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4 Secrets to ICTforAg Social and Behavior Change Communication

By Guest Writer on July 25, 2016


Most ICTforAg projects have specific behavior change goals. For example, the goal may be for farmers to change their practices to improve soil quality. Or for farmers to adopt a new ICT technology to understand weather patterns. How do you ensure this new behavior change will be successfully adopted?

At the ICTforAg conference, The Secrets to Social and Behavior Change Communications session focused on integrating social and behavior change communications into ICTforAg project design to help to ensure successful project outcomes. The session presenters included:

Here are my key takeways from the session – basically how we can include social and behaviour change communication (SBCC) in our ICTforAg programs.

1. Move from Outcome-Driven to Hybrid, Participatory Approaches

Mark Leclair with Farm Radio International (FRI) explained that communications staff often don’t know how to implement behavior change projects because they focus on the Sender/Receiver approach. He shared different types of communications for development approaches , including:

  • Outcome Driven: Top down, expert-led, known outcomes, fixed messages
  • Participatory: Citizen-led, open-ended, messages emerge, process focused
  • Hybrid: Blends both approaches, participatory methods, clear outcomes, multi-stakeholder collaborative approach

He recommended using a hybrid, participatory approach, which ensures that stakeholders are actively involved in shaping the project. He also discussed the multi-channel, multi-modal approach, which “reaches citizens with mutually reinforcing messages across diverse mediums.”

Mark shared the following examples of how Farm Radio International used the hybrid, multi-channel, and multi-modal approaches for specific campaigns.

2. Demonstrate Success, Promote Using Mass Media and Encourage Others to Follow

Aaron Sundsmo with PLAN International shared some great examples from Ethiopia, Tanzania and Zambia where they partnered with ACDI/VOCA to implement projects focusing on integrated value chain programming including use of ICT enabled SBCC interventions.

  • In Tanzania, they used drones in addition to radio and mobile phone interventions to show small scale farmers new perspectives on use of new farming technologies.
  • Additionally, they utilized time lapse videos for a full growing season to see how good agricultural practices affected crop yields compared to traditional practices on the same plot of land.
  • In Zambia, they created demonstration plots and intensive radio promotion, and these resulted in the highest adoption rate from farmers in that area.

Aaron explained that farmers didn’t always initially believe the effectiveness of the good agricultural practices, but they were often willing to try them in a limited way.

3. Use Participatory Approach to Equalize Power Dynamics

Shadi Azadegan with the International Center for Tropical Agriculture talked about using participatory video for creating a dialogue among researchers and community members in Nicaragua.

The project participants learned how to use video equipment, access information in their surroundings, structure a story and put together a film that would give marginalized groups a voice while helping to explain the projects in an accessible way.

Shadi explained that participatory video can be integrated into a variety of project frameworks in order to equalize power dynamics between researchers and communities. It also helps to better inform project design and implementation. Participatory video can empower communities to be active partners throughout the development process.

4. Focus on Interactivity: Don’t Tell Me, Show Me

Melissa Persaud with VOTO Mobile spoke about an agricultural extension project in Ghana, where they push out content, such as weather information, directly to farmers and include regular opportunities for participants to provide feedback.

Working with local agricultural extension experts, VOTO adapts content for interactive voice response (IVR). Over 95% of participating farmers selected IVR as their preferred communication channel because of how localized, easy to consume, and interactive the content and experience can be, in comparison to SMS.

The first phase of this project has inspired new features, including exploring ways to integrate user generated content into the curriculum to encourage peer learning and exchanges. Melissa emphasized the importance of testing content and integrating interactivity in order to make Behavior Change Communications projects successful.


By Roshani Kothari, Communications & Development Director at D-tree International

Filed Under: Agriculture
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