Cameras to Train Rural Indian Women in Innovative Farming

(3BL Media/Justmeans) – Women in India are the major food producers, with about 78 percent of all economically active women engaged in agricultural activities. Nearly 70 percent of the farming work in India is performed by women. They play a critical role in main crop production, live-stock production, horticulture, forestry, and fishing.

About 100,000, largely male government and private agricultural experts are deployed across the country to teach modern farming techniques to Indian farmers. However, a World Bank report said that fewer than six percent of farmers have ever seen one, and women are usually excluded from such training sessions anyway.

Digital Green, a nonprofit founded by Microsoft researchers, is trying to bring a change to this situation. The group distributes pocket cameras and tripods to local women and trains them to storyboard, act in, shoot, edit and screen videos demonstrating farming innovations. The screening is done using battery-powered projectors due to lack of reliable power supply.

Women who are engaged in screening these training videos track issues related to the actual adoption of modern farming techniques, and provide the feedback to directors to create improvised versions later on. Digital Green’s co-founder and CEO, Rikin Gandhi, says that the videos, which feature people from the community and use the local dialect and appearance, help establish the necessary trust with the audiences to make a meaningful impact.

Gandhi, 33, is an MIT-educated rocket scientist who began to develop the customized video training approach in 2006 while working for Microsoft’s Indian research arm in Bangalore. He eventually formed Digital Green, which now has 77 full-time employees and has helped produce nearly 4,000 videos in 28 languages. The videos have been screened for about 464,000 people in India.

Digital Green has an annual budget of $3 million, largely supported by a $13 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Gates Foundation program officer Julia Lowe says that the group has developed a unique way to achieve really targeted behavioral change.

Digital Green has also ventured into videos on nutrition and maternal health, and is expanding to other countries, such as Ethiopia, Ghana, Niger, and Afghanistan. It has received an additional $12 million from the Gates Foundation for its work in Ethiopia, and $6.3 million from U.S. and U.K. development agencies.

Source: Business Week

Image Credit: Flickr via rajkumar1220