Projecting Health: Community-led Video Education for Maternal Health – Research Paper

Learning Digitally: Evaluating the Impact of Farmer Training via Mediated Videos – Research Paper

Digital Green: Leveraging social networks for agricultural extension – Articles

Video-based learning within rural networks – Articles

Corridors for Shared Prosperity: Case Studies: Digital Green – Articles

Seeing is Believing

Somia devi, 46, a resident of Nikaspur village, Morwa block of Samastipur district, Bihar in India, owns a plot of 1 Kattha (1 acre is 22 kattha) were she grows a variety of vegetables. She was dependent on chemical fertilizers like DAP, Khali, Potash and Urea, which used to cost her around INR 1,000 -1,500 per season. Apart from this she also had to spend on insecticide and pesticide sprays. Despite all this investment, Somia devis land had dry soil, her produce remained of low quality and prone to frequent diseases.






This changed soon after she watched a video about zero investment farming created and disseminated with Digital Green and JEEViKAs support. The video, screened in her village in April 2015, demonstrated how a farmer could cultivate using organic fertilizers that could be made without extra input costs using materials like cow dung, hay etc. available in her home. Now Somia devi prepares Ghanjeevamrit (organic fertilizers) for her whole farm and when the vegetables start growing she sprays Agniashtra and Brahmastra (organic pesticides).



She says that the natural method has helped her by reducing input costs of buying chemical fertilizers and pesticides. At present, she has totally stopped use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and insecticides in her farm.



In a plot of 1 Kattha, she has planted more than 8 varieties of vegetables, namely Cauliflower, Brinjal, Pointed gourd, Chillies, Turmeric, Bitter gourd, Bottle gourd, Beans etc. She says Ghanjeevamrit keeps the soil light and helps it retain moisture, which in turn keeps the plants greener and healthier. The vegetables also taste good. I am really glad that I watched the videos on natural farming and have adopted it. Earlier, when I had only heard about this new method, I was quite unsure. I used to wonder if my field would adjust, but now after watching the video and farming by this method, I am very confident and also motivate others to adopt it. It was difficult for me to convince myself before I watched the video. 



Somia devi is very happy. “The money I save is handy in educating my son,” she shares. She feels proud that women of the village consider her a role model and people come to learn from her.



Finding Hope Amidst Despair

Agriculture is the primary source of livelihood and the mainstay of about 80 per cent of the rural population in the state of Jharkhand. Most of the farmers are small and marginal landholders. In Jharkhand 92 per cent of the total cultivated area is un-irrigated thus agriculture here is characterized as nature dependent, coupled with mono cropping and low investment capacity of farmers pushing them into the vicious cycle of poverty.



A failed paddy field due to poor monsoons



Average annual rainfall in Jharkhand ranges between 1200 – 1400 mm, of which more than 80 per cent is confined within the four monsoon months (June-September). Due to the failure of monsoon this year, farmers in Jharkhand suffered a great loss of Kharif crops and distress among the farmers is very evident. Rabi season is just around the corner, but preparedness among the farmers is not very evident as Rabi is mostly rain-fed and scanty rainfall during monsoon has its effect on the Rabi season also. The smile on the face of farmers is fading as deficit rainfall is threatening to push the state towards a drought.



Digital Green and Jharkhand State Livelihood Promotion Society (JSLPS) made a series of visits and interacted with the farmers helping us realize the need to create hope by suggesting alternate measures and crops.

Digital Green’s Thematic Expert on Agriculture Dr. Ritesh Kumar and an independent agricultural expert, Dr. Ravi Bhushan Singh reviewed the situation and developed an alternate plan in an effort to support JSLPS strengthen its extension efforts. They conducted focused group discussions (FGDs) and informal interactions and farm visits to understand the possibilities of alternate crops for the Rabi season.



