The role of informal social networks in agroforestry adoption and managementwca2014-1706 Marney E. Isaac 1,* 1University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada
The diffusion of information on agroforestry management practices may rely heavily on social relationships and informal networks in the farming community. The structure of these networks can play a key role in advancing, or limiting, the adoption of agroforestry techniques. Of particular interest are the emergent networks in regions with weak institutional support but high technical necessity, such as the economically vital cocoa belt of West Africa. I draw on findings from a range of complementary but independent studies over the last five years in Ghana, and new data, to chart the role of social networks in agroforestry management. Producer-to-producer ties illustrated agrarian information networks where features of an individuals network correlated strongly to agrobiodiversity (tree and crop species richness) as an estimate of agroforestry adoption. Pooled data showed a negative relationship between the density of ties in an individuals network and the number of reported species, suggesting that adding ties between community members did not forecast adoption of agroforestry. With increasing ties, information may become redundant or even conflicting, therefore I conducted a subsequent study that examined the role of other players in the agricultural landscape. Results demonstrate the significant position of local agriculture institutions on reshaping local networks and the role of migrant farmers as agroforestry information brokers between socially and geographically distant groups. More recently, we ask: do distinct agroforestry information network topologies coincide with predictable patterns of land use? Findings show that diverse, but not necessarily more, network ties correlate to land diversification and the emergence of agroforestry land use. Taking a social networks approach to elucidate the flow and coordination of information on suitable but innovative agroforestry management enables strategies for i) ecological resiliency of the cocoa sector, which is key to rural livelihoods in the region, and ultimately ii) appropriate adoption of agroforestry.