Digital Green


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Presentation held by Dr. Nadagouda during the oikos swissnex Practitioner Day 2011 @ IIM Bangalore, India, 26 August 2011.

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  • The number of people dependent on agriculture in India is declining. Still, today, there are about 60% of people whose income depends on agriculture to a large extent.Majority of the farmers are smallholders and cultivate in a land of less than 3 acres.Agriculture has been getting increased attention, primarily because of the farming crisis.Farming related suicides has been increasing and in the period from 97 to 2005 there have been 150,000 suicides. Green revolution, which was a major event in Indian agriculture history, where India converted to chemical based farming in 1960s focused on high yielding varieties of crops.While yields have increased, there has been criticism from many quarters about it. Farmers have been using fertlizers/pesticides indiscriminately leading to rising input costs and decreasing soil fertility. There has been tension between whether to produce market oriented crops vs promoting sustainable agriculture. Lots of opinions, research, debates..
  • Agricultural extension is essentially the dissemination of expert agricultural information and technologies to farmers. Agricultural extension was popularized by the World Bank during the 1960s and 1970s in the form of the “Training & Visit” system. Today, India still has over 100,000 civil-service extension officers. This represents the second largest extension force in the world, but India has an even vaster population of farmers. Indeed, there is only 1 extension officer for every 2,000 farmers.
  • In 2003, the Government of India sponsored a National Sample Survey to understand the sources of information farmers were relying upon for new technology and farm practices. They discovered that the formal channels of extension – including, the “Training and Visit”-style extension and the government’s broadcast media programs – were reaching a small proportion of farm households. Instead, they found that farmers primarily relied on the informal channels of information diffusion that existed by “word of mouth” in their own village communities.
  • Inspired by Digital StudyHall’s efforts in improving rural education, we began with the premise that digital video is a technology that can be taken to the last-mile and provide significant resource-savings – particularly, since the hardware has become so affordable. A one-to-one demonstration between an extension officer and a farmer could now be digitally captured and shown to many farmers who could easily relate to a visual media.
  • These field trials allowed to converge on the Digital Green system which includes four unique components that I’ll briefly outline: (1) a participatory process for content production, (2) a video-based database, (3) locally mediated instruction, and (4) a model for sequencing content to build trust and sustained participation within farming communities.
  • The process of producing the content starts by following the existing field activities of extension agents. The mere presence of the camera improves the productivity of an extension agent and a farmer’s interaction and rough “story boarding” helps reduce the need for post-production. Those extension agents or farmers that are featured in the videos know that they will be seen by others in their respective communities as role models. We want to stimulate this creation of “local stars”. The actors featured in the videos are seen not as outside “teachers”, but as local farmers who are adopting the practices or technologies within the constraints of local resources on their own fields.
  • We have been building a repository of this video content with our field partners for the last 1.5 years. The repository currently includes over 250 videos that average 8 minutes in length. The videos are reviewed by the experts of our partner organizations in content hubs, like Bangalore, and minor video editing and meta tagging is used to upload the content to a video database. Though these videos are mirrored online at, that is not how farmers actually view them. Villages are sent DVDs.
  • These DVDs are received by local village mediators. These mediators were chosen on the basis of local language literacy for record-keeping purposes and equitably balance genders to engage both men and women farmers. Indeed, these mediators mainly serve to engage the community by pausing and rewinding the videos, fielding questions, and encouraging group participation. Unlike broadcast programs or standalone kiosks, the mediators take the shared TV and DVD players to farmers at their choice time and place and serve as a feedback mechanism for farmers. Though we’ve seen many mediators become resource persons in their local communities, its also important to note that they are supported and monitored by the official extension system.
  • Of course, a single screening is not enough. We’ve found that over time we can build trust and sustained participation in communities only by using a model for structuring the sequence of interventions. We begin the process by using the local mediator to help assess some general characteristics of his or her community, such as its socioeconomic and agroecological resources and needs. By seeding locally relevant content, an informal farmers group is created using the video programs as the focus. Then, since there is span of agricultural practices and technologies that have varying time-horizons for investment and reward, the mediators first showcase those practices that offer visible short-term rewards to gain traction in a community before showcasing a practice, like mulching, which has a longer gestation period to offering a gain in soil fertility.
