Creating spaces for dialogues


Communication is a process that weaves through the socio-cultural fabric of the society. It is not captive to any form of media, rather it develops on its own in different sections of society within their own unique networks. There are however different approaches to communication available for dissemination of information today that allow individuals to make informed decisions – this is the indispensable purpose of development communication.


The United Nations understands Development Communication as a social process based on dialogue using a broad range of tools and methods… seeking change at different levels and includes listening, building trust, sharing knowledge and skills, building policies, debating and learning for sustained and meaningful change.


Participatory is a keyword

Digital Green facilitates behaviour change through a unique approach– involving participatory video production and dissemination and can be classified under development communication and keeps community participation at its core.


Having been part of the Digital Green team since it began its work in Bihar in 2012, I have been witness to the changes on the ground. Our pilot project (in just two blocks of Muzaffarpur, Bihar) was initially focused on producing and screening videos showing cost-effective agricultural best practices.


Our approach evolved and we started working in other domains such as health and nutrition, institution building and financial inclusion. and today we are operational in 18 districts and ready to expand into new regions. At present, there are over 2.4 lakh people in Bihar who have watched a video at least once and more than 1.5 lakh community members have adopted at least one practice seen in these videos.


Video dissemination in progress



The video screening is mediated by an individual from within their community who attempts to initiate dialogue and discussion. The audio-visual media assists in easy communication and comprehension among rural non-literate or semi-literate women and men, since it is in their own local language with actors who hail from similar cultural backgrounds as themselves. The discussions also help the community members seek clarifications regarding the efficacy of the best practices shown in the video and make an informed decision to adopt it.



Digital Green also facilitates training programs for extension workers and community members who produce and disseminate these videos, directed towards building and enhancing their skills on equipment handling, documentation and interpersonal communication so that they can facilitate video dissemination where community members can participate and share their feedback and experiences. The documentation process also helps in capturing the feedback and queries and assistance required to resolve issues for which there is no ready-made solutions available locally.


Here the community workers (or mediator) plays a crucial role as a communication channel between the communities watching the video and Digital Green and partner organization. This way, Digital Green’s approach keeps the audience at the heart of it.


Digital Green methodology also has a mechanism built into it to verify the reception of the messages. This is done by mediators when they pause the videos at certain important points to reiterate non-negotiable points in the video. This allows them to ask certain standard open-ended questions ensuring the viewer’s comprehension. It also helps mediators to repeat and reinforce the important information among viewers.


Training of mediators



The ripple effect

I have seen many farmers become role models among their community and improving their own and their community member’s knowledge of agricultural as well as better health and nutrition practices. One such person is Ajit Kumar, a mediator in Rajika Rampur Village, Morwa Block, Samastipur District, Bihar who has been using our video-based model since October 2014.


Ajit Kumar was recently adjudged a category (top-level) mediator by Digital Green since he had been able to demonstrate a very high adoption rate among his audiences in the last quarter of 2014 through 14 videos that he screened. Ajit has since then worked with over 141 farmers, helping them adopt Systematic Wheat Intensification (SWI) method and best practices related to some locally grown vegetables.


Ajit Kumar with SHG members


He has also been encouraging community members to adopt organic and low budget farming techniques by showing Digital Green’s videos on those subjects. Ajit has himself adopted these practices in his own field to grow seven different vegetables in a land measuring 2 Katthas  ( a 1/11th portion of an acre) by using organic fertilizer and multi-cropping methods that he learnt through the Digital Green videos.


Leveraging mobile technologies

As we scale up our projects in Bihar as well as other geographical locations,  we are also trying to leverage technology in developing other such tools. In Bihar, we conducted a pilot earlier this year, to appraise interactive voice response system (IVRS) as a supportive tool for information exchange. The pilot was conducted in Samastipur district of Bihar and provided a zero cost platform to extension workers to share their experiences and voice their concerns. It also helped our staff to address the issues within a shorter period of time.


IVRS also reduced the communication gap as it was possible to reach all extension workers at once by broadcasting a single message. The IVRS also proved successful in bridging over the problem of women members being unable to voice their concerns at review meetings in the presence of male members. The IVRS became their voice since they could record their responses on the IVRS from their personal space.



In recent times, various forms of communication have emerged as a significant tool of behavior change which has stimulated development across the world. Various media such as community radios, road shows, folk media, street theatres, documentaries and of course participatory videos have been paving the way for the poor to make informed decisions and adopt better practices in the field of agriculture, healthcare, education and other livelihood options.


Since its very inception, Digital Green ensured active participation of the rural community. Voices of the rural population have been heard. For sure, Digital Green’s method has been an innovative and exciting one for bringing about behaviour change among the rural poor in India and sub-Saharan Africa.

