Quality Assurance Within the Community As We Scale Up

Ajay Kumar is a bright young man from Purnea district of Bihar, India. In his early 20’s, Ajay is in the final year of his graduation and lives with his parents and younger sister and an older brother who is married and has one child. Their family of seven depends on vegetable farming and Ajay helps his father and brother in the field when possible.

Ajay became a mediator or (VRP) in 2013, after receiving a training from Digital Green on disseminating how-to

Community Video mediator agriculture extension
Ajay Kumar, a master trainer, taking a session in one of the trainings at Purnea, Bihar

videos about best practices related to agriculture. Digital Green’s SRI videos were crucial to establishing SRI practices among farmers. “It was the first time that 20 farmers opted for SRI after watching a video”, shares Ajay, whose family too adopted practices like seed treatment and line sowing after watching the Digital Green videos, which helped them reduce their costs for cultivation.

This is a testimony to Digital Greens hugely successful partnership with Bihar Rural Livelihood Promotion Society (BRLPS), locally known as JEEViKA which started in 2012 initially covered 100 Villages of two blocks of Muzaffarpur district. In the year 2015, this partnership grew stronger with the project being extended for yet another year, expanding its outreach to all 38 districts of the state. Scaling the project to so many districts also meant great responsibility. The responsibility of not just growing in quantitative measures but maintaining desired quality standards also. It was thus envisaged that efforts would be made alongside to institutionalize Digital Greens processes at grassroots. To make the approach and quality processes more grounded, stable and sustainable, the role of Master Resource Persons (MRP) became crucial.

Both Digital Green and JEEViKA got down to the task of building a band of MRPs across the region that could handle the role of supportive supervision to mediators and remain exclusive to Digital Greens intervention. JEEViKA developed a position of an MRP which is equivalent to the Skilled Extension Worker (SEW) within their organizational structure.

An MRP is tasked with looking after 20 mediators spread across 20 distinct villages in a block. An MRP monitors and supports the video mediators assigned to them, ensures they have forms to data capture, consolidates and validates data captured in these forms, distributes videos, conducts review meetings, observes dissemination process and provides feedback on quality based parameters to a mediator for further improvement. S/he also makes field visits doing sample adoption verification to validate the behavioural changes claimed and reported by mediators.

Earlier, these MRPs worked as mediators after going through Digital Greens dissemination training program. Video mediators performing exceptionally were selected meticulously and trained on aspects of quality assurance such as dissemination observation, adoption verification, and forms verification. Some of these MRPs have also gone through Training of Trainers (ToT) program and support the staff of Digital Green and JEEViKA during dissemination training in their respective districts.

Ajay has also attended one such ToT and became an MRP last year and now puts all his efforts into training and supporting mediators in Purnea district of Bihar. Many training participants take a while to recognize him as a trainer due to his boyish appearance, given that many of them are perhaps twice as old as Ajay. Ajay does not let this bother him. “Their doubts vanish as soon as I start the training sessions, facilitating them on different topics of dissemination training”, says Ajay, thus establishing himself as a Master Resource Person. Ajay also conducts review meetings with mediators at the block level where he collects forms documented by mediators and validates the documentation. He also visits different villages to observe dissemination and verify adoptions and has become well known among Village Resource Persons (VRPs) of Barharakothi block of Purnea district.

In 2015, Digital Green’s Bihar team focused on emphasizing the role of MRPs to maintain and sustain its efforts at grassroots. The team believed that devoting more time and resources on an MRPs inclusion in training programs, dissemination observation, review meetings, and adoption verification would be conducive to ensure quality. This would also support in shifting the ownership of the process of ‘behavior change’ towards those who belong to the community. Thus, our team decided to proceed with training these MRPs, refreshing their concepts on different aspects to maintain quality and sustain the program. A new training module was also developed to serve the purpose. Around 116 MRPs were trained to support field operations and maintain quality. These MRPs have observed more than 700 disseminations in 2015 that has helped us to maintain qualitative measures. The data reported from these observations serve as a source for analysis and further improvement.

Ensuring quality at every stage of the various processes has been vital to Digital Green’s strategic objectives. Maintaining quality in training, video production and dissemination has eased our pursuit to achieve scale with quality. And now we have a strong band of MRPs supporting us in this endeavor, helping us keep our work further grounded in the community.