  • In addition to the cost-benefit calculations, we’ve also seen some interesting side-effects of Digital Green. We’ve found that we can take concepts of Web 2.0 to the Web-less world where the infrastructure has yet to reach the last mile. We can build an ecosystem of content around farmer education, entrepreneurship, and entertainment by just using cost-realistic technologies like TVs, DVD players, and camcorders. We can take the existing social networks that farmers use for channeling information and expose them into public view through video. In some cases, we’ve found that we can stimulate a sort-of “Farmer Idol” competition where farmers want to be seen as the best farmer in their community and are incentivized to appear “on TV”.
  • Indian farmers are an incredibly diverse and large population not just in terms of social demographics, language, and culture but also in terms of agroecology and geography. And while 60% of India’s 1.1 billion population depends on agriculture, the sector accounts for less than 17% of the country’s GDP and is sliding. Many of the challenges stem from climate change – both environmental as well as political. This is precisely where modern sustainable agricultural practices and technologies can provide support. Justifiably, farmers are biased to rewards that can be had in the present and are hesitant to change their behavior based on generic campaigns.
  • Over the last 2 years, the tribal communities that we’re working with in five Indian states have produced over 400 short videos that are by the farmers, of the farmers, and for the farmers. The content spans a variety of topics and genres and includes step-by-step demonstrations, testimonials, and interviews. Some farmers even compete to appear “on TV” in a “Farmer Idol” sort-of program to be seen as the best farmer and generates motivational “currency” doing so. 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 relate with before considering a change in their behaviour.
  • Digital Green

    1. 1. Dr. Nadagouda S.B <br />Development Manager, Karnataka <br />digitalGREEN<br /><br />
    2. 2. Agriculture in India<br />600M agriculture-dependent lives<br />Majority small landholders (<3 acres)<br /><$2 a day ($750 a year)<br />Growing debts ($300 per year per farmer)<br />Earlier technology intervention…<br />Green revolution had mixed results<br />Increased yields, but…<br />Led to rising input costs, declining soil fertility<br />Due to excessive use of fertilizers/pesticides<br />Indiscriminate use of technology partially responsible for current agrarian crisis<br />A farmer from Yellachavadi village,<br />outside of Bangalore<br />2<br />
    3. 3. 3<br />3<br />Agriculture Extension<br />Dissemination of expert agriculture information and technology to farmers<br />“Training & Visit” extension popularized by the World Bank in 1970s<br />Face-to-face interactions of extension officers and farmers<br />100,000 extension officers in India<br />Extension agent-to-farmer ratio is 1: 2,000<br />610,000 villages in India with average 1,000-person population<br />Typical extension officer salary is<br />Rs. 4,000 per month<br />Extension officer “commuting” between farms<br />
    4. 4. IT & Indian Agriculture<br />Kiosks with Internet access <br /> for farmers<br />aAqua<br />Pull-based Question and Answer<br />KrithiRamamritham, IIT Mumbai<br />eSagu<br />Push-based Expert Review of Digital Photos<br /> Krishna Reddy, IIIT Hyderabad<br />
    5. 5. 5<br />Agricultural Social Networks<br />?<br />Main source of information about new technology and <br />farm practices over the past 365 days (India: NSSO 2005)<br />5<br />
    6. 6. 6<br />How can the speed and effectiveness of agriculture extension be improved at a reasonable cost?<br />6<br />The Problem<br />Extension officer on-field demonstration<br />
    7. 7. 7<br />Digital Video for Extension<br />Video provides…<br />Resource-savings: human, cost, time<br />Accessibility for non-literate farmers<br />7<br />