Green Champion: Showcasing Opportunities That Can Drive a Greener India

Reblog of our CEO, Rikin Gandhi’s original post for the NDTV Godrej Green Champion show, India’s first ‘green’ reality show that Digital Green is proud to be associated with

Reality television offers a world stage for anyone who aspires to become a star. The window these platforms provide into the lives of others inspires fans to pursue their dreams as they see peers dance, sing, invent, and cook their way to fame.

At Digital Green, we seek to give rural India a big stage for farmers, heroes in their own right, to learn and share with one other. We partner with government and civil society agencies that are already working with farmers, and train them to produce short videos that are by the community and for the community to exchange sustainable agricultural practices. So far, this network of partners and communities has produced more than 4,000 videos in 28 languages that have been distributed to more than 600,000 farmers across nine states in India.

The first question that farmers typically ask when they see these videos is not about the economics of a practice, but rather, what the name of the farmer featured in the video is and which village he or she is from. We wanted to see how we could extend what we witnessed in rural India to the whole of India to engage you, our viewers, to act on the environment.

Reality television features real contestants (challengers) in real situations. With Green Champion, we introduce the twist of having the challenges involve real issues in the local environment that each of us can do in our own lives. Challengers travel by bus across India to showcase the landscape of opportunities that can drive a greener India. Along the way, you will meet leaders of the environmental movement, several of whom we have directly worked with at Digital Green, to guide and ultimately judge the contestants.

I should mention that we never produced a reality television show (or in fact, any television show) before, so this seed of an idea came to life only because NDTV agreed to take it on and Godrej backed it. It has been a nearly four-year journey from the time that we conceived the idea for the show, till its premiere.

It was such a thrill to finally meet the 15 challengers. As amazing and diverse as you’ll find them to be, I could see myself in them. The show is only their and our first step. Now, the real action has to begin. Join us in the race to crown India’s first Green Champion.

Read the original blog on the NDTV site


More details on the NDTV Green Champion Show

Becoming Super-Trainers!


What do you get when you put 14 of your best trainers, old and new, together in a room? A lot of energy and a truckload of ideas on making the training more fun and participatory!

That’s what we got when we got together for a Training of Trainers in Hyderabad earlier this month.


Participants at the Digital Green Training of Trainers



At Digital Green, we have been striving very hard to make the trainings that we give to our partner organizations and grassroots workers even more effective. For this purpose, 14 trainers from across our state teams in India came together to improve their participatory facilitation skills and methods. Some of those trainers have experience of several years, while others were fairly new to the world of training. However, the training program ensured that it challenged each one of them and encouraged their creative selves to emerge.



Participants in group discussions



The training focused primarily on refining our conceptual understanding of participation deconstructing power relations within training groups, especially in the context that we work in. We are often so involved in our day-to-day work that we forget the bigger picture the larger change in the world that we are aiming to bring. These discussions helped us place our work and ourselves in the overall development work.



Participants sharing a poster with new ideas



This was followed by focusing on the core skills that a good facilitator should have. We also did a little bit of soul-baring as trainers. We reflected and thought about instances where we haven’t been able to do our best. Some talked about getting impatient with participants, others talked about showing bias towards a particular participant, or reaching the training unprepared. It helped us realize that all of us make mistakes and that there is always scope to improve, and that it is important to inculcate self-awareness than remaining complacent about one’s ability as a good trainer.


The next day challenged the trainers even more – when they did a Participatory Rural Appraisal in a village that none of them had worked in before. Facilitating a group in an uncontrolled environment, where several power dynamics became very obvious, including caste and gender, proved to be a really helpful exercise.



Village mapping exercise, which was part of the Participatory Rural Appraisal methodology taught to the trainers



Learning from this field experience also helped trainers to challenge themselves even further. Each participant designed an existing training session in a creative manner and demonstrated to the rest of the group.


Several of the sessions gave a completely new direction to how we approach training and learning of our participants. Most of the trainers left inspired to make our trainings more participatory, more engaging and more inspiring for the people they work with. We might never become the perfect trainer that we want to become, but we can surely become super-trainers!

Institutionalizing our approach among JEEViKA staff


As we celebrate three years of some very challenging and fulfilling work in Bihar, we thought it was time to start exploring ways to strengthen our partnership with our partner, Bihar Rural Livelihood Promotion Society (BRLPS) locally known as JEEViKA by increasing the involvement of JEEViKA’s staff in implementation of our model of behavioral change communication.


