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e c o l o g i c a l e n g i n e e r i n g 3 4 ( 2 0 0 8 ) 349–357

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journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/ecoleng

EARTH to farmers: Extension and the adoption of environmental technologies in the humid tropics of Costa Rica Melanie J. Miller ∗ , Matthew J. Mariola, David O. Hansen
113 Ag Admin, 2120 Fyffe Road, Columbus, OH 43210, United States

a r t i c l e
Article history:

i n f o

a b s t r a c t
The diffusion of innovations model has been used by social scientists for decades to understand the adoption of new agricultural technologies, but its applicability to environmental as opposed to commercial technologies has been the source of much debate. The “classic” model’s ability to account for the diffusion of environmental innovations is hampered by its social–psychological roots and voluntarist assumptions. A model more appropriate to the adoption of environmental technologies in a developing country setting should take into account institutional factors, including the mode of interaction between farmers and

Received 6 February 2007 Received in revised form 18 May 2007 Accepted 22 May 2007

Keywords: Adoption Diffusion Environmental technologies Extension Costa Rica

extension agencies. This paper examines patterns of adoption of a set of environmental farm technologies in the humid tropics of Costa Rica, paying particular attention to the role of a local agricultural engineering university’s outreach activities. Our findings indicate that overall patterns of adoption remain low; that farm size is the only structural variable significantly related to adoption; and that of the various extension activities analyzed, farmer attendance at a university meeting or workshop is by far the strongest predictor. © 2007 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.



Within disciplines such as agricultural and ecological engineering, there has been a longstanding interest in designing farm technologies or practices that are more environmentally friendly. Mitsch and Jørgensen state, for example, that one of the two fundamental goals of ecological engineering as both a discipline and a practice is “the development of new sustainable ecosystems that have both human and ecological value” (2003: 365). The use of the word “human” hints at the fact that, once a sustainable technology or practice is developed, the task of disseminating information and inducing its adoption still remains. The issue of adoption has largely been taken up by disciplines other than those which actually develop the tech-

nologies in question. A search of the present journal, for example, turns up only a single article on the diffusion patterns of an ecotechnological innovation (Davison et al., 2006). The social sciences, meanwhile, have developed a large literature on the adoption of innovations over the past half century – indeed for a period of time in the 1950s and 1960s, adoptiondiffusion research dominated the discipline of rural sociology (Fliegel, 1992). Since the 1970s, the adoption-diffusion literature has featured a specific strain focused on the adoption of environmental innovations, usually among farmers. Though a growing body of research investigates this theme in developing countries, the bulk of it has been carried out in North American locations (Rogers, 2003). Yet, some of the most pressing agro-environmental problems are located in the

Corresponding author. E-mail address: miller.3800@osu.edu (M.J. Miller). 0925-8574/$ – see front matter © 2007 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/j.ecoleng.2007.05.009


e c o l o g i c a l e n g i n e e r i n g 3 4 ( 2 0 0 8 ) 349–357

developing world, and particularly in sensitive areas such as the humid tropics. Due to rapid changes in agriculture and land use as well as a substantial rate of rural outmigration, the landscape in the humid tropics has changed radically in the past three decades (Vera,...
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