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PREDICTING UPTAKE OF AQUACULTURE TECHNOLOGIES AMONG SMALLHOLDER FISH FARMERS IN KENYA

In Africa, many governments and development agencies have promoted aquaculture as a panacea for household food security, rural development, and poverty reduction. However, aquaculture production in the continent remains low despite significant investments in research and technology development. While numerous initiatives have been directed at technological innovation and transfer, their present scale of uptake is very slow and therefore inadequate to achieve transformational change envisaged in the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development.

To facilitate learning and uptake of technologies and good practices by farmers, a range of aquaculture-related extension and communication materials, including posters, hard copy information leaflets and brochures of recipes in appropriate languages, short video presentations, and radio features, should be commissioned to support the smallholder farmers.

The rapid growth of the aquaculture industry has been enabled through the expansion of aquaculture production areas, intensification of production systems, adoption of new technologies, and systematic improvement of existing technologies that brought control over husbandry and production processes . Aquaculture offers great scope for technical innovation to further increase animal protein supply and resource efficiency (Waite et al. 2014). In the past 5 decades, technological advances in production and breeding systems, feeds and nutrition technology, vaccines, species and strain selection, reproductive control, mechanical aeration, and water exchange and non-technological innovations including improved regulatory frameworks, market, and certification standards, among others, have enabled the growth of aquaculture sector. Recent studies indicate that investments in new production systems, management practices, and new products result in substantial benefits to producers and consumers. However, there is still incoherent understanding of technological change in aquaculture development in Africa.

Although Africa has the fastest growing aquaculture industry with high biophysical potential, the sector has not yet significantly contributed to sustainable food supplies and economic development. Aquaculture accounted for 17% of total fish production in Africa, while contributing a paltry 2.5% to global production. Like the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa, aquaculture development in East Africa is constrained by lack of goodquality seed and feed, low technical capacity, poor market and value addition, inadequate extension services and materials, poor management of culture systems, low capacity in disease diagnostics and biosecurity, and increasing competition from cheaper imported fish products.

While new technologies and innovations are being developed to ensure high-quality and consistent supply of farmed fish to the markets, the impact and scalability of uptake is very slow and inadequate to achieve transformational change envisaged in the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development. In recent years, several studies have identified multiple factors that influence aquaculture technology adoption. However, Glover et al. (2016, p. 5) succinctly noted that “the technology adoption literature provides little insights into the scale or impacts of technological change in African agriculture, let alone the dynamics of these processes.” Furthermore, the literature on the livelihood impacts of aquaculture technology adoption, especially in the context of smallholder households, is limited. In this study, we aimed to

(1) analyze the factors that influence fish farmer’s perceptions, attitudes, and behaviors toward aquaculture technology adoption and

(2) determine the impacts of technology adoption on farmer’s livelihoods.

We grouped aquaculture technologies into five categories representing sustainable intensification, namely (a) culture systems, (b) fish breeding and genetics, (c) feeds and fish nutrition, (d) fish health and disease control, and (e) value addition techniques, post-harvest management, and marketing.

Analytical framework for technology adoption

In the agricultural sector, theoretical and practical approaches to promote adoption of new farming practices have been intensively studied. The adoption literature record attempts to organize and classify the factors influencing technology adoption and diffusion of agricultural practices. Traditionally, theories dealing with decision-making processes have highlighted the role of extrinsic variables grouped into three categories: characteristics of the farmer, characteristics of the external environment, and characteristics of the innovation.

For the aquaculture sector, numerous empirical studies  and a recent review by Kumar et al. (2018) identified several factors driving aquaculture technology adoption. Though not exhaustive, Kumar et al. (2018) identified five broad categories:

(a) source of information,

(b) characteristics of the technology,

(c) economic factors,

(d) farm characteristics,

(e) sociodemographic and institutional factors.

However, there are still relatively few attempts to make predictions about adoption outcomes using these factors. Moreover, only a few studies have analyzed the factors influencing fish farmer’s perceptions, attitudes, and behavior. In this study, we present and apply a modified analytical framework, showing the linkages and interaction between extrinsic variables and intrinsic variables in the decision-making process of technology adoption (Fig. 1).

Experts from diverse disciplines and backgrounds have paid close attention to the internal decision-making process that looks beyond the mere characteristics of farmer, environment, and technologies by including psychological and motivational factors in technology uptake. For example, Davis (1989) proposed the Technology Acceptance Model (TAM) as a causal model whereby user acceptance and usage of technologies is determined by two key attitudinal components or beliefs, i.e., the perceived usefulness (PU) and perceived ease of use (PEOU) of the technology. Perceived usefulness of a technology reflects the benefits a person believes that technology can bring to improving their work performance, whereas perceived ease of use reflects the effort required to adopt and use the technology. McDonald et al. (2016) demonstrated the substantial importance of both indicators to technology adoption decisions and proposed that future research, extension, and education programs should focus on the benefits and usability of key technologies and evaluate their scientific merit. The choice of intrinsic variables was guided by questions used in previous studies to determine perceived usefulness (PU) and ease of use of agricultural technologies.

Source : Predicting uptake of aquaculture technologies among smallholder fish farmers in Kenya. Aquaculture International, v. 27, p. 1689-1707, 2019.

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