Today, many actors work to support smallholder farmers around the world. However, each of these actors tackles a part of the complex problem. With limited coordination among them, each player uses its own approach, systems and knowledge base. In the bargain, farmers often receive information and services that are disjointed or those that they didn’t demand or can’t use.
We need to come together to give farmers more relevant, timely and precise information/services that are customised to their specific needs and accessible to them in a way they can understand and use; and help farmers to act on that information by facilitating access to inputs, credit, and markets. We need to do this at scale without further burdening the already resource-constrained system with additional costs by reducing the duplicated efforts of multiple public, private and civil society partners working with the same farmers and using limited shared resources.
FarmStack will digitize and integrate existing farm-level data that organizations including Digital Green have been collecting for decades (e.g., who and where they are, how much land they have, what they grow, and their feedback on existing programs) to develop large scale dynamic farmer/ farm profiles. By combining farmer profiles with localized, time-sensitive data (e.g., weather patterns, market demands, soil health) and leveraging existing digital channels, FarmStack will provide tailored content across multiple dissemination channels (e.g., video, IVR, SMS, radio).
Finally, by linking data from public, private and civil society partners across the value-chain FarmStack will facilitate improved services across the value chain and enable farmers to connect with input providers, financial service providers and markets so that they can not only increase yields but also their incomes.
Digital Green proposes to develop and test a prototype of ‘FarmStack’ with 10,000 farmers in the state of Andhra Pradesh over the next 18 months to ascertain the effectiveness of this holistic approach among farmers. This will be tested with farmer producer organizations (FPOs) and front line extension workers. This initiative is supported by the Walmart Foundation.
Digital Green works with the Government of India’s National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM) to engage with rural communities across nine states to promote uptake of best practices related to agriculture and livelihoods, non-farm practices, financial inclusion and institution building. Nearly 13,000 frontline extension agents use Digital Green’s video-enabled approach to promote uptake of best practices in 13,195 villages, reaching more than 1.1 million farmers (94% women). More than 55% of farmers have adopted at least one practice promoted in a video they viewed, and many adopt more. A randomized control trial in Bihar state found that the video-enabled approach increased adoption rates by 50% over Bihar’s traditional extension approach. Farmers who have adopted practices have, on average 22% higher production levels and 16% higher incomes.
Through a two-year partnership with Andhra Pradesh’s Department of Agriculture and Cooperation, Digital Green is experimenting with innovative digital tools such as use of hyperspectral imagery to predict and prevent pest infestations; use of photo- and ground-based diagnostic and advisory services that enable farmers to make real-time, site-specific pest and farm management decisions; and use of an app through which farmers in low-bandwidth areas can access videos on good agricultural practices from their cell phones. Use of IVR to efficiently deliver timely reminders and supplementary information to farmers and frontline workers has increased adoption of promoted practices and increased interest/engagement among farmers who have not attended video dissemination sessions. A partnership with Skymet Weather Services provides localized weather information, which is used to contextualize recommendations and help farmers make informed decisions regarding irrigation and fertilizer and insecticide application.
Digital Green is also developing and testing a series of prototypes to contextualize advisory service provision to farmers. These prototypes integrate our extensive data system and video library with content and data from other sources to cost-effectively provide farmers with more timely, targeted and higher quality information. Our Government of India partners have committed funding to sustain and scale the video-enabled extension approach well beyond the life of this investment to reach 7 million more farmers within the next five years.
You can find the various papers and case studies from this project here:
Project Samvad, is a USAID-funded project aimed at addressing Family Planning, Maternal Child Health and Nutrition goals.
Digital Green collaborates with existing health system structures — including India’s State Rural Livelihood Missions and state-level agencies of the National Health Mission, as well as other local organizations trusted and active in the target districts – to build their capacity to employ video- and other ICT-enabled approaches to increase adoption of optimal maternal, infant and child health and nutrition and family planning practices. The project has directly reached 544,000 women in five states (Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Uttarakhand) through facilitated community videos. We have incorporated a range of ICT solutions and mass media and mid-media platforms to complement and supplement video messages, including radio and village campaigns; focused mobile-based messaging on key thematic topics; calls with targeted, life-stage specific messages in the 1000 days period; and use of technology to improve interpersonal counselling by frontline workers. These platforms have reached 1.9 million individuals. Use of data collection and analysis tools has helped our partners to better reach the target audiences. We maximize impact by linking demand generation with public supply-side interventions.