For this purpose on the 13th of July 2015, we organized an orientation programme for the District Communication Managers of 26 districts that we work in, on our approach, current status of project and goals ahead. This was in line with the project goals envisaged by Digital Green and JEEViKA, which seeks to ensure greater involvement of JEEViKA staff and to have an in-house team to improve the quality of videos, make them more interesting and attract more viewers, creating better possibilities for adoptions.

JEEViKA's Communication team at the orientation programme



At present, Livelihood Managers of JEEViKA support DG’s intervention as anchors for their respective districts. They play a crucial role – approving the storyboards and videos after looking into content and processes since most of the videos in Bihar have been about agricultural practices. However, Livelihood Managers have limited knowledge about the quality of videos.


We started the day-long orientation by explaining the DG approach and the evolution of our partnership with JEEViKA in Bihar. We then shared the current status of videos produced, dissemination among community members and adoptions along with the goals to be achieved by end of 2015.


The Communication Managers of JEEViKA also shared their current roles and responsibilities with our team, which followed an interesting dialogue about the possibilities they saw of contributing towards the DG and JEEViKA partnership model.


During the course of the orientation, we screened four videos on different aspects such as Digital Green’s story and approach, equipment handling (Pico Seekho) and agricultural practices during the meeting. The participants appreciated the videos and were very surprised to learn that the videos on agricultural practices were shot by a video production team comprising of Village Resource Persons (members of the community trained by DG as additional resources for an agricultural extension using our model). Most of the participants had earlier had the impression that the DG team shoots all the videos. This meeting provided us with an opportunity to dispel myths like this and reinforce the principle of community participation which is central to our model.


Towards the close of day, the participants were quite involved in the discussions and shared their observations and feedback to improve the videos. The communication team of JEEViKA assured their support to DG’s community-led video production process on various aspects such as quality improvement during storyboard preparation, selecting a better sequence of shots, angles and frames. They have also suggested possibilities to include voice over and annotation and text slides and selection of good actors to dramatize and make the videos more interesting. The participants also expressed their eagerness to visit the field to observe live dissemination so that they can help mediators improve their communication and facilitation skills. By the end of the orientation programme, JEEViKA’s communication staff were also keen to record and showcase the progress made by the use of the DG approach in their work.


Observing the interest and enthusiasm among the participants we may assume safely that the coming years are going to see a new facet of our partnership that will give a huge boost to community participation and engagement within our projects in Bihar.

Samastipur Sisters – Harbingers of Change


Changes, while they are the quintessence of life, are never easy to accept. Yet, there are some brave enthusiasts who have put their faith in new practices and helped prove the worth of those practices.


I witnessed one such example in a small village called Rajka Rampur of Samastipur district in Bihar where I met two women (sisters-in-law) who were part of a self-help group (SHG). They have been members of JEEViKA since February 2013 and encouraged many others to also join the initiative to improve their livelihood options. Usha and Reena started growing seven to eight vegetables in their kitchen garden measuring 2 katthas (where 1 acre is 22 katthas) in 2012.



Usha (left) and Reena, sisters-in-law in Samastipur grow vegetables in 2 katthas of land using organic fertilizers.




In the Zaid cropping season of 2015 (between March to June or the Rabi and Kharif crops) they learned how to make Jeevamrut (an organic fertilizer made of cow dung and urine, jaggery etc) through a Digital Green video.


We grow creepers such as cucumber, pumpkin, parwal, bitter gourd and sponge gourd in the vegetable orchard using the scaffolds prepared from bamboo and plastic wires. We use the main plot for sowing spinach, elephant foot yam, Colocasia plant. Using these techniques, we have managed to grow seven to eight vegetables together in the single plot, shared Usha. Using organic fertilizers will ensure healthy plants and even the produce won’t be hazardous as they were when we were using chemical fertilizers, shared Reena, beaming while explaining.



Scaffolds prepared from bamboo and plastic wires are used to grow creepers over the vegetable orchard.




The cost of chemical fertilizers applied on 2 katthas of land for the same was Rs. 1834 in 2014, where as for the organic fertilizer it was as low as Rs. 774 in 2015.


We have saved around Rs. 1000 as we didn’t purchase and apply urea, potash, DAP, Zinc or Phosphate in the field this time, added Usha Didi. The effort of applying such organic manure has paid off. The household has already generated Rs. 7,500 as revenue by selling the produce and expects more, up to Rs. 16,000 by end of September after household consumption.


I found the method convenient and the low budget required to prepare the organic fertilizer was enough to convince us, explained Usha with confidence. The men in their families have also seen the benefit of using organic fertilizers on their lands where they grow staple crops.


Both now have a common agenda they want to ensure application of Jeevamrut by as many people as possible in their SHG.