Journal Article

Under What Circumstances and Conditions Does Adoption of Technology Result in Increased Agricultural Productivity? A Systematic Review

Published on 27 November 2013

New technology that enables sustainable and profitable production of food and fibre is critical for both food security and economic development. Whether framed in terms of modernisation, productivity enhancement, poverty reduction, social protection, environmental protection or adaptation to climate change, technical change is at the heart of most agricultural policy, programmes and projects. From a development perspective, a nagging question is why the benefits of new agricultural technology often appear to by-pass poorer farmers – even when they are the ‘target’ group.

Our review focuses on technology for food crop production in low and lower middle income countries (LLMIC) and the productivity gains farmers achieve when adopting them. It is also concerned with other impacts, positive and negative, that may accrue, for example with respect to health, food security or environmental services. Both individually and collectively managed technologies are considered.

This review is directed to an audience of policy-makers and practitioners in the agricultural research area and to development studies academics. It has two main objectives:

  • Providing policy makers and practitioners a more realistic understanding of the outcomes that can be expected from technological change as well as of the opportunities to shape the innovation environment so as to favour a productive agriculture supporting broad-based livelihoods;
  • Informing the academic community on key gaps in evidence and on the evolution of theory and its drivers in this field.

This appears to be the first systematic review of the conditions and circumstances under which productivity gains are achieved from the adoption of agricultural technology, either globally or by region.


James Sumberg

Emeritus Fellow

Stephen Whitfield

DPhil Student

Publication details

published by
Loevinsohn, M., Sumberg, J., Diagne, A. and Whitfield, S.


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