Sustainably feeding the world’s growing population represents one of our most significant challenges. Aquaculture is well positioned to make contributions towards this challenge. Yet, the translation of aquaculture production innovations into benefits for rural communities is constrained by a limited understanding of the social dynamics that influence the adoption of new agricultural practices. In this paper, we investigate the factors that shape the spread of small-scale tilapia aquaculture through rural Solomon Islands. Based on diffusion of innovation theory, we focus on three potentially influential factors: (i) socio-economic characteristics of adopters; (ii) the role of opinion leaders; and (iii) characteristics of the innovation. We find that farmers who were wealthier, older, and had more diverse livelihoods were most likely to be adopters. Opinion leaders facilitated the adoption of tilapia aquaculture, but lacked the capacity to provide fundamental knowledge necessary to realize its potential benefits to food security. The paper argues for more explicit attention to the poorest households and makes the case for a deeper engagement with the broader social and institutional contexts that shape the adoption process. Aquaculture interventions that account for these social dynamics are critical for translating production innovations into sustainable benefits to rural communities.
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