To address systemic malnutrition, food insecurity, and a need to manage natural resources sustainably, within the context of an agricultural economy, the Ethiopian government has invested more than 15 percent of the national development budget in agriculture programs as part of the Agriculture Development Led Industrialization (ADLI) plan (MARD 2010; Berhanu and Poulton 2014). This article explores one such program – row planting of Eragrostis tef (tef). Tef is an important staple crop, with critical nutrient content for child growth and development (Stallknecht et al. 1993). Despite the use of demonstration plots and input packages, adoption of tef row planting in the study region, South Wollo, is minimal. This article uses a political ecology framework to provide historical context to this issue of non-adoption, as well as a much-needed critique of current innovation programs from the point of view of those most marginalized by modernization efforts. Using a mixed methods approach, this study found farmers’ relationship with the agricultural knowledge and information system was built on uneven power relationships, and coercion was often used to elicit farmers’ purchase of the necessary inputs to utilize row planting, increasing farmers’ distrust in the system. Additionally, high-interest loans and a perceived negative impact of fertilizer on tef plants contributed to further distrust and conflict of interest for extension agents. This uneven power structure and coercion has contributed to farmers’ gradual shift from cereal production to a cash crop-based production system.

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