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.