Focused group discussions with farmers in Jharkhand



It was observed that, farmers are in agony, they were lacking any alternate plan and they were ready to move out of the village in search of other livelihood options. But when certain agri-interventions were introduced to them, and once they were convinced that these could be implemented with the limited resources they have, they felt happy and were enthusiastic about adopting them, shared Dr. Kumar, Digital Green.



Based on the learning from the field, we identified some relevant agri-practices and came up with a plan to scale up these practices. We figured that there is a need for building the capacities of operational teams within Digital Green and partner organization, JSLPS. Thus a detailed plan of action was developed and a two-day technical training was been planned in close consultation with JSLPS, shared Dr. Singh.

JSLPS and Digital Green organized a two-day residential training on agri-practices on 23rd and 24th November 2015, by involving 26 participants from different levels of the extension system. These included Young Professionals (YPs), Field Officers (FOs) and Senior Ajeevika Krishak Mitras (AKMs) and also District Livelihood Managers (DLMs).



Participants of technical training on agri-practices



Intensive participatory and interactive exercises were conducted on the crops and crop management practices focusing on themes such as System of Wheat Intensification; System of Mustard Intensification; Masoor/Lentil with Zero tillage & zero irrigation; Vegetable Nursery Management; Climber Vegetables with bottle drip irrigation; Machan model sequential vegetable farming for small holders; Plant Protection in vegetables; LEISA/CMSA Tips; Crop planning for the season this year, for Jharkhand.



Young Professionals and senior AKMs preparing action plan for Rabi season



It was a heartening to see that after the training and concept seeding, YPs and Senior AKMs were actively engaged in preparing an alternate crop-plan and intervention for execution of the concepts shared at the workshop during this Rabi season in their respective areas.

A lesson learnt well


Since joining Digital Green, I’ve been training extension workers to produce and disseminate videos that capture best practices in the field of agriculture, health and nutrition. This has been a great opportunity to learn and contribute while using this unique behavioural change communication approach.


The youth being trained on video production



















Altogether a new journey for me, where my primary learning was to change myself prior to changing others.


In this profession, most of us tend to believe that the beneficiaries do not have much awareness and that only we can help them change their attitudes and benefit from the new knowledge that we share with them. I have had my own reasons to form such opinions. The poor rural infrastructure, lack of health and hygiene, the crisis in the agricultural sector, the skill gap among the youth, shrinking employment opportunities due to poor education system contributed to my forming these opinions. Looking at it from a distance, I felt that a large part of the reason for this is that the rural folk don’t know enough about these issues or how to tackle them.


It was only right that this opinion would take a beating when I was confronted by opinions of the rural youth at a recent training I organized.


The particular training I refer to is the community youth from one of the most backward district of Jharkhand, West Singhbum. The entire district has been in the grip of the Naxal movement (a far left radical movement) due to which infrastructure and services are in a dilapidated state. Digital Green and its partner, Jharkhand State Livelihood Promotion Society (JSLPS) selected six youth from the district, of which, three were young women. The youth were selected for video production training. As part of the training, a small exercise was given to test their creative skills and writing ability.


I was of the firm opinion that we would need to work hard on training the youth, as they had never been out of their block or district, had a very little educational qualification and exposure.


The exercise given to them was to create a story from random pictures cut out from newspapers. Each of them was given different paper cuttings with only picture and no text.


The next day when they read out their stories, it was an eye-opener for me. It demolished my biases, prejudices and false notions. The stories were talking about their own expectations, aspirations and also for their country. We are, as a nation, dreaming of campaigns such as Digital India and Skill India and think that rural India is completely disconnected. But these stories demonstrated how rural youth also have similar aspirations and expectations from the country and for the country.


The Digital Green team with the youth from west Singhbhum, Jharkhand



















In the last three years, I have conducted numerous training on video production and dissemination and it was an experiential learning. Every time the community has taught me a different lesson. I had no doubt over their knowledge of traditional practices; however, I always underestimated their vision of development-related issues and thought that they are always preoccupied with their own individual problems.


Here I’d like to share one of the stories a very young mother, Shivani, wrote. Her powerful story changed my perceptions forever.