Do translocal networks matter for agricultural innovation? A case study on advice sharing in small-scale farming communities in Northeast Thailand

Till Rockenbauch / Patrick Sakdapolrak / Harald Sterly

In: Agriculture and Human Values


Recent research on agricultural innovation has outlined social networks' role in diffusing agricultural knowledge; however, so far, it has broadly neglected the socio-spatial dimensions of innovation processes. Against this backdrop, we apply a spatially explicit translocal network perspective in order to investigate the role of migration-related translocal networks for adaptive change in a small-scale farming community in Northeast Thailand. By means of formal social network analysis we map the socio-spatial patterns of advice sharing regarding changes in sugarcane and rice farming over a period of five years. We find that, in translocally connected and mobile rural communities, a substantial share of advice originates from translocal levels. Translocal advice is dominantly provided through weak and formal ties with extension agencies and shared by few highly central larger-scale farmers within sparse local networks. This draws the picture of top-down translocal innovation flows driven by extension agencies and brokered through elite farmers. A closer look on institutional context and key actors of particular changes, however, suggests the potential of migration-related translocal networks and migration experience in fostering bottom-up innovations. Migration-related innovations transfers can promote adaptive capacity also among less favorably connected actors, especially if changes are geared towards limited household resources and are compatible with social practices of small-scale farming. We conclude that a translocal network perspective is instructive for research and extension interested in leveraging more inclusive agricultural innovation.