Selective attention and information loss in the lab-to-farm knowledge chain: The case of Malawian agricultural extension programs

In this paper, we assess information efficiency along the knowledge transmission chain from researchers to agricultural extension agents (EAs) to lead farmers (LFs) to other farmers. By asking the same set of questions about a fairly well known technology, pit planting, we construct a measure of knowledge at each node of the knowledge transmission chain. Evidence shows that the majority of information loss happens at the researcher-to-EA link and the EA-to-LF link, and that the loss is potentially caused by teaching failures or by selective attention and learning among both the EAs and the LFs concerning all important details of the technology. Results highlight the need for greater emphasis during training and learning on key dimensions of technology packages that are commonly ignored.