By Mohammad Shahidul Haque Khan
How can agricultural research organizations rapidly and effectively reach large numbers of farmers with messages on how to improve crop productivity in a sustainable way? The overwhelming number of farmers in rural Bangladesh and South Asia present formidable challenges to turning research into impact through agricultural extension and farmer training. The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) - Bangladesh and a Bangladeshi NGO, Agricultural Advisory Society (AAS), have worked to overcome this challenge through the use of rural village and television video showings. They have recently been awarded the prestigious international Access Agriculture Award for the use of training videos for farmer outreach in 2015. The award was declared and handed over to the recipient organizations in Nairobi, Kenya to Dr. Timothy J. Krupnik, 2007 Switzer Fellow.
Access Agriculture is a global organization formed to showcase the use of videos in local languages for agricultural extension, and to train farmers on better crop and farm management. The Video Outreach award is awarded each year to organizations that show exceptional and inspiring use of video to reach farmers and improve their livelihoods by supplying relevant and entertaining training messages in local languages.
Between 2012 and 2014, Krupnik worked with AAS to jointly organise 482 screenings of the Bangla language video “Save more, grow more, earn more” that introduces farmers to the use of small-scale agricultural machinery that can be attached to two-wheeled tractors that can be used to seed and fertilize crops while preparing land with reduced tillage, in a way that saves fuel and labour, allowing farmers to profit more while reducing irrigation water requirements. “Our goal was to create wide-scale farmer knowledge of, and demand for, innovative machinery appropriate for the small-scale of farmers’ fields in Bangladesh, while introducing technological options that could allow farmers to conserve important agricultural resources”, said Timothy J. Krupnik, CIMMYT Systems Agronomist. “And by strategically partnering with AAS, we overcame the problem of extension by scaling-up the video’s training messages through entertaining formats that farmers enjoy.”
Filmed and produced by Agro-Insight in consultation with CIMMYT and the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute, use of the video for farmer outreach was made part of the USAID and Bill and Melinda Gates funded Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA) project, with screenings held throughout Bangladesh’s Feed the Future zone. Locations included farmers’ fields, markets, schools, community centres, tea stalls, etc. In total, over 110,000 farmers saw the videos in rural village showings. “Save more, grow more, earn more” was also aired on national television 12 times, resulting in a documented viewership of 28 million people nationwide. An additional 3,000 DVDs were distributed by 20 groups of volunteer organizations, including the Department of Agricultural Extension, the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council, and local NGO and CBOs, who independently organised screenings. Follow-up research indicating each volunteer reached 180 people each. Similar organizations were engaged by AAS to facilitate additional volunteer showings in 332 communities in 11 districts across southwest Bangladesh. These efforts were documented in scientific research that has been published in the international peer-reviewed Journal of Agricultural Education and Extension, in a paper that analyzed the effectiveness of volunteer groups to distribute videos to larger and larger audiences of farmers.