Forget opinion leaders: the role of social network brokers in the adoption of innovative farming practices in North-western Cambodia


It has become accepted that social networks influence farmers’ decisions and agricultural development programs routinely support influential farmers in an effort to disseminate recommended practices through their social networks. We have interviewed (1) 120 heads of farming households in one village in North-western Cambodia about their networks and practices; and (2) representatives of organizations managing agricultural development programs in the region. We have constructed an information-sharing network of the village and computed network centrality measures of each farmer in the village indicating their access to information from peers, opinion leadership, brokerage, and the redundancy among their contacts. We have analysed the relation of farmers’ networks and their practices. While the number of links farmers’ had in the community was mainly unrelated with their adoption decisions, the structure of these links mattered. Farmers who were perceived as influential were not necessarily inclined towards recommended practices. In contrast, farmers who had fewer contacts but were in brokerage positions on main channels of information flows between different groups displayed more progressive practices. The results suggest some limitations of excessive reliance on perceived influential farmers in agricultural programs and highlight the role that network brokers play in adoption of innovative farming practices.

Potential Industry Impact
  • Community and stakeholder engagement based on social network mapping.
  • Most central community members are not necessarily the most suitable ones to engage in development projects.
Academic Impact
  • Adds nuance on how various types of social network centrality contribute to diffusion of innovations.
  • Questions traditional network conceptualizations of opinion leadership.


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