Digital Green Approach for Agriculture
Digital Green Foundation and Trust, a non-profit organization, uses information communications technology (ICT) with women’s and farmers’ groups to strengthen agriculture extension. The Digital Green approach for agriculture involves (a) participatory identification of content and local production of low-cost videos to improve agriculture practices; (b) group discussion that uses the videos as a basis for mediated instruction, where a mediator encourages the audience to discussthe video content; and c) follow-up home visits to support and monitor the adoption of the practices or behaviors being promoted through the videos. This approach builds on existing community organizations such as self-help groups (SHGs) and public systems and is aimed at amplifying their efforts at rural development. To date, Digital Green has reached 300,000 farmers across India, Ethiopia, and Ghana, and through collaborations with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and the Government of India, is slated for rapid growth.
In Odisha, Digital Green has partnered with the Voluntary Association for Rural Reconstruction and Appropriate Technology (VARRAT) for the past three years to produce and disseminate videos focused on improved agricultural and livelihoods practices. Working in 130 rural villages in the Keonjhar District in northern Odisha, Digital Green and VARRAT have employed four full-time, community-based Community Resource Persons (CRPs) to develop, shoot, and edit short videos as well as 37 Community Service Providers (CSPs) to facilitate weekly or bi-weekly video screenings and discussions with members of village-level self-help groups (SHGs) and serve as a resource for individuals seeking to change their practices.
SPRING/Digital Green Collaborative Approach Pilot
The success of Digital Green in increasing the adoption of agriculture practices has attracted interest from other sectors, including nutrition. In October 2012, SPRING began a collaboration with Digital Green and VARRAT which resulted in a 12-month pilot intervention in 30 villages in Keonjhar district of Odisha. The goal of the pilot was to test the feasibility of leveraging the Digital Green approach for agriculture to promote maternal, infant and young child nutrition (MIYCN) related behaviors and care practices including child feeding, care during pregnancy, and handwashing.
The specific objectives of the pilot intervention were to:
- build local NGO capacity in MIYCN with a focus on strengthening their capacity to produce MIYCN videos and facilitate effective MIYCN discussions during video dissemination sessions;
- develop and disseminate 10 locally produced videos that motivate the adoption and promotion of recommended MIYCN behaviors; and
- assess the feasibility of using the Digital Green approach for promoting MIYCN-related behaviors among participants in women farmer SHGs.
During the one year intervention, 10 locally produced MIYCN-focused videos were developed and disseminated in bi-weekly SHG meetings as part of an on-going Digital Green-VARRAT agriculture program.
The Feasibility Study
To address the pilot’s third objective, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) initiated the feasibility study in June 2013. The study examined the feasibility of using the SPRING/Digital Green collaborative approach to promote select MIYCN practices over the course of the pilot intervention. The key research topics for the feasibility study focused both on processes and uptake. The key objectives of the study are listed below.
- Examine the capacity of VARRAT to produce MIYCN video content and facilitate MIYCN video dissemination, using the SPRING/Digital Green collaborative approach in an existing agriculture program.
- Explore the key factors, both enabling and limiting, affecting the application of the SPRING/Digital Green collaborative approach to MIYCN promotion, focusing particularly on the transition in content, presentation style, time and workload issues, technical challenges, the process of adoption verification and scaling-up.
- Explore retention and comprehension of video content viewed by SHG members.
- Assess the reception and acceptability of the MIYCN topics covered and practices promoted in the piloted videos for SHG members and other key stakeholders. Report on SHG members’ experiences with trials of new behaviors and identify their motivations for experimenting (or not) with new behaviors.
- Understand intra-community diffusion of MIYCN messages promoted in the pilot MIYCN videos.
