Rice Advice Videos in Uganda
Jeff Bentley, Agro-Insight
There are not enough extension agents to reach all the farmers in the world. If video or another ICT tool could share good ideas with some of those forgotten farmers, it might help them to grow more food, earn more money and manage risk.
Between 2003 and 2011 Paul Van Mele and colleagues filmed eleven Rice Advice videos in Bangladesh, Benin, Mali, and Burkina Faso. These 15 minute videos cover all the major stages of the crop, from seed, through cultivation to post-harvest. Farmers appear on the screen, speaking to the audience about how they have improved their rice harvests with simple innovations. In 2011 a DVD was made for East Africa with eight language tracts (English, French, Swahili, Luganda, Lubgara, Runyakitara, Teso, and Luo) and 7500 copies were distributed in Uganda, through 18 institutions.
In late 2012, I was asked to visit Uganda with Ugandan journalist Grace Musimami to find out what had happened with those DVDs. Before I went to Uganda, I had assumed that farmers would glean little information just by watching a video. I supposed that the videos had to be facilitated, that is, an extensionist had to show the videos and discuss them and answer villagers’ questions.
Sylvia Nsamba and neighbors show the rice they learned to transplant in lines by watching the videos
I was surprised to find that the videos do stimulate creativity and change, even without facilitation. All over Uganda, farmers who had simply sat and watched the videos learned and started doing new things. I met some that began leveling their land (for an even spread of water), and others who transplanted rice for the first time. Some began planting in rows and others started using rice straw as mulch instead of burning it.
These videos work because they are good. They take topics that are relevant to most farmers (like how to store rice seed at home) so that farmers anywhere can take the practical information and really use it. Contrary to the belief of many bureaucrats, farmers relate well to other farmers, even foreign ones. For example, the Ugandan farmers we spoke to were pleased to learn that there were farmers like themselves in other countries working small plots of land by hand. Some Ugandan farmers offered to appear on videos that could be shown in “to our brothers and sisters in Benin and Bangladesh.”The videos do not need to be filmed again and again in each country; starting with a script in English and French makes it easier to translate the video into local languages. Making a video is 10 times as expensive as translating one.
Translating the videos still demands time and expertise, but it is worth it. We found that in Uganda, rural men are more likely to speak English than the women and therefore local language translations are crucial for reaching women. And video is a format that appeals to youth, so an open-air screening in the early evening can reach most of the village, not just the senior men. Many of the farmers who appear on the videos are women and youth, which appeals to women and youth in the audience.
Ayub Asinkataba, of Upland Rice Mills, was keen to distribute the Rice Advice videos, because the farmers who watched them brought more rice to mill
“I could have distributed all of the videos in one day if I had just dumped them off at the organizations,” said Grace Musimami. But instead, he opted for a more effective option. He visited each agency and asked them how many copies they wanted. They had to place an order and sign an agreement. This allowed Access Agriculture (an NGO which specializes in the promotion, distribution and monitoring of farmer training videos) to do follow up and track the results of video distribution and the impact of the videos on various communities.
During our follow-up, we found that some agencies did a better job than others in distributing the videos. One of the most sustainable ways to reach the farmers with the videos was through agencies and organizations that already have regular contact with the farming communities. For instance, the local farmers’ associations often arranged screenings for member farmers once they had a copy in hand and some of the local NGOs also showed the videos in farm communities – in both cases effectively using the videos to act as extension agents, even without training.
Many outsiders assume that farmers in Africa cannot watch DVDs, but villagers are already watching Bollywood and Nigerian movies on DVD. If farmer leaders and community facilitators have a copy of the DVD, they will figure out a way to show the videos. The village leaders we talked to liked the DVDs and had been able to show them. It was also clear that farmers are eager for information in areas where regular extension officers are lacking. Yet there is still the problem of how to get the videos into the hands of the grassroots extension agents and farmers themselves.
One solution is to tap the ability of the private sector to help with video distribution. Some of the input dealers (shop keepers who sell farm supplies) have already been giving copies of the DVDs to farmers who bought rice seed. In other cases, rice millers gave away DVDs and showed the videos to farmers while they waited to have their rice milled. Rice millers in Uganda face a shortage of rice to mill. The millers were quick to learn that if farmers watched the DVDs, they began bringing more rice to the mill, which could then do more business and make more money. This model could be easily scaled, by showing different supply chain actors the value of getting information to farmers on new techniques to manage production risks. The videos could also be sold to farmers or farming communities, in an effort to ensure that those that receive the information will use it.
At the start of this study, we assumed that if national level extension agencies received hundreds of copies of the DVDs, each extensionist would get one. But some of the biggest agencies had the hardest time getting the DVDs to their field staff.
A well-made video featuring real farmers, even foreign ones, can offer an excellent extension service by convincing others to try an appropriate technology. Local language versions and open air screenings which are able to reach women and youth are particularly effective and a preferred way to share the videos.
Distribution cannot (always) be left up to the imagination of local agencies. They may need help planning the distribution so that every person on the ground gets a copy (whether extension agent, farmer leader or shopkeeper).
You can download Rice Advice and other learning videos in English, French and more than 40 other languages at www.accessagriculture.org.\
This study was supported by the Modernizing Extension and Advisory Services (MEAS) Project, with funding from USAID
Bentley, Jeffery W. & Paul Van Mele 2011 “Sharing Ideas between cultures with videos.” International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability 9(1):258–263.
You can contact Jeff at email@example.com