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Facilitated Video is the Most Effective Agricultural Teaching Tool

By Guest Writer on June 10, 2015

Traditional agricultural extension methods rely on highly trained experts who go out into the field to interact directly with farmers. Given the nearly 700 million Indians who live in rural areas, most of whom rely on agriculture as their primary source of income, the barriers to extension on a large scale are huge: there is not sufficient human capital available, farmers grow a variety of crops, they may not speak the same language as the mediator, and an inadequate transportation infra- structure can make it difficult for extension agents to reach the rural communities.

Digital Green was conceived as a way to extend the reach of extension systems. We identified video as a primary tool for communicating with farmers, based on a rigorous testing process that compared cost and adoption rates when farmers were trained by experienced extension agents, viewed informational posters, listened to radio programs, watched training videos with a facilitator to mediate the experience, and watched videos without a facilitator.

digital-green

We found that facilitated video viewing can spur farmers to adopt new agricultural practices for about one-tenth of the cost of traditional extension systems.

We believe that much of the success of facilitated video stems from its ability to demonstrate localization. Farmers featured in the videos are usually from the same district as the viewers, and because the videos are shot in the farmers’ own fields, the viewers can compare the conditions in the videos to those in their own fields. This builds trust in the information shared.

The videos leverage homophily, which is the human tendency to trust, associate, and bond with those who are similar to us. Farmers participating in the Digital Green approach report that viewing a practice on a video while being told about it by a facilitator boosts their recall, which improves the effectiveness of video in inspiring changes in rural behavior.

To build even deeper confidence, the facilitators, who typically live in the same village as the farmers viewing the video, are on hand to ensure that viewers understand the processes being demonstrated. These facilitators are a key element of the Digital Green approach, and they often vouch for the local applicability of the practices taught in the videos. Their similarity to the people viewing the videos also means that they are considered trustworthy.

Equally importantly, they provide structure to the video screening process, which promotes engagement and learning. They ensure that all participants are present and engaged, and before starting a video, they pause through- out the screening process to ask questions, which helps to ensure that the participating farmers are grasping the information. Facilitators also help link farmers with necessary inputs (such as seeds and fertilizers) or provide information about markets.

A passage from “Digital Green A Rural Video-Based Social Network for Farmer Training,” by Kerry Harwin and Rikin Gandhi

Filed Under: Agriculture
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