Insights from a training program in Tanzania

By Archana Kulkarni, Program Manager – Training, Digital Green

I can finally *show* my farmers what Azolla looks like! Augustino, a lead farmer in Tanzania

As clouds move on mountains, light and shade take turns on paddy and maize contours – a typical visual of the Tanzanian countryside. Agriculture accounts as a key driver of economy in the East African region.

Faida Market Link in collaboration with Farm Radio International has implemented Integrated Soil Fertility Management (ISFM) project funded by AGRA. In ISFM, lead farmers/extension workers demonstrate and extend best ISFM practices to small farmers through radio campaigns, ICT enhanced radio programs and link farmers to input and output markets.

Despite the best of radio-led interventions, influencing passive listeners is still a major challenge. In this context, FML collaborated with Digital Green to document and disseminate best practices in the form of videos to farmers to enhance their learning. As part of this initiative, the Digital Green team travelled to Tanzania for building the capacity of lead farmers and extension staff in video production and dissemination.

With huge cultural variation and unknown language, training was a major challenge for the trainers. A heterogeneous set of participants with lead farmers, extension staff and staff from associated organizations comes with different set of extension challenges.Some said Mobilizing a farmer to attend a meeting itself is a huge challenge. And others felt Extension is a time consuming activity requiring lots of energy. While someone with little experience in ICT, said Power is a huge crisis. While one is more worried about learning processes and acceptance levels of farmer, another set of young participants looking for more creative things to make learning more interesting. One of the participants had an exceptional thought to share, which summed up the experience of all extension agents, every day in extension has a new challenge.

These thoughts can be considered as opinions, views, and more significantly, as their expectations from the training program. Wanting to satisfy the trainees’ expectations, we gave more emphasis on aspects like group mobilization and the Pico projector as a carrier of new technology. The training module has been customized accordingly to satisfy the needs of stakeholders. Heterogeneity in the group turned out to be a boon in disguise, helping generate cross learning within participants. Group activities, brain storming, discussions and debates took centre stage, aiding the group in enhancing their learning on this new extension approach. The participants started relating their classrooms situations to the field and trying to figure out ways to address the ‘real world’ issues.

What I found most fascinating was sensing the urge within this group to learn new technology. In Igruhsi, a district in Mbeya region of Tanzania, where farmers have hardly seen any audio visuals, having access to information in the form of timely videos without need of continuous power supply is a creative and yet practical realtime solution for the extension staff. Participants with exposure to ICT appreciated the soft skills of facilitation and participants with very little exposure to technologies stated that the Pico projector is a life saver – now I can ‘show’ my farmers what Azolla looks like.

Some of the participants were excited just to “see a motion picture on the wall. Others appreciating the importance of the medium of film, say that farmer can easily adopt new technologies with this intervention. Some couldn’t resist saying Digital Green’s learning methodology is creative and thought provoking”, to our delight.

I realize through my training experiences that language is never a barrier for a learner if there are efficient learning systems. In this highly technological era, using technology in the right context is critical. More than just a technology, participants see this as an approach to educate farmers. For extension staff, it is a privilege to own the equipment as an extension tool to ensure better learning processes.

I returned from Tanzania, buoyed with the expectations driven by possible solutions and enriched by the experience of mutual learning.


Meera Devi – Story from the Field – DARSHAN Project – Project Concern International and Digital Green

Meera Devi – A Parivartan self-help group member

Mohamed Saluh – Story from the Field – DARSHAN Project – Project Concern International and Digital Green

Mohamed Saluh

Sushma Devi – Story from the Field – DARSHAN Project – Project Concern International and Digital Green

Sushma Kumari – A Saheli

Investigating bottlenecks in our agriculture-centered project in Bihar

By Swati Gaur, Program Manager Monitoring, Evaluation, Research and Learning, Digital Green

Digital Green amplifies the effectiveness of existing public and private agricultural extension programs by engaging with and training the community on producing and sharing videos on local best practices. These videos are screened using battery-operated pico projectors by village facilitators who use the videos to spark interactive conversations among farmer groups, like women self-help groups, on a fortnightly basis. As these facilitators screen the videos, they also record data like farmers  attendance, their feedback, and the practices that farmers apply on their own farms afterwards.

Digital Green uses a selection of indicators to measure performance, like the number of videos produced, number of videos screened, number of farmers reached, and number of farmers that apply (or adopt) promoted practices on their farms. All of this data is tracked on an online-offline open-source MIS that we’ve developed, called COCO ( The data captured in this MIS allows us to see where farmers are attending screenings regularly and adopting practices en masse or not.

Internally, we sometimes believe that our work has the same positive impact everywhere and that we are confronted by the same negative externalities everywhere. We found though that there sometimes were significant differences in farmers adoption-to-attendance ratio from one village to another, even if they were in close proximity to each other.We struggled to reason why that might be the case.

Health development initiatives sometimes employ a bottleneck analysis process to improve program quality by mapping an interventions theory of change and seeing what challenges might be limiting the impact that it is making. In collaboration with ALINe (, we decided to see how we could adapt that approach for our work with the Government of India’s National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM) in Bihar.

We decided to execute the bottleneck analysis in two districts. First, we went to two poor performing villages in two districts where our data suggested that farmers had adopted few to no adoptions of the promoted practices. Then, we went to two additional villages in the same districts where farmers seemed to be adopting the same promoted practices at a higher rate.  A qualitative as well as quantitative determination was made on how representative these villages were over the ~1,500 villages that we work with in Bihar. Our aim was to identify the drivers that led to negative outcomes and those that led to positive ones in each set of villages to be able to develop concrete recommendations on ways to improve program quality and ultimately, impact.

