A. Larbi, and T.T. Khanh. 2012. Enhancing innovation in livestock value chains through networks: Lessons from fodder innovation case studies in developing countries. Science and Public Policy 39: 333–346.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Beckhard, R., and R.T. Harris. 1987. Organizational transitions: Managing complex change. Reading: University of Michigan, Addison-Wesley Publishing Company.Google Scholar
  8. Brown, P.R., I. Nuberg, and R. Llewellyn. 2017. Stepwise frameworks for understanding the utilisation of conservation agriculture in Africa. Agricultural Systems 153: 11–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Burke, P.J., and J.E. Stets. 2009. Identity theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cafer, A., and J.S. Rikoon. 2018. Adoption of new technologies by smallholder farmers: The contributions of extension, research institutes, cooperatives, and access to cash for improving Tef production in Ethiopia. Agriculture and Human Values 35 (2018): 685–699.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Churchill, G.A. 1979. A paradigm for developing better measures of marketing constructs. Journal of Marketing Research 16: 64–73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cimmyt Economics Program. 1993. The adoption of agricultural technology: A guide for survey design. Mexico, D.F.: CIMMYT. Accessed 2 Dec 2017.
  13. Clarke, E., T.M. Jackson, K. Keoka, V. Phimphachanvongsod, P. Sengxua, P. Simali, and L.J. Wade. 2018. Insights into adoption of farming practices through multiple lenses: an innovation systems approach. Development in Practice 28 (8): 1–16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Clarke, E., T. Jackson, K. Keoka, and V. Phimphachanvongsod. 2016. Study of farmer experiences and approaches with mechanised dry direct seeding in Savannakhet province: Crop-livestock systems platform for capacity building, testing practices, commercialisation and community learning. CSE/2014/086. Canberra: ACIAR.Google Scholar
  15. Cramb, R. 2000. Processes Influencing the successful adoption of new technologies by smallholders. Working with farmers: the key to adoption of forage technologies. Proceedings of an international workshop held in Cagayan de Oro City, Mindanao, Philippines, from 12–15 October 1999, 11–22. Accessed 2 Dec 2017.
  16. Cramb, R.A., G.D. Gray, M. Gummert, S.M. Haefele, R.D.B. Lefroy, J.C. Newby, W. Stür, and P. Warr. 2015. Trajectories of rice-based farming systems in mainland Southeast Asia. Canberra: ACIAR, Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, ACIAR Monograph No. 177.Google Scholar
  17. Dethier, J.-J., and A. Effenberger. 2012. Agriculture and development: A brief review of the literature. Economic Systems 36: 175–205.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Doss, C.R. 2006. Analyzing technology adoption using microstudies: Limitations, challenges, and opportunities for improvement. Agricultural Economics 34 (3): 207–219.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Douthwaite, B., and E. Hoffecker. 2017. Towards a complexity-aware theory of change for participatory research programs working within agricultural innovation systems. Agricultural Systems 155: 88–102.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Douthwaite, B., J. Mayne, C. Mcdougall, and R. Ybarnegaray. 2017. Evaluating complex interventions: A theory driven realist-informed approach. Evaluation. Scholar
  21. Eayrs, S.J. 2016. Organizational change management in fisheries: critical evaluation and potential to facilitate the sustainable development of the New England groundfish industry. PhD dissertation, Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Studies. University of New Hampshire, USA.Google Scholar
  22. FAO. 2017. Laos at a Glance. 12 Feb 2018.
  23. FAO. 2016. The State of Food and Agriculture 2016 Rome: FAO. Accessed 12 Feb 2018.
  24. Feder, G., R.E. Just, and D. Zilberman. 1985. Adoption of agricultural innovations in developing countries: A survey. Economic Development and Cultural Change 33: 255–298.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Feder, G., and D.L. Umali. 1993. The adoption of agricultural innovations: A review. Technological Forecasting and Social Change 43: 215–239.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Food and Fertilizer Technology Center. 2006. Technology development for good agricultural practice (Gap) in Asia and Oceania. Accessed 15 Feb 2018.
