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Scaling Biochar

Energy & Environment Kenya

As a means of sequestering carbon in soil at negative cost while increasing crop yields, biochar (charred biomass applied to soil) has generated significant interest. This project explores how social learning can mediate technology diffusion by exploiting an experiment on the dissemination of biochar. The study found that 1) social networks transmit information about the average benefits and risks of adoption, and 2) observed variability inhibits uptake more than positive results spur it. This relationship is paradoxically stronger among networks that do not discuss farming. This is because farmers constrain spreading information of their own potential outcomes after observing factors associated with outcomes in their networks. Researchers conclude that social learning is characterized by sophisticated decision-makers rather than simple herding based on observations.

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