The bottleneck analysis process involved project participants at various levels: (1) farmers in self-help groups that attended video screenings, (2) village facilitators who mediated video screenings, (3) village organizations, and (4) NRLMs staff at district and block-levels. First, each group was anonymously requested, through ballot boxes, to share the issues that they face. Then, each group prioritized them. And finally, they developed their own recommendations on how to resolve them. With each group of stakeholders, the recommendations of the stakeholders before them would be shared and rated as well. A good deal of investigation and triangulation was sometimes needed to make sense of multiple perspectives.

We mapped the actions (and interactions) that each actor in the Digital Green approach needs to make to be able to realize the outcomes that we collectively expect. We found that these conversations themselves built ownership and common understanding of issues and mechanisms to address them. Stakeholders were able to understand how an issue that was identified in one location may have been resolved through a good practice applied in another location. By identifying the factors that drove performance in video screenings and farmer adoption of promoted practices, we were able to categorize both issues and good practices in four dimensions: context (e.g., landholding, irrigation access, irrigation), people (e.g., village facilitator skills and motivation), equipment (e.g., pico projector reliability), and system (e.g., policies for incentivizing facilitators, relevance of videos, involvement of NRLM staff).

The insights from the bottleneck analysis have allowed us to see the adaptation and impact of our approach in more nuanced terms on a per village basis. Moreover, we’ve been able to make concrete insights and recommendations to improve program quality based on the way that our approach is unfolding across the diversity of villages in which we work.The process of conducting the bottleneck analysis is intensive, but our field implementation teams now see it as a way to not just diagnose and resolve issues, but also to better plan our operational rollout more systematically.

For more details on the process and findings of the preliminary bottleneck analysis that we conducted, please see the following slide deck:

We would appreciate any comments or suggestions on how we might be able to improve this approach and others experience in running similar sorts of program improvement processes.

Learning from our achievements in Bihar

Published Jan 13, 2015

Institutionalizing our achievements

Our Bihar team has just crossed a milestone they’ve achieved a total of 120,000 unique adoptions (as per our data management framework, COCO) since our program started in the state in 2012. This means 120,000 farmers in the state have adopted an improved agricultural practice promoted in a video, which could lead to improved productivity and incomes. In Bihar, we work with JEEViKA, the state-level implementation agency of the Government of India’s National Rural Livelihood Mission.

I was in Bihar last week and sensed a high level of enthusiasm in our team as a result of their achievement. The factors that helped our team achieve this significant milestone included:

  • Supportive and proactive JEEViKA leadership
  • Our team goes the extra mile to resolve operational issues and distributing videos in a timely manner to cater to the community’s immediate needs,
  • Our approach getting integrated into JEEViKA’s district-level monitoring systems
  • JEEViKA’s recruitment and positioning of livelihood specialists in all blocks

Reflections from a field visit to Gaya, Bihar

I attended a video screening in Gaya district, which started a little late due to my delayed flight from Delhi to Patna. The mediator who was screening the video in the village had a good rapport with the two self-help groups (SHGs) that were in attendance. The SHG members were rushed though as they were eager to get back to their homes because of the cold weather and their interest in getting back home to prepare dinner. The mediator played a video (on poultry), paused in between to explain it, and ended the dissemination as quickly as she could. The team observed that the quality of this dissemination could be considered average for Bihar. The mediator that I observed had just begun screening videos three months ago and had screened five to six videos. This isn’t to say that average is necessarily bad. In fact, the mediator that we observed has been able to record a number of adoptions and was visibly confident in how well she’s doing her job.

We will need to spend more of our time focusing on those areas that we have more control on and could lead to greater impact. For instance, if the mediator knew what do when audiences are rushed, would she have prioritized what she did differently? In any population of mediators, there are going to be some exceptional stars but most will be average. Through our training program, we try to ensure that every mediator has at least the basic capabilities of equipment handling, facilitation, and reporting.

Our team in Bihar has already begun moving in this direction. For instance, they sometimes use videos on model mediation techniques and how to use pico projectors as a part of their training programs with mediators. We need to create a curriculum of videos that is as easy to use for our team when training mediators as it is for a mediator to screen a poultry video to a rushed group of SHG members. The model dissemination video is particularly useful as it becomes obvious of what a good mediator does without needing to formally get into the theory of adult learning principles which can often be overly conceptual.

We now have over 50 lead mediators across Bihar who train and support their less experienced peer mediators. There seems to be a strong opportunity for creating a simple series of videos and assessment techniques to support these lead mediators. When designing this curriculum, we need to start from the practical issues that mediators encounter at the grassroots. For instance, it is a reality that communities are often rushed (e.g., they’re rushed when coming back from their fields during the agricultural season and they’re in a rush to go back home when its winter to get to bed early). One of the critical moments in any dissemination is when a mediator asks individual viewers whether they’re ready to adopt the featured practice. We need to enhance our training to help mediators better prioritize their actions in such rushed situations.

As we scale, it is a real challenge to observe the facilitation quality of mediators in their individual villages. We will have to instead leverage the opportunities (e.g., orientation training and follow-up review meetings) when we have the mediators together for developing and assessing their skills. We also need to prioritize producing videos and practical assessment techniques (e.g., games) that our trainers and lead mediators can use just as easily as mediators conduct disseminations.