Loop is a human-mediated mobile phone application that is increasing smallholder farmers’ income and reducing their costs by improving their access to markets and market information and increasing their negotiating power. Funding from Cisco has helped us refine Loop to increase its efficiency and return on investment to farmers, and propel it toward financial sustainability and widespread replicability. Since we launched Loop in Bihar in January 2016, more than 3000 farmers in 110 villages have used Loop to sell 6000 tons of vegetables, recording more than $1 million in cash transactions.
In 2017, we expanded Loop to the state of Maharashtra, India, with support from British Asian Trust, and in Bangladesh, as part of the Feed the Future Developing Local Extension Capacity project.
An award from Goldman Sachs helped speed Loop’s development
Maternal and child undernutrition is one of the world’s most serious health, economic, and human development challenges, and its prevalence remains unacceptably high in South Asia. Through a series of pilots and projects, Digital Green has adapted its Community Videos solution to health and nutrition–and particularly to promote maternal, infant, and young child nutrition (MIYCN) behaviors and practices.
Building on a set of promising pilot and feasibility studies, Digital Green will be conducting a four-year, three-arm, cluster randomized controlled trial (RCT) to assess the impact and cost-effectiveness of two variations of interventions we have used to improve agricultural and nutrition outcomes. The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) will lead the project, which will evaluate the efficacy of (1) an agriculture extension intervention that combines low-cost participatory videos and facilitated discussions with women’s groups and (2) the same intervention combined with social and behavior change communication (SBCC) for MICYN. These two groups will be compared against a control group, which does not receive either of the aforementioned interventions, but may receive standard agriculture, health, and nutrition related training provided by the Government or other organizations. The findings and recommendations generated from this rigorous evaluation will be instrumental in guiding Digital Green’s program implementation strategy in the future, and valuable for other stakeholders and organizations working to improve nutritional outcomes.
Digital Green is partnering with the Mann Deshi Foundation Farm to pilot and launch Loop in the Maharashtra state to increase smallholder farmers’ income by increasing their access to markets. The Loop program uses technology to create greater market access and improve transaction efficiency for farmers at a few targeted, key points in the value chain–which results in higher net earnings for farmers.
We will be working with the Mann Deshi Foundation’s Farm to Market Project to expand Loop to smallholders in the Satara district. Additionally, we will be replicating Loop in high vegetable-producing belts. Over the duration of this project, we aim to reach 50 villages, and at least 1,000 farmers–and, throughout the project, we will learn and iterate with our partners and other stakeholders to identify opportunities to maximize the impact of Loop on farmers’ livelihoods.
Using a web-based learning and assessment platform, we train farmers as community knowledge workers (CKWs), enabling them to educate other farmers on practices to boost their productivity and nutrition behaviors. This education takes place through videos produced by farmers and for farmers; the CKWs disseminate the videos to other farmers would stand to benefit from this knowledge. Our training courseware, made possible by funding from Oracle, includes both offline and online components, using a combination of practical instructional videos and a mobile training application that guides trainers and assesses the mastery level of CKWs. Learn more about these tools here.
Through this project, Digital Green aims to train 7,000 farmers as community knowledge workers (CKWs) through a web-based learning and accreditation platform. CKWs are at the frontline of the India’s National Rural Livelihoods Mission, and play a critical role in disseminating knowledge on locally relevant agricultural best practices, health, and nutrition. The new blended training course will enable a greater number of CKWs to participate (with fewer resources)–and the CKWs will in turn train farmers in their communities on locally relevant agricultural best practices, using videos produced by farmers and for farmers.
These CKWs are expected to reach 850,000 farmers in their communities, helping them to boost their productivity by 20 percent and reduce the cost of cultivation by 15 percent — ultimately increasing their socioeconomic well-being in a sustainable manner.
