Using technology to multiply the reach of oral tradition

The category Cool initiatives is a space to briefly summarise and highlight projects and programmes in agriculture that work to increase food security and that I find cool. From implementation of important theories, such as participative action research, to the use of novel tools to support old traditions, cool can mean different things.

I’m really interested in applications of information and communication technologies (ICTs) to improve agriculture. I’m particularly keen on ideas that seem natural and could be appropriated by the users. That’s why digitalGREEN caught my attention.

The idea is so intuitive. If we were to think about oral tradition (telling stories and showing others) as one of the first ICTs, this initiative is where it would marry YouTube. To summarise digitalGREEN’s work in a few sentences at the risk of oversimplifying: they record community members (farmers, teachers, nurses) explaining something that can be useful to other members. Then they gather a small group and screen the video and socialise the lessons rewinding, pausing and allowing people to ask questions.

DigitalGREEN is a non-profit that uses a digital platform to share knowledge on topics that are crucial for many rural communities: better agricultural practices, health, and nutrition, amongst others. According to their website they have been working with rural communities across South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. The numbers they report are: “over 2,800 videos in more than 20 languages, reached 3,000 villages and over 330,000 farmers.”

I think there is a lot of coolness in their work, especially because they apply theoretical elements that always seem to remain on paper:

  • Participatory production. I cannot stress the importance of this point. Things need to be designed by those who will implement them. DigitalGREEN knows this and makes sure that the videos they create are made by the community that will watch them featuring local community members. Users are the best designers.
  • Local relevance. This one is magic really, when put into practice. Usually instructions are handed out for general cases, the instructed then has to figure out how that general information works for him or her and go through the work of adapting it for their personal case. This is usually resource consuming because it requires a lot of troubleshooting. That’s why instructions tailored for local use make all the difference and that’s one of the reasons digitalGREEN’s work has so much value. For example, a video on how to sow soya beans in any area of land in India is not nearly as effective as a video about how to sow soya beans in a specific region of India. 
  • Interactive broadcasting. Imagine that you’re watching a Youtube video to learn from it. But wait! You didn’t quite get that. Not a problem. You pause, rewind, and observe carefully until you understand. That’s one of the advantages about learning through videos instead of actual lessons, right? Now imagine you can pause, rewind and ask the video instructor. Yes! Wouldn’t that be great? Interactive learning for effective knowledge-transfer.

I now ask you to remember our family farmer Cristela. Remember how she told us she needs instruction on how to add value to her processes? How about creating a digitalGREEN for Colombia? This would provide Cristela and many other farmers like her with the specific information she needs. I think it’s a great idea. Do you?

So if you want to check out digitalGREEN personally, here’s their website again, or for a more familiar platform, here’s their YouTube channel.

I’d really like to know what you think about these kind of posts. Do you like them? Should I do more?

 Let me know in the comment section below. Thank you for reading!


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