Digital Green brings together technology and social organization to amplify the effectiveness of existing efforts in agricultural development.
Imagine you’re an agricultural extension officer tasked with training farmers on a new agricultural practice. Farms are remote and terrains difficult to navigate. Communities are large and diverse. Even with countries like India having 100,000 extension agents and Ethiopia having 60,000, it still is a daunting challenge. There also is the issue of motivation. Both for farmers to trust an extension agent coming in from the outside and that of extension agents toiling in the sun and, in India, finding that less than 2% of farmers are willing to engage with them.
At the same time, 17% of farmers in India reported exchanging information with one another – across their informal social networks -- about the crops they grow and how they grow them. Justifiably, farmers are biased to rewards that can be had in the present and are hesitant to change their behavior based on generic campaigns.But just as television’s early days made heroes out of astronauts and set a generation (including myself) to study science and engineering, the same tools can be used to create incentives – some of which mightnot be based entirely on money – to start farmers on a ladder of achievement where they can literally be seen as the best farmer. This has been done before.
This is American Idol. With 30M viewers and 120M voters in American Idol’s last season finale, its clear that astronauts have been replaced by another sort of idol. Though contestants vie for contracts and prize money, it is the possibility that anyone can make it onto the big stage that gives the show its broad appeal.
Over the last three years, our network of partner extension systems and communities have produced over 2,200 short, 8-10 minvideos. (All of which are available on YouTube.) The content spans a variety of topics and genres: from finance to agronomic practices to market linkages to government schemes.Some farmers even compete to appear “on video” in a “Farmer Idol” sort-of program to be seen as a role model in their community. The first two questions that farmers oftenask whenthey watch these videos is “What is the name of the farmer in this video?” and “Which village is he or she from?” to authenticate that the content comes from a source that they can identify with. Seeing is really believing.
The content is generated from a variety of sources across the agriculture value chain. The feedback from individual farmers and information from analytics could assist the Nutrient manager arrive in communicating decisions on a much wider canvas to the farmers. Our repository of videos on the Youtube could also be available to the individual farmer to view relevant agriculture practice by the farmers.
As afarmer participates in each offline pico projector screening, we capture data on the videos they watch, the questions they ask, and the practices they adopt to build individual histories for each farmer. In near real-time, we use this data to target videos based on farmers’ needs and interests and relate how the practices they take up affect their productivity and income – essentially, a sort-of Nielsen ratings for the 100,000 farmers watching videos today. We've found that this approach can improve the efficiency of existing government and NGO agricultural extension agencies by a factor of 10 times, per dollar spent.We’re now scaling up to 10,000 villages to reach 1 million farmers with the Ministry of Rural Development in India and are extending into parts of Ethiopia, Ghana, and Bangladesh and seeing how this platform leveraged for other types of information, like health and nutrition.
We’re also linking the profiles of the farmers that we’re working with in the field with the online social networks of those in connected places like Delhi and DC. Seeing that 23m Facebook users play games like Farmville an average of 8 min/day, we built a game on Facebook, called Wonder Village, to do so in a fun and educational way in which players work together with the community to build a virtual village economy. The aim is to make farming be seen not as an option of last resort, but rather a vocation of choice.
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Digital Green Presentation
Social Networks for Agricultural DevelopmentdigitalGREEN www.digitalgreen.org | @digitalgreenorg
Generalized • Literature Localized Reviews • Extension • Research Trials Interventions • Content Library Personalized • Analytics Data • Farmer Feedback …Self Help Group Soil Seed Sowing Market Government Savings/Credit Sampling Treatment Linkages Schemes
“How do I keep out pests?”$250$200$150 “Where can I buy$100 seeds?”$50 $0 Jun-10 Jul-10 Aug-10 Sep-10 Oct-10 Nov-10 Dec-10 Jan-11
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