Innovating Digital Extension Delivery Services in Rural Egypt

Supporting the co-construction of knowledge and inclusive growth for marginalized farmers through farmer-to-farmer videos and last-mile delivery

Access Agriculture

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Value Add for Development Practitioners

This article promotes the use of digital extension delivery services for more effective knowledge transfer. In particular …

  • It highlights the difficulties in technology adoption, access to resources, finance, and market outlets, especially for marginalized groups.
  • It emphasizes the need for a pluralistic extension system that offers multiple options for technology dissemination to ensure equitable and targeted delivery.
  • It explains how digital platforms, such as those with farmer-to-farmer videos, can provide cost-effective and accessible channels.
  • It discusses an innovative last-mile delivery model, involving young entrepreneurs facilitating village video shows using mobile smart projectors.
  • It looks at a partnership in producing farmer-to-farmer videos and leveraging peer reviews, expert interviews, and group discussions to ensure relevance and quality.

Note, reaching over 90 million people demonstrates the potential for scalability and replication of similar initiatives.

The benefit of creating learning videos with and for farmers ⎮ Visual: © Access Agriculture

Agriculture remains the dominant source of income and employment in developing countries. Advances in agricultural technologies and agronomic practices improve sustainability, productivity, food security, nutrition, and farmers’ income. However, scaling these innovative practices faces challenges such as inadequate and untimely access to knowledge, productive resources, finance, and market outlets. These challenges are more pronounced among minority groups like women and youth, who have limited access to essential agricultural resources.

Inefficiency in the extension delivery system

The extension delivery system in most developing countries is led by the public sector. It trains, equips, and commissions extension agents to raise awareness and deliver relevant knowledge for farmers. However, the system suffers from inefficiency due to an insufficient number of extension agents, limited financial resources for widespread delivery, and limited diversity in gender and age representation, hindering outreach to women and young farmers. To ensure equitable access to learning opportunities, a pluralistic extension system that encourages farmers to experiment with ideas and experiences shared by innovative fellow farmers is crucial.

The rise of digital extension delivery services

Digital extension delivery services are gaining ground as cost-effective and accessible platforms for knowledge transfer and exchange. Access Agriculture, a non-profit organization, utilizes digital technology through farmer-to-farmer videos that address the diverse needs of small-scale farmers in agroecology.

The videos are developed and/or translated into local languages and document best practices that are supported by well-established fact sheets and peer reviewed for scientific efficacy. With over 250 videos in more than 100 languages, the Access Agriculture video platform covers topics on soil, crop and water management, as well as food processing, marketing and social organising. The videos are relatable and easy to understand as the technologies and process of replication are explained by a farmer who is speaking to a fellow farmer.

The videos can be watched from anywhere and as such allow communities to learn within their preferred safe environment and among peers with whom they can freely discuss their learnings. Because small-scale family farmers have diverse needs, access to diverse quality videos allows them to learn without the need for outside facilitation or experts that may be hard to come across. Moreover, mobile village video shows easily attract children and young people. They reach rural women who are often excluded from traditional farmer field schools and have limited mobility and literacy.

Empowering young entrepreneurs for last-mile delivery

Access Agriculture employs a unique model for last-mile delivery by engaging young entrepreneurs as Entrepreneurs for Rural Access who facilitate village video shows using mobile smart projectors. In these shows, rural communities learn, discuss, and implement practices showcased in the videos. The smart projectors enable the Entrepreneurs for Rural Access to grow their enterprises and add value to their services by incorporating videos into workshops and outreach sessions. To ensure the impact of videos, Access Agriculture has created a network of partners that download, share, and monitor them. Over the past decade, Access Agriculture videos have been utilized by more than 5,000 organizations, reaching over 90 million people —including the public and private sector, TV and radio stations, or other digital service providers.

Partnerships and community-level impact

In 2020, Access Agriculture partnered with the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) to facilitate technology dissemination with the Innovative Agriculture for Smallholder Resilience project, which is funded by BMZ and administered by GIZ-FIA, the Fund for International Agricultural Research. The project under the leadership of Bezaiet Dessalegn is running in Egypt until the end of 2023 (see Water innovations that work | ICARDA).

Three farmer-to-farmer videos were produced that focus on the core technology and innovative solutions, including the raised bed technology, crop rotation, and land consolidation. The video production relied on the farmer-to-farmer approach which allows farmers to share important knowledge based on their own experience and in their own words. The farmers not only explain the solutions but also describe the challenges well so that fellow farmers watching the video can adapt the technology to meet their own needs. The video production also involved desk reviews and research, key interviews with experts, and running small group discussions among extension workers and lead farmers on selected video topics.

This process is critical to get farmers to appear on camera and who can share their local innovations and help future farmers overcome similar challenges. Working alongside ICARDA scientists, local video teams trained by Access Agriculture ensured that scripts are peer-reviewed and that the voices of rural women and youth were always included. To date, the videos have been watched by over 50,000 people in six governorates.

Feedback from empowered farmers

Farmers who have benefited from video screenings share their success stories. One farmer from Beni Suef mentions how watching a video on raised beds convinced a group of farmers to adopt the practice, leading to improved harvests and subsequent replication by more farmers in the village.

“We were twenty people attending the video screening on raised beds. This was a new practice to us as we traditionally use furrow irrigation. Only five of us decided to try the new dimensions required from the video. With our improved harvests, the 15 other video show attendees all decided to follow in our footsteps the next year. Now I can proudly say that two years later, half my village irrigates this way now without question.”

Mohamed, farmer from Beni Suef

A rural woman from Sharkia credits a village video show for introducing her community to azolla and enabling them to create ponds, produce azolla, and sell eggs at an affordable price, ensuring food security for their children.

“Feed prices are continually increasing and many women in my community stopped raising poultry altogether. The price of chicken is so high now that many families can no longer afford to make their kids egg sandwiches anymore. Then I attended a village video show organized by a local charity where I learned the benefits of Azolla from Indian farmers. We’ve created over 200 ponds in our community and sell our eggs at a lower price than those in the market — so that we can afford to feed our children in our village again. The eggs taste really good too.”

Mariam, rural woman from Sharkia

The experiences of farmers like Mohamed and Mariam highlight the growing demand for digital extension delivery services as a cost-effective and accessible platform for knowledge transfer and exchange. By leveraging innovative approaches like farmer-to-farmer videos and last-mile delivery, rural communities in Egypt are empowered to adopt sustainable agricultural practices, improve their livelihoods, and address pressing challenges.

All in all, digital extension delivery services have great potential to revolutionize agricultural development, bridging the knowledge gap and promoting inclusivity. Collaborative efforts between organizations like Access Agriculture and ICARDA demonstrate the scalability and impact of such initiatives. As practitioners in international development cooperation, it is essential for us to explore and enhance these digital solutions, leveraging partnerships, and embracing innovation to drive positive change in agricultural communities worldwide.

Videos developed by the Innovative Agriculture for Smallholder Resilience project


Dagmar Wittine, Fund International Agricultural Research – FIA,


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