Interaction patterns determining improved information and knowledge sharing among smallholder farmers

T Mashavave, P Mapfumo, F Mtambanengwe, T Gwandu, & S Siziba*

Limited access to timely and adequate information has been identified as a major hindrance
to smallholder agriculture in most parts of sub-Saharan Africa. This has negatively affected
the socio-economic welfare of smallholder farmers, resulting in high numbers of food insecure households. This paper explores the potential value of social interactions between smallholder farmers in improving integrated soil fertility management (ISFM) information and knowledge access and sharing, in the context of field-based learning alliances. With a particular focus on understanding the structural layout of the smallholder social network, the study quantified the connectedness of smallholder farmers along an innovation learning cycle. The study revealed that smallholder farmers within learning alliances had a denser network structure of social interactions. The magnitude of communication efficiency was generally higher for learning alliance participants than non-participants. Field-based learning alliances facilitated improved social interactions, subsequently shortening the innovation dissemination horizon and hence increasing the likelihood of ISFM adoption.