Digisoft Education and the groundbreaking Innovations for Increased Adoption of New Technologies along the Agriculture Service Value Chain
One Kouadio Amavi/Digisoft-Education at the 2nd Africa Knowledge Management for Agricultural Development Conference #KM4AgD organized by FARA in 2022.
With the increasing challenge of small-holder farmers accessing timely agriculture extension service support, information, and new technologies to improve productivity, the use of audio-visual (video) materials in agricultural extension service delivery is critical. Smallholders play a crucial role in global food security. But they continue to face challenges accessing essential agriculture information, extension services, certified seeds, and cutting-edge technologies. The use of agricultural extension and technology videos can help bridge the extension support, technologies, and information gaps at the last mile. Extension support videos have influenced the design of some development programs, such as the Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Program (CAADP), specifically in its 4th pillar, rebranded as the “Second Malabo Declaration”, which calls for the infusion of information and communication technology (ICT) in agricultural research efforts to maximize the reach.
E-extension, or cellphone-based extension endeavors, have been on the rise in recent years in developing countries thanks to the massive penetration and growth of mobile phone use in those nations. Despite this, popularizing critical agricultural technologies still relies on the face-to-face interaction of stakeholders. Video technology is cost-effective and can help reach scale. Despite its key advantages over normal extension service delivery approach, video as a tool for agricultural information dissemination is often overlooked. It offers among others:
A. The ability to convey a message without a physical demonstration plot or farmer’s field. Videos are usually captured on demonstration plots following the cycle of the crops under consideration and their inherent agronomic practices. Each and every step is well documented to be shown to a larger audience of farmers. In contrast, the typical demonstration plot might only accommodate a few farmers at a time.
B. The ability to simulate or visualize the entire cropping season or cycle of approximately three (3) to four (4) months of a given crop into a twenty (20) minute video. This video features every single aspect of the technology along with all its appropriate agronomic practices (GAP) and integrated soil fertility management (ISFM) packages for optimum results. Post-harvest handling could be added.
C. Climate change mitigation and adaptation: by definition, adoption entails the continuous application of a given practice or technology over the years until it becomes a reflex; however, most of the sub-Saharan zone is characterized by a single rainy season, meaning only one cropping season in a whole year; furthermore, the donor projects that sponsor these interventions are also time-bound and require quick results from the field in order to fulfil the objectives of their interventions; as such, videos become the perfect tool and approach to help drive home the essentials regarding the technologies promoted.
D. Videos inspire and build trust between agricultural actors and stakeholders, as witnessed in countries where video extension is adopted. In the same way, the concept of farmer fields or demonstration plots came to the fore as a way of bridging the gap between compendiums of research findings contained in books that once only sat on bookshelves and the masses of farmers to whom these findings are of vital importance, the video approach further enhances the relationship between research and farmers, who consume research products by applying them to their farming activities.
By featuring leading farmers in the production of videos as actors leading and handling the demonstrations and explaining the concepts directly in native dialects and languages, farming communities become very receptive to the technology as they easily relate to the actors.
The videos provide a marketing opportunity for private sector actors to make their technologies commercially available.
F. The dissemination sessions not only impart knowledge to farmers but also strengthen their bonds and social relations among producers: Useful entertainment.
Furthermore, a study by Digital Green in 2004 showed that driving agriculture technology adoption using videos is more advantageous and cost-effective as compared to the traditional approach, which revolves around setting demonstration plots and where more than 48% of the budget is typically dedicated to providing incentive packages to farmers. It costs on average USD 3.7 per farmer to drive the adoption of a technology, compared to USD 38.18 per farmer for the demonstration plot approach.
Before the use of the Digital Classroom System (DCS) to disseminate agriculture extension services and technology packages, most people relied on video vans, which are very expensive and difficult to operate and maintain. Also Pico projectors, though handy, are also limited to very small groups of farmers per sitting, limiting their reach potential.
The DCS developed by Digisoft-Education Ltd., a UK-based ICT firm, is a cost-effective alternative to video vans. It has the lowest costs, is environmentally friendly, and is energy efficient (using solar power) compared with video vans. This makes DCS an appropriate agricultural video extension support and technology dissemination system. It works effectively in communities with no access to electricity. The DCS internal power storage system takes about six hours, as standard.
Aside this, DCS allows the trainer to run smooth extension training sessions in the shade or indoors while the solar panel which recharges it is spread in the open. Because of its portability, it can be used in areas where video-vans are unable to reach.