Continuing Education Article Assessing Probable Success: Applying Rogers' "Diffusion of Innovations" Theory to Agroforestry MIRZA B. BAIG1, GARY S. STRAQUADINE†, MICHAEL R. WHITEMAN‡ AND M. AZHAR NAEEM¶ University of Guelph, Canada, current address: Allama Iqbal Open University, Islamabad, Pakistan †Utah State University, UMC– 1435, Logan Utah, USA, ‡University of Idaho, Moscow, Idaho–83844, USA ¶University of Arid Agriculture, Rawalpindi, Pakistan 1 Corresponding author’s e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
"Diffusion of Innovations," E.M. Rogers' theory on the process of adoption of new ideas and technology, has served as a basis of successful extension strategies in agricultural development for many years. This paper discusses this theory and applies it to agroforestry as an innovation. This application provides insights into agroforestry extension strategies and approaches. Key Words: Diffusion of Innovations; E.M. Rogers; Agroforestry; Extension
Changes to improve the quality of lives among rural populations have long been the concern and goal of extension efforts around the world. Improved technologies, more efficient and effective methods of production practices are just a few of the innovations that extensionists have promoted in rural areas to enhance standards of living in developing countries (Van den Ban & Hawkins, 1996; Marsh & Pannell, 1998; Temu et al., 2003). An ever present concern of extensionists is finding strategies that encourage adoption of innovations. This paper discusses one theory of adoption of innovations, how this theory is applied to development of extension strategies and how it can be used in agroforestry extension efforts. Adoption/Diffusion theory. The adoption of innovations, such as growing trees with traditional crops or grazing land, has been the subject of extensive study to determine how and why populations accept new or different ideas or technologies. Perhaps the most influential and widely applied theory is E.M. Rogers' "Diffusion of Innovations". Rogers' theory focuses upon the communications aspects of innovation adoption and views the adoption process as being composed of three parts: Invention. The process by which new ideas are created or developed; Diffusion. The process by which ideas are communicated to the members of a given social system and Consequences. The changes that occur within the social system as a result of the adoption or rejection (Rogers & Shoemaker, 1971; Rogers, 1983). The second part, diffusion, is of particular interest in the context of this discussion. Several authors like Rogers and Shoemaker (1971), Rogers (1983), Burch (1984, 1994), Lamble and Seaman (1994) define the significant elements in Rogers’s process in
the diffusion stage as being: The change agent. The resource professionals seeking to implement the policies--encourage adoption of agroforestry schemes; The innovation. The change being recommended for adoption-- in our discussion, agroforestry schemes; The means of innovation dissemination. The methods and approaches used in informing local populations of possible agroforestry systems; The opinion leader. An individual in the adopter community whose judgment is trusted and whose opinions are often sought, and; The adopters. Those members of society who adopt or reject the innovation at varying rates. According to Rogers (1983) the interaction of each of the preceding elements determines the rate of adoption. Therefore, it is critical to examine the characteristics of these elements to determine what factors or combinations of factors will be the goal in attempting to encourage innovation adoption through extension efforts. Most of the research on diffusion to date concentrates on the characteristics of potential adopters (Burch, 1984, 1994; Lamble & Seaman, 1994; Whiteman, 1995). Rogers classifies adopters into five...