  27. German, L., J. Mowo, and M. Kingamkono. 2006. A methodology for tracking the ‘‘fate’’ of technological interventions in agriculture. Agriculture and Human Values 23 (2006): 353–369.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Gilles, J.L., J.L. Thomas, C. Valdivia, and E.S. Yucra. 2013. Laggards or leaders: Conservers of traditional agricultural knowledge in Bolivia. Rural Sociology 78: 51–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Greenhalgh, G., M. Moglia, K. Alexander, T. Jovanovic, S. Sacklokham, B. Khounsy, M. Thaphavanh, T. Inthavong, S. Vorlasane, and Khampaseuth. 2017. Smallholder farmer decision-making and technology adoption in southern Lao PDR: Opportunities and constraints. Activity 1.1: Farmer Perception Survey Canberra, ACT, Australia: ACIAR. Accessed 15 Feb 2018.
  30. Griliches, Z. 1957. Hybrid corn: An exploration in the economics of technological change. Econometrica 25: 501–523.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Griliches, Z. 1960. Hybrid corn and economics of innovation. Science 132: 275–280.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Hailu, B.K., B.K. Abrha, and K.A. Weldegiorgis. 2014. Adoption and impact of agricultural technologies on farm income: Evidence from Southern Tigray, Northern Ethiopia. International Journal of Food and Agricultural Economics 2: 91–106.Google Scholar
  33. Hogset, H. 2005. Social networks and technology adoption. American Agricultural Economics Association Annual Meeting, July 24–27, 2005. Providence, Rhode Island.Google Scholar
  34. IFAD and UNEP. 2013. Smallholders, food security, and the environment. International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). Accessed 15 Mar 2018.
  35. Iwueke, C.C. 1990. Adoption behaviour of farmers toward yam minisett technique in Imo state Nigeria. Nigerian Agricutural Journal 25: 16–17.Google Scholar
  36. Jain, R., A. Arorra, and S.S. Raju. 2009. A novel adoption index of selected agricultural technologies: Linkages with infrastructure and productivity. Agricultural Economics Research Review 22: 109–120.Google Scholar
  37. Jones, K.M. 2005. Technology adoption in West Africa: adoption and disadoption of soybeans on the Togo-Benin border. Master of Science dissertation, Department of Natural Resource Management. Raleigh, NC:North Carolina State University, USA.Google Scholar
  38. Kebede, Y. 1992. Risk behavior and new agricultural technologies: The case of producers in the central highlands of Ethiopia. Quarterly Journal of International Agriculture 31: 269–284.Google Scholar
  39. Knowler, D. 2015. Farmer adoption of conservation agriculture: A review and update. In Conservation agriculture, ed. M. Farooq and K.H.M. Siddique, 621–642. Berlin: Springer. Scholar
  40. Knowler, D., and B. Bradshaw. 2007. Farmers’ adoption of conservation agriculture: A review and synthesis of recent research. Food Policy 32: 25–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Kotter, J.P. 1996. Leading change. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.Google Scholar
  42. Kotter, J.P. 2011. Leading Change: Why transformation efforts fail. HBR’s 10 must reads on Change Management. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business School Publishing Corporation.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Kuehne, G., R. Llewellyn, D.J. Pannell, R. Wilkinson, and P. Dolling. 2017. Predicting farmer uptake of new agricultural practices: A tool for research, extension and policy. Agricultural Systems 156: 115–125.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Leeuwis, C., and A. Van Den Ban. 2004. Communication for rural innovation: Rethinking agricultural extension. Oxford: Blackwell Science.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Lindner, R. K., and P.G. Pardey. 1979. The micro processes of adoption—a model. In 9th Congress of the Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science, Auckland.Google Scholar
