I recently collaborated will colleagues from WorldFish on a paper now out in Sustainability, which explores social dynamics that shape the diffusion of sustainable aquaculture practices.

Jess and I have been thinking a lot lately about Diffusion of Innovation theory, and how it might be useful to explain the uptake and spread of community-based conservation “innovations”. In this paper, we draw on diffusion of innovation theory to explore factors that influence the uptake of small-scale aquaculture in Solomon Islands. In future research, I hope to use the same ideas to explore factors that influence local preferences for different fisheries management practices employed within locally managed marine areas.

The innovation-decision process and the influence of various communication channels
A meal of Mozambique tilapia, cabbage and potato with coconut milk, Taflankwasa village, Malaita Province, Solomon Islands. Photo by Filip Milovac / WorldFish

Abstract: Sustainably feeding the world’s growing population represents one of our most significant challenges. Aquaculture is well positioned to make contributions towards this challenge. Yet, the translation of aquaculture production innovations into benefits for rural communities is constrained by a limited understanding of the social dynamics that influence the adoption of new agricultural practices. In this paper, we investigate the factors that shape the spread of small-scale tilapia aquaculture through rural Solomon Islands. Based on diffusion of innovation theory, we focus on three potentially influential factors: (i) socio-economic characteristics of adopters; (ii) the role of opinion leaders; and (iii) characteristics of the innovation. We find that farmers who were wealthier, older, and had more diverse livelihoods were most likely to be adopters. Opinion leaders facilitated the adoption of tilapia aquaculture, but lacked the capacity to provide fundamental knowledge necessary to realize its potential benefits to food security. The paper argues for more explicit attention to the poorest households and makes the case for a deeper engagement with the broader social and institutional contexts that shape the adoption process. Aquaculture interventions that account for these social dynamics are critical for translating production innovations into sustainable benefits to rural communities.

Blythe, J., Sulu, R., Harohau, D., Weeks, R., Schwarz, A., Mills, D., & Phillips, M. (2017) Social dynamics shaping the diffusion of aquaculture innovations. Sustainability 9 (1), 126.

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