BEHAVIORAL SCIENCES WORKSHOP
Abstract: Insufficient knowledge of appropriate use can hamper technology adoption. In the agricultural context, if farmers do not observe each others’ inputs, diffusion of both information on the optimal input mix and of the technology itself may be slow. In the context we examine, conditional on using fertilizer, farmers tend to systematically overuse fertilizer on the intensive margin (per treated area), hence, making it on average unprofitable and possibly curbing usage at the extensive margin. This paper reports results from a large-scale field experiment, which introduced a simple and salient tool, a blue measuring spoon, to help farmers remember how much fertilizer to use. A randomly selected subset of farmers received the technology for free, and the remaining farmers can purchase it at fertilizer stores at a nominal price. Farmers who were randomly assigned to receive a measuring spoon subsequently improved knowledge of how much fertilizer to use, and were more likely to use fertilizer. Unlike fertilizer adoption itself, purchase and use of measuring spoons diffused rapidly through social networks.
Frank Schilbach is an assistant professor of economics at MIT, where he teaches behavioral and development economics. He recently graduated with a PhD in economics from Harvard. Frank’s main strand of research considers the impact of poverty and its correlates on cognitive function, decision-making, and productivity. His recent work investigates the role of alcohol consumption, physical pain, depression, and sleep deprivation in the economic lives of low-income workers in India. Frank’s second strand of work investigates knowledge diffusion and technology adoption among small-scale farmers in sub-Saharan Africa.