International Studies & Programs

Information and Communication Technologies for Development

The purpose of this GCFSI center-led project is to test the effectiveness of a promising technology to bring new agricultural practices and techniques to farmers in climate-vulnerable regions through participatory videos that use local participants in all facets of the production process, ensuring culturally relevant content in the local language.


Project Team: Charles Steinfield, Jennifer Olson, Tian Cai, and Tara Mock
Project Partners: International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and Farm Input Promotions Africa (FIPS-Africa)

Kirk_Mason_Shoot_2.jpg

Purpose

The purpose of the project is to test the effectiveness of a promising technology to bring new agricultural practices and techniques to farmers in climate-vulnerable regions. Participatory videos integrate community members in all facets of the production process, ensuring culturally relevant content in the local language. In many areas of Sub-Saharan Africa, maize farmers are struggling in the face of shorter and less predictable rainy seasons and higher temperatures, among many other challenges. To address this problem, research centers have developed new maize varieties that exhibit drought tolerance (DT) and other climate resilient characteristics. These new varieties have been provided to seed companies and are now commercially available in many areas. Yet, many smallholder farmers continue to plant older maize varieties that provide poorer yields with each season. Development agencies such as the US Global Development Lab have made the diffusion of climate resilient maize (CRM) a priority to help address global food security.

Kirk_Mason_03.jpgStrategies

The project contributes to this effort by focusing on strategies to increase smallholder farmer demand for CRM. We do this using an approach to smallholder farmer education and training that relies on participatory video as a primary communication tool. The basic steps in the approach include: 1) in-depth interaction with farmers to help understand how they choose the type of maize to plant, their awareness and perceptions about new maize varieties, and the factors that constrain their demand for these varieties, 2) developing a narrative concept for a video to help enhance demand and address farmer concerns, 3) recruiting and working with local farmers to refine the narrative and produce an entertaining video in the local language that highlights the benefits of adopting CRM, and provides information on good agricultural practices that should be followed, 4) village-based screening of the video to groups of farmers supported by local agricultural extension providers who are able to moderate discussion in the local language, and 5) sending mobile voice recordings with timely reminders about the video content throughout the growing season. The video provides highly contextualized information, informing farmers of the specific varieties that are available and appropriate for the region.

Current Activities

The team is currently testing the effectiveness of this approach in Machakos and Makueni Counties, Kenya, in an area that has experienced less rain and less predictable rainfall in recent years. A 33-minute video has been produced and shown to over 600 farmers in 16 test villages, using battery-powered projectors for locations without electricity. Baseline data on maize growing practices have been collected in these villages, as well as in an additional group of villages serving as control sites. A post-test survey is planned at the end of the growing season to assess the effectiveness of the approach in getting farmers to try out the new varieties.