Exploring Access to Videos for Extension in Malawi

  • 25th October 2018
  • by secretary
Yetomiwa Awolola and Cynthia Markstahler SANE Case Study June –July 2018

The USAID-funded project Strengthening Agricultural and Nutrition Extension (SANE) project in Malawi aims to strengthen the capacity of the District Agricultural Extension Services (DAES) to mobilize and work with service providers to deliver agricultural and nutrition extension and advisory services more effectively and in a coordinated manner. The project supports the Agricultural Extension Services System (DAESS) platforms to identify and strengthen stakeholder linkages, particularly by targeting platforms in the 10 districts that make up USAID Malawi’s Feed the Future Zone of Influence.
Byincorporating video technology when disseminating agricultural information in the field, extension services can more effectively enable new and advanced farming practices and technologies to reach a much largeraudience. Organizations like Access Agriculture and Farm Radio Trust have invested in the production and translation efforts necessary to create extension videos that include local people asactors and make them appealing to many audiences through local language voice-overs. Because these organizations have made these videos for farmers both visually and audibly, it is now important to mobilize this resource so that these videos can be accessed utilizedfor extension purposes in Malawi.

At the end of June and into July of 2018, with the assistance of the SANE team in Malawi, two SANE interns developed a plan for improving access to agriculture- and nutrition-related extension videos and in building the capacity of DAES personnel and DAESS platforms to utilize and benefit from these resources.

The activity produced a few key lessons that are essential to understanding the nature of the use of video for extension and in planning potential next steps:
Demand for Extension Videos is High 

The general response from the videos was overwhelmingly positive. ASPs in all three districts expressed several benefits to the use of videos as an extension method. Many voiced that the videos could be a great educational tool, reinforcing current knowledge and introducing new information.

Information Flow from National to Field level (feedback loops) Needs Improvement 
The group discussions that accompanied the video screening shined a light on a disruption in the flow of resources and information in Malawi’s agriculture extension system, especially between the national level to the farmer. Most of the activity participants had never seen a video used for agriculture extension, yet DAES has these videos readily available. 

Access to Technology Remains a Concern 

One of the key areas of discussion centred on accessing different technologies for viewing videos. Despite early perceptions that videos required complex technologies not available to farmers, phones – particularly through WhatsApp – were found to be a widespread option for viewing videos, even at the village level. 

Meeting Farmer-Driven Demand
This gap between farmer demand and what is currently available provides an opportunity for more pre-existing videos to be translated into local languages relevant to Malawian farmers. In addition, new videos could be produced to meet this growing demand, especially on priority topics (e.g. Fall Armyworm) that groups are requesting. 

To ensure that the process of translations and video production is demand driven, it is important to not only consider the topics farmers have expressed interest in but also consider the context of the videos themselves. Response from farmers regarding ways the videos can be improved included the production of more videos in Malawi. Some farmers mentioned that this would make the videos more relatable, increasing their understanding of how to apply the content of the video to their own farms.

Video Dissemination

  • Given that many farmers expressed that mobile phones are the video-capable technology most accessible to them, DAES should procure mobile video files that can be sent via WhatsApp to ensure they are available at a national level and properly distributed to the districts. 
  • Considering the limitations that poor internet connection can present in Malawi, DAES can coordinate with organizations that already have access to mobile version of videos (e.g. Access Agriculture, Farm Radio Trust) to retrieve them. 
  • Other potential formats for dissemination should also be considered. Government and non-profit entities could partner with the private sector to make agriculture videos available on SD cards and DVDs at an affordable price to be sold in local markets.
  • An awareness campaign lead by DAES that pushes a national message about availability to videos could significantly decrease the number of people that are unaware of the existence of extension videos that can be accessed in Malawi. This in turn could help improve the ability of farmers to access these critical resources, thereby improving agricultural and nutritional outcomes in Malawi. 
Three interesting university theses on dissemination methods, organizational factors’ effects, and power of images & languages:

  1. Davito, T. 2014. Compared analysis of the efficiency of three dissemination methods of the information contained in rice videos, MSc thesis, University of Abomey-Calavi, Benin
    (Analyse comparee de lefficacite de trois methodes de dissemination de linformation contenue dans des videos sur le riz)
    In 2013, the efficiency of different video dissemination methods was tested in three municipalities of Mono department in Benin. A series of 11 rice-training videos were shared with farmers by simply giving them the videos on a DVD, or by screening the videos in public with or without facilitation. All methods strengthened rice farmers’ capacities and sensitized non-rice farmers. Giving farmers a DVD was best for easy retention of messages contained in the videos and better understanding and application of these messages. The facilitated village screenings allowed a better sharing of the information among farmers, while non-facilitated video screenings proved a faster method to quickly reach large audiences.
  2. Souradjou, F. 2015. Effects of organizational factors on videos’ messages learning and diffusion in agriculture: Case study of the soya processing video in Benin. MSc thesis, University of Parakou, Benin.
    (Effets des facteurs organisationnels sur lapprentissage et la diffusion des messages video)
    In 24 villages, in North and Central Benin we assessed the influence of the period of screening, the possession of video kit (TV and DVD player), the size of farmer group ( 15 farmers), the screening language (known and unknown), the venue (screening environment/conditions) and membership nature (same groups and different groups) on what farmers learned from the video and how they shared the knowledge gained. Making soya cheese video was used in this study. Whether farmer groups possessed their own video kit did not significantly affect knowledge gains. Compared to morning and evening screenings, afternoon videos projections allowed greater participation of women and had a better impact on their knowledge. Comfortable, spacious projections venue and conditions enable mobilize more participants as well as favour a great focus on videomessages. Members from two different farmers’ groups better share the video messages among themselves and with other farmers than members of a same group.
  3. Bede, L.E.B. 2016. Analysis of the power of images and languages on farmers learning through training videos in Mono and Couffo departments, MSc thesis, University of Abomey-Calavi, Benin.
    (Analyse du pouvoir des images et langues de diffusion sur lapprentissage des producteurs via les videos agricoles dans le Mono et le Couffo)
    In 2015, the power of video’s languages and images in farmer training was tested in eleven villages of Mono and Couffo departments in Benin. Using an experimental design, the video Urea deep placement was projected to groups of farmers in either English (unknown to farmers) or Adja (native language). Changes in knowledge of farmers were assessed. Farmers who watched the video in the local language retained and understood more messages than farmers who watched in an unknown language. But farmers who watched twice the video in an unknown language showed the same level of understanding of the video as those who watched it in the native language. Good visuals compensate for a lack of understanding of the spoken information.