  46. Manivong, V., R. Cramb, and J. Newby. 2014. Rice and remittances: Crop intensification versus labour migration in Southern Laos. Human Ecology 42: 367–379.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Mansfield, E. 1961. Technical change and the rate of imitation. Econometrica 29: 284–315.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Marra, M., D.J. Pannell, and A.A. Ghadim. 2003. The economics of risk, uncertainty and learning in the adoption of new agricultural technologies: Where are we on the learning curve? Agricultural Systems 75: 215–234.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF). 2010. Strategy for agriculture development 2011 to 2020: Sector framework, vision, and goals agriculture and forestry for sustainable development, food and income security. Minsitry of Agriculture and Forestry, Lao PDR.Google Scholar
  50. Ministry of Planning and Investment. 2016. The 8th five-year national socio-economic development plan (2016–2020) (Officially approved at the VIIIth National Assembly’s Inaugural Session, 20–23 April 2016, Vientiane).Google Scholar
  51. Moglia, M., K. Alexander, M. Thephavanh, P. Thammavong, V. Sodahak, B. Khounsy, S. Vorlasan, S. Larson, J. Connell, and P. Case. 2018. A Bayesian Network model to explore practice change by smallholder rice farmers in Lao PDR. Agricultural Systems 164: 84–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Moser, C.M., and C.B. Barrett. 2002. Labor, liquidity, learning, conformity and smallholder technology adoption: The case of SRI in Madagascar. Cornell University Dept. of Applied Economics and Management. Working Paper. Cornell University. Accessed 15 Mar 2018.
  53. Ndagi, A.H., I.N. Kolo, A.A. Yabagi, and Y. Garba. 2016. Adoption of production technologies by lowland rice farmers in Lavun local government areas of Niger State, Nigeria. International Journal of Agricultural Extension 4: 49–56.Google Scholar
  54. Neill, S.P., and D.R. Lee. 2001. Explaining the adoption and disadoption of sustainable agriculture: The case of cover crops in Northern Honduras. Economic Development and Cultural Change 49: 793–817.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Newby, J., R. Cramb, S. Sakanphet, and S. Mcnamara. 2011. Smallholder teak and agrarian change in Northern Laos. Small-scale Forestry 11: 27–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Nunnally, J. 1978. Psychometric methods. New York: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  57. Ornetsmüller, C., J.C. Castella, and P.H. Verburg. 2018. A multiscale gaming approach to understand farmer’s decision making in the boom of maize cultivation in Laos. Ecology and Society 23: 35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Ovwigho, B.O. 2013. A framework for measuring adoption of innovations: improved cassava varieties in Delta State Nigeria. Extension Farming Systems Journal 9: 171–177.Google Scholar
  59. Padel, S., M. Vaarst, and K. Zaralis. 2015. Supporting innovation in organic agriculture: A European perspective using experience from the SOLID project. Sustainable Agriculture Research 4 (3): 32–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Pannell, D.J., G.R. Marshall, N. Barr, A. Curtis, F. Vanclay, and R. Wilkinson. 2006. Understanding and promoting adoption of conservation practices by rural landholders. Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture 46: 1407–1424.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Pattanayak, S.K., D.E. Mercer, E. Sills, and J.C. Yang. 2003. Taking stock of agroforestry adoption studies. Agroforestry Systems 57: 173–186.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Peter, J.P. 1979. Reliability: A review of psychometric basics and recent marketing practices. Journal of Marketing Research 16: 6–17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Philp, J.N.M., W. Vance, R.W. Bell, T. Chhay, D. Boyd, V. Phimphachanhvongsod, and M.D. Denton. 2019. Forage options to sustainably intensify smallholder farming systems on tropical sandy soils. A review. Agronomy for Sustainable Development 39: 30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. R Core Team. 2013. R: A language and environment for statistical computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing. Vienna, Austria. Accessed 15 May 2018.