The 30 pilot study villages were stratified according to the predominance of scheduled castes (SC) and scheduled tribes1 (ST): Highest (where SC/ST population was greater than 90%); medium (where the SC/ST population was between 50-75%) and low (where the SC/ST population was below 40%). From each of these strata, five villages were randomly selected: thus, the total number of villages that included in the study was 15. From each of the three strata, 10 SHG women were included in the study. These included pregnant women and two lactating women, mothers of adolescent girls, mothers with children between 6-24 months of age, and women that did not belong to any of these categories per stratum. Thus, to address the uptake-related objectives of the feasibility study, the final number of SHG study participants was 42, after oversampling to account for data quality and potential drop-out of participants from the study. In those households where SHG study participants had spouses and/or mothers-in-law, these were also included in interviews.
All Digital Green and VARRAT technical staff directly involved in relevant field operations were included in the sample. These included 12 CSPs and four CRPs (VARRAT), as well as key informants from VARRAT, SPRING, and Digital Green. The sample also included seven protagonists who were featured in the nutrition videos and one Anganwadi worker (AWW) and one Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) per each of the three strata (a total of six frontline workers).
Data Collection Methods
The data collection was led by Development Corner (DCOR), based out of Bhubaneswar, Odisha. For process related objectives, in-depth interviews were conducted with CSPs, CRPS and other technical /operational staff and key informants from SPRING, Digital Green and VARRAT. The CSPs and CRPs were also administered a nutrition knowledge test (NKT) which was a closed-ended questionnaire aiming to capture the knowledge of the key frontline staff on topics related to the 10 videos on MIYCN to assess their capacity. In addition, 10 structured observations of dissemination were conducted. The structured dissemination observation guide was an adapted version of the structured observation tool that Digital Green routinely uses for monitoring dissemination. In-depth semi-structured interviews with frontline workers and the protagonists (i.e. the featured actors in the videos) supplemented further information on program processes (as well as uptake) related objectives.
For uptake-related objectives, SHG study participants were interviewed using in-depth semi-structured interview techniques. In addition, they were administered NKTs as well as a structured questionnaire to assess the diffusion of messages espoused in the MIYCN videos. Short in-depth interviews with mothers-in-law and husbands were also conducted.
Results and Recommendations
The results of this study show that the approach is highly promising and offers an excellent opportunity to respond to key human development needs in nutrition and agriculture. The Digital Green videos are shown to be one of the key sources of nutrition-related information within the communities. The demand for videos is high and acceptability of the intervention by SHG members and their families as well as the frontline health workers is strong. The frontline workers view the intervention as complementary to their role. The SHG members’ knowledge of the nutrition messages promoted in the videos is high on infant and young child feeding, but weak on care during pregnancy and use of iron and folic acid supplements (although it is beyond the scope of this study to attribute this solely to the intervention). Despite the fact that the intervention is nascent and this study was not designed to measure behavior change, there are distinct indications of trial of behaviors promoted in the videos as well as some sharing of the video messages with other non-viewers of videos. The key results and the implications for the next phase of the intervention development are presented below in Table A.
Table A. Key Findings of the Feasibility Study and Recommendation
|Uptake-Related Research Objective||Key Findings||Recommendations|
|Working well||Current challenges|
Examine the capacity of VARRAT to produce MIYCN video content and facilitate MIYCN video dissemination, using the SPRING/Digital Green collaborative approach in an existing agriculture program.
Explore the key factors, both enabling and limiting, affecting the application of the Digital Green approach to MIYCN promotion, focusing particularly on the transition in content, presentation style, time and workload issues, technical challenges, the process of adoption verification and scaling-up.
Explore retention and comprehension of video content viewed by SHG member attendees. (Note: the idea here is to assess if mothers have accurate knowledge of the messages disseminated in the videos. The results not attributable to the intervention)
Assess the reception by SHG members and other key stakeholders of the MIYCN topics covered and practices promoted in the piloted videos. Report on SHG members’ experiences with trials of new behaviors and identify their motivations for experimenting (or not) with new behaviors.
Understand intra-community diffusion of MIYCN messages promoted in the pilot MIYCN videos.
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