    8. 8. DG Aims at………..<br />Improving social, economic and environmental sustainability of small farmers livelihoods<br />
    9. 9. 9<br />Participatory content production<br />Video database<br />Mediated instruction<br />Structured sequencing<br />9<br />Digital Green System<br />
    10. 10. 10<br />Participatory Content Production<br />Digital Green System<br />Introduction to innovations<br />Standard extension procedure<br />Rough “storyboarding”<br />Repetitive pattern; easy to learn<br />Minimize post-production<br />Local farmers on their own fields<br />Reduce perception of “teachers”<br />Promote “local stars”<br />10<br />
    11. 11. 11<br />Digital Green System<br />Video Database<br />Online video database ( <br />>500 videos of 8-10 minutes each<br />Quality-control, minor video editing, and metadata tagging<br />Indexed by type, topic, locale, season, crop, etc. <br />Distributed via DVD<br />11<br />
    12. 12. 12<br />Digital Green System<br />Mediated Instruction<br />Local mediator<br /><ul><li>Performance-based honorarium</li></ul>Human engagement<br /><ul><li>Field questions, capture feedback, encourage participation
    13. 13. Balance genders</li></ul>On-demand screenings <br /><ul><li>Choice time and place
    14. 14. Not “stand-alone” kiosk</li></ul>Support and monitoring <br /><ul><li>Daily metrics and feedback
    15. 15. Official extension staff</li></ul>12<br />
    16. 16. 13<br />Digital Green System<br />Structured Sequencing<br />Practices with longer-term visible rewards<br />Community Assessment<br />Practices with short-term visible rewards<br />Group Participation<br />Audience<br />Awareness<br />Season<br />Location<br />Time<br />13<br />
    17. 17. DG concept<br />
    18. 18.
    19. 19. Interest, Questions, Clarifications, suggestions<br />
    20. 20.
    21. 21. 18<br />Digital Green System<br />Network Effect<br />Viral Web 2.0 in the Web-less world <br /><ul><li> Content ecosystem: education, entrepreneurship, entertainment
    22. 22. Cost-realistic access: pico projectors, TVs, DVD players, and camcorders</li></ul>Reinforce existing social networks to diffuse innovations through communities<br />Local “idol” competitions to be a better farmer<br />3<br /> 1<br />18<br />2<br />
    23. 23. >650M Farm-dependent<br />
    24. 24.
    25. 25. 21<br />Digital Green System<br />Platform<br />Locations<br />Partners<br />Online/Offline <br />Connectivity<br />Access<br />Points<br />Global<br />Database<br />Regular<br /> Digital Green <br />Intense Eval<br />Control<br />21<br />
    26. 26. 22<br />Digital Green System<br />Platform<br />Online<br />Offline (no/low connectivity)<br />Browser-based input<br />Data stored in local database<br />Synchronized when connectivity available<br />Cloud-based central database<br />Synchronized with local databases<br />22<br />
    27. 27. Digital Green System<br />COCO | Connect Online, Connect Offline<br /><br />
    28. 28. Digital Green System<br />Analytics<br /><br />
    29. 29. Non-Non-Profit Digital Green<br />Subsidize agriculture <br />extension with ads?<br />Digital Green’s value to farmers is established – viewers contribute Rs. 2-4 per screening.<br />Could DG also be supported by ads?<br />Advertisers get access to a distributed, captive audience with demonstrated interest in better agriculture.<br />Ads follow Digital Green’s distribution channels.<br />To do: <br />Scale Digital Green<br />Devise mechanism for ensuring appropriate ads<br />Quantify ad effectiveness<br />Quantify ad value to advertisers<br />Digital Green DVD title screen<br />
    30. 30. The challenge…<br />How the work could be continued after the project support……….. The sustainability issue<br />26<br />
    31. 31. 27<br />
    32. 32. Digital Green 1.0<br />Digital Green is at least 10 timesmore effective <br />per dollar spent than classical extension!<br />
    33. 33.
    34. 34. Our videographers<br />
    35. 35. Thanks!<br /><br /><br />