  65. Rafferty, A.E., N.L. Jimmieson, and A.A. Armenakis. 2013. Change readiness: A multilevel review. Journal of Management 39: 110–135.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Raworth, K. 2017. Doughnut economics: Seven ways to think like a 21st-century economist. White River Junction, Vermont: Chelsea Green Publishing.Google Scholar
  67. Reimer, A.P., A.W. Thompson, and L.S. Prokopy. 2012. The multi-dimensional nature of environmental attitudes among farmers in Indiana: Implications for conservation adoption. Agriculture and Human Values 29 (2012): 29–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Rogers, E.M. 2003. Diffusion of innovations, 5th ed. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  69. Röling, N. 2009. Pathways for impact: Scientists’ different perspectives on agricultural innovation. International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability 7 (2): 83–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Rosenberg, N. 1976. On technological expectations. The Economic Journal 86: 523–535.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Roth, C., and C. Grunbuhel. 2012. Developing multi-scale adaptation strategies: A case study for farming communities in Cambodia and Laos. Asian Journal of Environment and Disaster Management 4: 425–446.Google Scholar
  72. Sanders, J.H., B.I. Shapiro, and S. Ramaswamy. 1996. The economics of agricultural technology in semi-arid sub-Saharan Africa. The Johns Hopkins Studies in Development. Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  73. Sattler, C., and U.J. Nagel. 2010. Factors affecting farmers’ acceptance of conservation measures—A case study from north-eastern Germany. Land Use Policy 27: 70–77.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Schewe, R.L., and D. Stuart. 2015. Diversity in agricultural technology adoption: How are automatic milking systems used and to what end? Agriculture and Human Values 32 (2015): 199–213.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Scown, M.W., K.J. Winkler, and K.A. Nicholas. 2019. Aligning research with policy and practice for sustainable agricultural land systems in Europe. PNAS 116 (11): 4911–4916.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Smale, M., P.W. Heisey, and H. Leathers. 1995. Maize of the ancestors and modern varieties: The microeconomics of high-yielding variety adoption in Malawi. Economic Development and Cultural Change 43 (2): 351–368.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Struckman, C.K., and F.J. Yammarino. 2003. Organizational change: A categorization scheme and response model with readiness factors. In Research in organizational change and development, ed. R. Woodman, W. Pasmore, and A.B. Shani. Bingley: Emerald Group Publishing Limited.Google Scholar
  78. Stür, W., and G.D. Gray. 2014. Review of rice-based farming systems in mainland Southeast Asia. Working Paper 3. Livestock in smallholder farming systems of mainland Southeast Asia. University of Queensland Australia and International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), Hanoi.Google Scholar
  79. Taylor, M., and S. Bhasme. 2018. Model farmers, extension networks and the politics of agricultural knowledge transfer. Joural of Rural Studies 64 (2018): 1–10.Google Scholar
  80. Tegengne, Y. 2017. Factors affecting adoption of legume technologies and its impact on income of farmers: The Case of Sinana and Ginir Woredas of Bale Zone. MSc in Agriculture (Agricultural Economics) MSc dissertation, Haramaya University, Haramaya.Google Scholar
  81. Theis, S., N. Lefore, R. Meinzen-Dick, and E. Bryan. 2018. What happens after technology adoption? Gendered aspects of smallscale irrigation technologies in Ethiopia, Ghana, and Tanzania. Agriculture and Human Values 35 (2018): 671–684.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Vroom, V. 1965. Motivation in management. New York: American Foundation for Management.Google Scholar
  83. Winkelmann, R. 2008. Poisson regression. Econometric analysis of count data. Berlin: Springer.Google Scholar
  84. World Bank. 2012. Agricultural innovations systems—An Investment source book. The World Bank. Accessed 27 May 2018.

Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kim S. Alexander
    • 1
    Email author
  • Garry Greenhalgh
    • 1
  • Magnus Moglia
    • 2
  • Manithaythip Thephavanh
    • 3
  • Phonevilay Sinavong
    • 3
  • Silva Larson
    • 1
  • Tom Jovanovic
    • 1
  • Peter Case
    • 1
    • 4
  1. 1.College of Business, Law and GovernanceJames Cook University, Townsville CampusTownsvilleAustralia
  2. 2.Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO)Clayton SouthAustralia
  3. 3.National Agricultural and Forestry InstituteVientianeLao PDR
  4. 4.University of the West of England (UWE)BristolUK

Personalised recommendations