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Communicative interventions for collective action in the management of potato late blight: evidence from a framed field game experiment in Ethiopia

Damtew, Elias and Leeuwis, Cees and Struik, Paul C and Cecchi, Francesco and van Mierlo, Barbara and Lie, Rico and Lemaga, Berga and Cieslik, Katarzyna (2021) 'Communicative interventions for collective action in the management of potato late blight: evidence from a framed field game experiment in Ethiopia.', Food security., 13 (2). pp. 255-271.


Potato late blight remains a threat to food security and livelihood of millions of people in Ethiopia. Despite a rapid dispersal of the disease pathogen and farmers’ interdependency in managing it, the literature on agricultural extension and communication tends to frame the disease and its management as a problem of the individual farmer. This study appreciates late blight as a collective action problem whose management requires a corresponding re-configuration in information sharing and communicative practices. We employ a framed field game experiment with a mixed quantitative and qualitative method to explore how and to what extent different types and combinations of communicative interventions affect collective action in the management of the disease among farmers in Ethiopia. Interestingly, our quantitative findings revealed that the provision of technical information about interdependency involved in the management of the disease and social monitoring information about the management practices of other farmers negatively affected collective action. However, collective action performance significantly improved when farmers were given the opportunity to interactively communicate about their management strategies. Further qualitative investigation sheds light on how farmers used and made sense of the different communicative interventions to inform and adjust their individual decisions, coordinate collective strategies, pressure free-riders, and develop a shared identity. It is concluded that interventions that mainly promote the provision of technical and social information can be counterproductive in managing collective action problems such as late blight unless it is complemented with interactive communication and deliberation processes.

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Publisher statement:This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit
Date accepted:30 October 2020
Date deposited:09 May 2022
Date of first online publication:17 November 2020
Date first made open access:09 May 2022

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