Although smallholder farmers produce up to 80% of the food supply in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, the highest incidence of poverty globally is associated with agricultural employment. Although small-scale farmers are acutely vulnerable to shocks and changing climactic conditions, their capacity to raise their yields and incomes is constrained by lack of access to relevant, actionable information.
We bridge information gaps by developing innovative, appropriate, and cost-effective technologies that enable poor, rural people to access information and make informed decisions that improve their lives. Our core approach is to partner with and train agricultural and health extension providers to produce, disseminate, and monitor the impact of short, locally-relevant videos that share knowledge and prompt adoption of practices that improve agricultural production, livelihoods and nutrition.
Our beneficiaries are poor, frequently food insecure, and economically vulnerable farmers, primarily in India and Ethiopia, who farm very small plots of land (one hectare or less). These smallholder farmers typify national statistics for undernutrition (40% of rural children under five years old are stunted) and poverty, typically have 3-4 years of education, and many cannot read or write. In India, more than 90% of beneficiaries are women; in Ethiopia, men comprise about 75% of beneficiaries.
Mission and Vision
We plan to reach 5 million farmers by 2022 and increase farmers' incomes by an average of 25%.
We cost-effectively increase smallholder farmers’ access to and uptake of critical agricultural and nutrition information by partnering with existing extension providers to produce short videos featuring local farmers demonstrating improved practices. Peer community members and extension agents screen the videos among farmer groups and women-led self-help groups, facilitate interactive discussions and gather feedback, and subsequently visit viewers’ fields and homes to observe uptake of promoted practices.
We have facilitated production of more than 6,000 localized videos in 50 languages and dialects, which have been screened by 17,000 frontline workers to reach 2.3 million rural households (77% women) in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. More than 50% of viewers have adopted at least one practice (3 to 4 on average), representing 3.5 million total adoptions. More than a message delivery vehicle, our approach has organized timely knowledge exchange, and strengthened the social structures that meet to discuss them. Integration of data and feedback has given farmers a voice, increased their production and incomes, and helped national extension systems better respond to community needs. Evaluations have shown that the approach increases the reach, effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of extension providers, and the engagement of extension staff. By prioritizing promotion of practices with highest return on investment, we are increasing farmers’ yields and incomes.
Our video-enabled approach is an adaptable, scalable, cost-effective solution to reach large numbers of rural community members. Partnering with existing providers allows us to tap into trusted networks operating in remote areas, enabling rapid scale-up. Our focus on capacity building for long-term sustainability, and our role as facilitators rather than implementers are key differentiators. We involve national and regional-level directors in decision-making and work closely with staff at all levels to foster ownership and understanding of roles. We have facilitated system-level changes, including incorporating responsibility for implementation into job descriptions and performance reviews; improving partners’ data analytics systems to track performance and inform decision making; and developing national policies and allocating budgets to manage scale-up. Based on its success, our partners have applied our approach to other topics, showing its transferability.
Planned Goals and Milestones
Launch a digital platform that fosters greater service coordination among extension service providers in India, and provides smallholder farmers with more timely and contextualized advisory information in order to improve their yields and incomes, particularly as they face increasing temperatures and more frequent and severe droughts and floods.