Food Security

, Volume 10, Issue 4, pp 881–896 | Cite as

Linking system perspectives with user perspectives to identify adoption barriers to food security innovations for smallholder farmers – evidence from rural Tanzania

  • Anett KuntoschEmail author
  • Bettina König
Original Paper


Food insecurity remains a persistent problem, affecting one-third of Tanzania’s population. Mutually reinforcing factors that make the situation more acute include high human population growth combined with the impacts of climate change affecting agricultural productivity. This situation explains why the development and implementation of solutions to improve food security in Tanzania continues to receive substantial attention from scholars, NGOs, practitioners, government and associated bodies. Among researchers and practitioners, innovation is discussed as one possible and widely accepted pathway for improving food security. However, evidence shows that the adoption of innovations that have a potential to improve food security status, such as improved seed, fertilizer, better cooking stoves or mechanization, remains low in Tanzania. To enhance understanding about why innovations are not always successfully adopted, we took an innovation system perspective that included three analytical steps: (1) description of system arrangements on a meso- and macro level, (2) the description of farmers’ motivation for adoption or rejection on a micro-level, and (3) an integration of findings from both levels to identify entry points for purposeful intervention. This paper applied that framework to the empirical examples of two innovations, improved cooking stoves (ICS) and fertilizer micro-dosing (FMD) combined with improved soil and crop management techniques for small-scale subsistence-farmer groups in Tanzania. These interventions were part of the Trans-SEC research project. We show how system constraints, such as hampered communication and interaction across levels, had an impact on the way innovations could be implemented by farmers and how this leads to specific adoption decisions, given conditions of not-knowing or insufficient information. From these two case studies we conclude that most technical based innovations are associated with process aspects (in the case of fertilizer micro-dosing) or social aspects (with stoves).


Multilevel perspective Adoption behavior Innovation processes Smallholder farmers 



We thank the Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF) for funding of the Trans-SEC project. We thank the project team in Tanzania for organization of fieldwork, N. Laizer for translation and I. J. Kalogho and B. Lyamuya for their excellent facilitation of farmer group interviews on-site.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. and International Society for Plant Pathology 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Life Sciences, Department for Horticultural Production and IRI THESysHumboldt-Universität zu BerlinBerlinGermany

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