Following a successful pilot with Strengthening Partnerships, Research, and Innovations in Nutrition (SPRING) to adapt Digital Green’s approach to promote maternal, infant, and young child nutrition (MIYCN) behaviors and practices in 2013, the Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council Grand Challenges (BIRAC) funded a subsequent project to build on lessons learned through IFPRI’s evaluation of the initial pilot. The BIRAC-supported project explored how the Digital Green / SPRING approach could be modified to increase adoption of MIYCN recommended practices.
We partnered with the Voluntary Association for Rural Reconstruction and Appropriate Technology (VARRAT) to implement the project in the same region–working with 112 women’s self-help groups in 30 villages across Odisha. We also worked with Ekjut, a civil society organization, to design a structured participatory learning and action (PLA) approach to engage the women in the information being disseminated. Through a randomized controlled trial, we tested both Digital Green’s existing approach and the newly designed PLA approach, and found that participants in both groups demonstrated significant increases in nutrition knowledge. This study led to the design and funding of a four-year, three arm, cluster randomized controlled trial (RCT) to assess the impact and cost-effectiveness of the program approaches piloted in the BIRAC project on agricultural and nutrition outcomes.
To learn more about the RCT you can find the full results here.
In 2012, the USAID-funded Strengthening Partnerships, Results, and Innovations in Nutrition Globally (SPRING) project launched a collaboration with Digital Green and the Voluntary Association for Rural Reconstruction and Appropriate Technology (VARRAT) to assess whether Digital Green’s approach–which had been focused on adoption of agricultural practices–could be adapted to promote maternal, infant, and young child nutrition (MIYCN) behaviors and practices.
Digital Green worked with SPRING and VARRAT to implement a 12-month pilot across 30 villages in Odisha, which sought to develop local NGO capacity in MIYCN and to produce and disseminate 10 videos featuring MIYCN practices. The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) conducted a study to examine the feasibility of using the new Digital Green/SPRING approach to promote adoption of MIYCN behaviors during the course of the pilot. The study found that the approach was highly promising, as the videos proved to be one of the key sources of nutrition-related information within the communities, and demand for them was high among the project’s target audience (women in self-help groups) and frontline workers. The full report can be access here. The results of the pilot and feasibility study led to a subsequent project in Odisha to advance IFPRI’s recommendations, and later inspired additional SPRING / Digital Green collaborations in additional geographies. The full report of the pilot and feasibility study can be found here.
With support from the Ford Foundation, Digital Green implemented a series of pilots to better understand opportunities and challenges related to rural internet connectivity and social media. In 15 villages in the Mandla district of Madhya Pradesh, we conducted an internet access pilot, in which 15 farmers were chosen to receive mobile projector phones and SIM cards so that they could select, screen, and lead discussions about community-produced videos. During the pilot, the farmers screened 26 videos during 433 disseminations, which engaged approximately 1,888 viewers and resulted in 400 new practice adoptions.
Digital Green also experimented with the use of social media by developing new platforms to facilitate learning and sharing of agricultural knowledge (through Farmerbook, a Facebook for farmers), and to connect urban populations with the agricultural lifestyle (through a Facebook game called Wonder Village). Farmerbook enabled Digital Green and partner organizations to learn about video-viewing and practice adoptions of the individuals within their groups, and to identify the most influential farmers within a given area. With enhanced perspective on how farmers could (and would) use mobile platforms if they had better internet connectivity, Digital Green organized a knowledge-sharing workshop focused on leveraging mobile platforms for rural social networks, with the aim of collectively working to establish more regular dialogue with government and telecommunications operators to increase mobile network penetration and bandwidth in rural areas, and especially in tribal communities.
In collaboration with various NGO partners, and with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Digital Green leveraged our Community Videos solution to disseminate better agricultural practices and technologies to 1,200 Indian villages.
Together with our partners, we produced, disseminated, and catalogued over 1,500 short videos featuring local smallholder farmers in familiar resource-constrained situations adopting better agricultural practices and technologies. We also created a replicable model and the institutional infrastructure to enable even broader applications of the Digital Green approach.
Over three and half years, we improved the cost-effectiveness of our partners’ existing people-based extension systems by a factor of three times, per dollar spent, and improved the livelihoods of 60,000 smallholder farmers.
Here are two case studies that came out of this work: