How do you educate illiterate subsistence farmers in rural India about improving their methods so that they can raise their standard of living? Or teach a new mother in a remote village in Niger about maternal infant and young child nutrition so that her young family can thrive? You create local video stars.

Like a village version of YouTube, Digital Green does just that. This international not-for-profit uses a unique model for its outreach in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. They work with other organizations in the field to help people create digital video content in agriculture, health, nutrition and improving livelihoods to share success stories and best practices across communities.

The videos are produced by local people, for local people so that culture, language and geography are incorporated. This gives communities a voice to determine what is important to them and makes the finished content highly relevant and relateable.

HOW IT WORKS

Digital green rice paddy

Digital Green works with other NGOs on the ground to identify 4-6 people in a district to train in producing videos. Along with the NGO, the production team identifies peers to be in front of the camera to share their knowledge. These video “stars” are excited to be in the video and to be shown as a role model. Having members of their own community behind the camera helps to put them at ease.

The clips are usually 8 to 10 minutes long and are on topics that are most relevant to communities in a district. These are uploaded to the Digital Green video database which can be accessed through a YouTube-like interface where they can be searched and filtered by topic, region, and language. They can also be viewed offline, which is key for areas without an Internet connection or with limited electricity. Digital Green has also developed VideoKheti, an interface with audio descriptions in Hindi or English to help those who are illiterate find relevant information.

digital Green wiht projectorSupplied with a battery powered mobile projector, village leaders bring together people in the community twice a week to watch the videos together. The ability to pause, rewind and fast-forward video helps facilitate discussion, in much the same way that Khan Academy videos have found their way into classrooms. The video content then extends beyond simply watching a clip in isolation and becomes a way to participate in learning. It is this human interaction that is crucial for adoption of principles over whole communities.

Digital Green has made a point to target women as participants at all points in the process. There is special attention paid to ensuring that topics relating to crops grown by women are included in the content, as well as having women in front of the camera, behind the camera and leading community sessions as facilitators.

Digital Green Women's Group

THE RESULTS

The session facilitators collect feedback for Digital Green who also track the adoption rate of the lessons and their effect over time on the community. They have also made their analytics for attendance, views and other metrics openly available here.

The journal of Information Technologies and International Development (ITID) published the results of a Digital Green trial:

In a 13-month trial involving 16 villages (eight control and eight experimental villages balanced for parameters such as size and mix of crops) and a total of 1,470 households, Digital Green increased the adoption of certain agriculture practices seven-fold over a classic Training and Visit-based (T&V) extension approach¹. On a cost-per-adoption basis, Digital Green was shown to be 10 times more effective per dollar spent than a classical extension system.

¹Agricultural extension is the application of scientific research and new knowledge to agricultural practices through farmer education.

Digital Green collaborates with more than 20 NGOs in India, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Ghana, Niger and Tanzania to extend outreach to communities with video. Their database now hosts more than 330 video series with multiple videos in each. Some of collections have hundreds of thousands of views.

digital green video libraryIn addition, Digital Green have built a series of open source tools to help gather data and disseminate information that include a social network for farmers, an intuitive video search engine, and a game.

Their approach has been very successful in cost-effectively extending the reach of programs across regions. The Indian Ministry of Rural Development has adopted Digital Green “because it turns out farmers prefer advice from faces they recognise.”

Rather than dictating to communities what they should need, Digital Green has built a method that reaches people in their own language and in their own environments, making outreach contextually relevant and highly effective.

As Next 3B embarks on its first projects, we also hold this as a guiding principle. We included Digital Green videos in the Oriya language as part of our starter content for our recent workshop in Odisha State, India. The video content was so well received, that we’ve partnered with Digital Green for the rest of our Odisha pilot project.

Read more about our Odisha workshop and sign up for email updates so you never miss another post.

All images from DigitalGreen.org and The Digital Green Story.