As the important participants and decision makers in agricultural production, smallholders play a crucial role in food production. Smallholders’ low level of technology awareness and capacity leads to problems such as the insufficient technology adoption. Coupled with their poor risk tolerance and lack of trust in new technologies, makes them lack of the motivation to actively adopt green production technologies, which seriously hinders the green transformation of agriculture. What should be done to promote smallholders’adoption of green production technologies proactively? The existence of multiple socialized services and agricultural technology diffusion systems offers the possibility for this.
Existing production agriculture extension is divided into two distinct approaches: top-down and bottom-up modes. The former emphasizes scientists innovate technologies in laboratory and instill them into smallholders through organizations such as agricultural technology extension service centers (ATESC). This mode ignores smallholders’ motivation, and trust issues arising from the uneven quality of services became a crucial barrier to technology diffusion. The latter mode is mainly based on smallholders’ production technologies demand and socialized services, through participatory technological innovation, resulting in localized technologies and diffusion. However, because this approach requires high time and place for scientists and smallholders to learn together, it is less controllable and runs the risk of being a formality. We believe that an intimate partnership with smallholders is needed, while empowering them through zero-distance socialized services and stimulating their willingness to actively adopt green production technologies, to form a long-term mechanism for sustainable green production. A good example of this is the Science and Technology Backyard (STB) founded by the team of Prof. Fusuo Zhang of China Agricultural University. The teachers and graduate students of the STB are permanently rooted in the front line of rural production, forming a typical bottom-up approach to technological innovation through continuous interaction, learning and co-innovation with smallholders. This mode solves the problem of adaptive technological innovation and effectively promotes the application of green production technologies at different scale scales, but how to gradually realize the diffusion of technological innovation from the pilot areas to the regional level, is still unclear.
Therefore, the authors take the Wangzhuang STB in Quzhou, Hebei, China, as the research object, and explore how STB empower smallholders through participatory technology innovation and build their continuous trust through a socialized services mode with multi-entity participation, and promote the technology of participatory innovation in a collaborative, tree-shaped and jump-start diffusion modes promotes the diffusion of participatory technology innovation to different scales, such as farmers, villages and counties. This kind of technology diffusion based on STB empowers smallholders through zero-distance socialized services, and effectively solves the problem from technology innovation at the point to technology diffusion in the region, which is a highly applicable and practical technology innovation and diffusion mode and an effective way to promote the sustainable adoption of green production technologies by smallholders.