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.
Digital Green is working in partnership with the Andhra Pradesh Department of Agriculture and Cooperation to further incorporate its video-based extension approach within the Department, and scale up its use in all of the state’s 13 districts. In the first two years, the partnership is extending the model across 2500 new villages to reach 300,000 smallholder farmer households. The goals of the project are to: 1) successfully integrate appropriate and cost-effective use of ICTs to deliver information to farmers in a timely manner; and 2) increase adoption of climate-resilient agronomic practices. The partnership is centered around promoting Zero-Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF) practices, which address soil degradation, biodiversity loss and water scarcity. ZBNF practices include in-situ biological resources (rather than chemical inputs) to rejuvenate the soil, with a focus on increasing yields, restoring ecosystem health and promoting climate resilience and food and nutrition security through diverse cropping systems.
Agricultural aggregation schemes such as Digital Green’s Loop project can provide numerous benefits to farmers, including strengthened bargaining power, reduced transportation costs and improved access to higher demand markets. However, as aggregation schemes are traditionally producer-facing, the nutritional needs of consumers in smaller markets may be overlooked. This project aims to assess the challenges and trade-offs of using aggregation to increase the availability and affordability of fruits and vegetables in nutritionally vulnerable markets in India and Bangladesh through a value chain approach. Read this to know more about the research.
The Market Intervention for Nutritional Improvement (MINI) project, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) and the UK Department for International Development (DfID), is led by the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS, University of London) and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI, Vietnam), the project involves researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), Bangladesh Agricultural University (BAU, Dhaka) and Lincoln University, New Zealand, and Digital Green.
Digital Green is developing and testing a digital platform prototype that integrates localized and relevant information from multiple sources for dissemination via mutually reinforcing analog and digital channels. Two use cases will demonstrate the efficacy of the technology for improving the productivity of smallholder farmers and the efficiency of agriculture extension advisory provision. Based on discussions with farmers, which elicited overwhelming demand for information to improve yields and manage infections of cashew crops, the first use case is focused on providing timely agronomic advisories that improve flowering by preventing flower drop and flower burn. Although agronomy experts in Andhra Pradesh know that flower drop can occur in prolonged drought-like conditions or frequent fog, and that flower burn is an attack by a fungus that occurs with frequent fog, there is no system for using weather data to formulate targeted advisories about either condition. Our work bridges this gap by integrating village-level weather data and forecasts with farm-specific data and soil information to contextualize and inform timely advisory messages. Messages reach farmers via two complementary channels — Digital Green’s video-enabled approach and interactive voice response (IVR) — so that farmers can take preventive measures to protect cashew trees. Delivery of critical weather-related information, like other dynamic content, is best suited for IVR, whereas video is more suited to static content. The prevalence of low literacy levels among the target population calls for the use of non-text based information delivery channels.
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:
Maternal and child undernutrition is one of the world’s most serious health, economic and human development challenges. Child undernutrition causes an estimated 3.1 million child deaths annually, and one-third of women in South Asia are underweight. Maternal and child undernutrition have important consequences for pregnancy outcomes, children’s survival, child physical and cognitive development, and the incidence of acute and chronic diseases. The impacts of undernutrition also extend beyond health outcomes, with consequences for educational attainment, economic progress, and human wellbeing. There is an increasing scientific consensus that interventions to address immediate determinants of undernutrition (‘nutrition-specific’ interventions) are necessary but not sufficient: acceleration of progress in maternal and child nutrition will entail coupling these interventions with nutrition-sensitive programs that tackle the underlying causes of undernutrition. ‘Making agriculture work for nutrition’ is now a top policy priority but the evidence-base is weak, largely due to poorly designed studies that are unable to discern causal effects.
Upscaling Participatory Action and Videos for Agriculture and Nutrition (UPAVAN) is a four-arm, cluster randomized controlled trial (RCT) based in Keonjhar district, Odisha, India, aimed at assessing the nutrition and agricultural impact and cost-effectiveness of three types of interventions (compared with a control arm). The RCT has been designed and managed by LSHTM in partnership with Digital Green who takes care of the implementation side of it in partnership with implementing partners. The three intervention arms are built on a set of pilot and feasibility studies (and a current intervention strengthening grant). The control arm (Arm 4) receives standard agriculture, health and nutrition-related services provided by the government or other organizations in Odisha, India.
Voluntary Association for Rural Reconstruction and Appropriate Technology (VARRAT) is the primary implementing partner responsible for on-the-ground implementation, facilitating partner review meetings, and monitoring activities in collaboration with Digital Green and Ekjut. JSI Research and Training Institute (JSI) is the primary technical partner responsible for the design and execution of formative research and development of training materials on NSA and MIYCN topics. JSI participated in a joint review of the operational protocol and implementation documents, prioritizing themes for video production, and strengthening VARRAT’s capacity to develop specific recommended practices (called the package of practices or PoPs) and video storyboards for each topic. Ekjut is responsible for the PLA cycle of meetings in Arm 3, including designing and developing materials, building the capacity of the community-level agents who implement the PLA cycle, providing supportive supervision, and monitoring the process.
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.
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
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.
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: