As an alternative to more conventional training whereby only scientific knowledge is valorised, over the past ten years, farmer–to-farmer video has been developed as a new method. The videos have effectively increased the capacity of the rural poor to innovate through enhanced skills and knowledge. In a context where the majority of people living in developing countries rely on small-scale agriculture, and continually have to develop different ways to overcome obstacles such as droughts or lack of access to capital and markets, farmer-to-farmer videos have helped farmers to teach and learn from each other through the creation of networks enabling the exchange of information and resources. While face-to-face education is costly and unattainable for most rural people, video has proven to be an efficient way to democratise knowledge while engaging farmers with the evolving market, whether they are literate or not.
With gender inequality and with the fact that the staff of agricultural advisory services is male dominated, farmer- to-farmer videos have benefitted women, who more often than men, lack access to education, skills and productive resources like land and capital. In this context, the videos have improved women's ability to innovate and 'become rural entrepreneurs' by enabling them to gain knowledge and experiment. For instance, in Bangladesh, where women are highly dependant on small-scale agriculture, videos on sustainable rice seed management have improved women's skills along with their social and economic status and intra-household decision making, which in turn has led to a 15% rice yield increase (Chowdhury, A.H., Van Mele, P. and Hauser, M. 2011. Contribution of farmer-to-farmer video to capital assets building: Evidence from Bangladesh. Journal of Sustainable Agriculture, 35(4), 408–435.).
In Benin, a survey showed that a public video screening on rice parboiling reached 74% of the village women, while the conventional training only reached 27%. The video helped local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to improve their training methods and strengthened their relations with rural communities and between the women rice processors and input and output markets. Rice producers who attended the open-air video shows at the same time as the women rice processors became more willing to sell them rice on credit (Zossou, E., Van Mele, P., Vodouhe, S.D. and Wanvoeke, J. 2010. Women groups formed in response to public video screenings on rice processing in Benin. International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability, 8(4), 271-278.).
Farmer–to-farmer videos also echo a recent trend in development studies and policy making which has seen a shift of focus from top-down approaches to participatory mechanisms that aim at involving communities while achieving a more equitable development. During the video production, empowered farmers are involved from the very beginning in a structured and well-researched approach. Their innovations and insights on what matters most according to their specific socio-cultural context is incorporated. At the same time discovery learning principles are adhered to, just like in farmer field schools. This method has proven to be efficient in stimulating farmers to learn, discuss and experiment towards finding local solutions (Van Mele, P. 2010. Zooming-in, zooming-out: Farmer education videos: Are we getting it right? Rural Development News, Vol 1/2010, 23-26).
Farmer-to-farmer videos made according to the zooming-in, zooming-out approach have also been shown to be of interest to a wide range of service providers. The Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice) shared the videos to about 200 organizations across Africa, who in turn shared them with another 800 organizations, including radio stations and farmer organizations. Well-made videos also more easily can cross borders and cultures. For example, in Nigeria, farmers have never complained about a video showing Bangladeshi rice farmers demonstrate their innovative practices and the educational video shown has proven successful (Van Mele, P., Wanvoeke, J., Akakpo, C., Dacko, R.M., Ceesay, M., Béavogui, L. and Anyang, R. 2010. Videos bridging Asia and Africa: Overcoming cultural and institutional barriers in technology-mediated rural learning. The Journal of Agricultural Education and Extension, 16(1), 75-87).
Yet, while offering several benefits, there is a shortage of quality farmer–to-farmer videos. Both video-sharing mechanisms (web-based and video discs) and networking are equally needed. The on-going survey helps in mapping existing initiatives of video use, with the ultimate aim of supporting organizations with an interest into using and producing farmer-to-farmer videos. Have your say by responding to the following survey, by following the link in either English, French or Spanish. A summary of the findings will be made available in the future.
Join the survey
Please be informed that the Global Forum for Rural Advisory Services (GFRAS), the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative (SAI) Platform and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) have asked Agro-Insight to implement the following study:
How can agricultural videos and a web-based platform to share videos contribute to better service provision and knowledge building among the rural poor across the globe?
Your answers will help us to map existing initiatives, video use and future directions. We would appreciate if you could spare five minutes to fill out and return this short questionnaire in either English, French or Spanish.
Text: Geneviève Lavoie-Mathieu