NPM as a route to self-sufficiency and quality produce for small farmers


48 year-old Chintakayala Devamma, is a small but progressive farmer from Podaralla village, Anantapur district, Andhra Pradesh.


When we visited her on her field, Devamma and her son and daughter-in-law were harvesting okra. Devamma proudly gestured towards the half grown castor trees on the border of her farm. Instead of fencing our field with twigs and bamboo, we have planted castor trees around our field. Castor trees have very big leaves. The pests and insects that would generally attack the crop will make a shelter on those leaves and eat them out and spare the crop. Depending on intensity of pests, we spray NPM kashayams (bio-extracts) like neemastram (neem kernel extract) and Brahamastram (bio-extract for pest control) to kill the pests. Eventually, incidence of pests and insects on the main crop will reduce to a great extent. This makes Castor tree a good border crop, shared Devamma.



Devamma with the Castor trees that make a sustainable border fencing for her farm




We also make an additional income by selling Castor seeds. This was the first practice that I adopted after attending a training program on sustainable non-pesticide management (NPM) organized by the farm wing of Society for Elimination of Rural Poverty (SERP) – Community Managed Sustainable Agriculture (CMSA), she added.

Govindamma and her son Suneel and daighter-in-law in their field



Looking at Devammas keen interest and her articulation skills, Bukkaraya Samudram revenue block self-help groups federation selected her as one of the Sub-Committee members in non-pesticide management division. As part of this job, she attended trainings on NPM, visited several farms, and interacted with scores of farmers to encourage them to adopt NPM practices. Being a member in Maheshwari self-help group (SHG) has benefitted my family in many ways. Apart from financial support, we were shown videos on NPM practices. With that exposure, being a Sub-committee member, I have trained many other farmers on adopting NPM practices, shared Devamma.



Devammas story also reinforces the power of peer-to-peer learning. Initially, the SERP-CMSA trainings and Digital Green videos helped her learn the NPM practices, and then she started practicing them herself. This lent credibility to NPM among her peers. We have all NPM practices adopted on our one and a half acres of land, shaed Devamma proudly pointing to a corner of her field where she had created a Nadep compost pit.  She explained that she had used the compost created there recently for transplanting the latest crop of okra, which too she points out.



When people come to work in my field, they see all of it. When we sit together for lunch, we share our food. I share curries made of vegetables from my field. They instantly recognise that they taste deliciously different. That convinces them of the relevance of NPM, she adds.




Many farmers in and around Bukkaraya Samudram block cultivate vegetables to supply to Bengaluru and Hyderabad, the nearest metros. Vegetables often get some disease or other And the farmers spend a large amount of money on pesticides and fertilizers. Especially with vegetables like okra that have relatively short crop cycles, the use of pesticides and fertilizers is concentrated over a period of time and result in high toxicity of soil and crop. Our cluster activist showed us videos on the use of sour butter milk, neemastram (neem-kernal extract), and ghanajeevamrutham (bio-fertilizer) etc. After watching the video on sour-butter milk and its advantages, we adopted that practice. It really helped to cure the powdery mildew disease, shared Devamma. Before watching the Digital Green video, we had never known about the use of sour butter milk for pest control, added Devamma.



When asked whether her family has any debts, Devamma shares proudly that they didnt have any. In fact, she says they have a surplus of INR 30,000 in hand. When our farm investments have reduced so much, there is no question of borrowing money from others. We grow everything that we consume, she said showing us a small patch of land where she has sown onions, tomatoes, and drumsticks etc.



Anantapur, one of the most arid and drought affected districts in India, is often in the news due to high levels of agrarian distress. Despite being from the same district, Devammas story is different. My family depends solely on this small piece of land. We spend most of our time on the field. Cultivating vegetables gives us a regular income. As part of crop rotation, we also cultivate groundnut and tomato. By the time we finish harvesting the current okra crop, the next crop is ready to be harvested shared Devamma. Though she is a small farmer, her family is food secure and ensured a moderate income. Stories like Devammas may not be a panacea for larger agricultural concerns.






Pro-farmer policies, price guarantee, and stable markets are what make farmers lives easier. But, certainly, stories like Devammas may stand as an alternative in the midst of agricultural distress until we find a longer-term solution. As I walked back from her field, I was convinced that its this spirit of small farmers which needs to be celebrated and shared with the wider audiences again and again.



(The author of this case study wishes to acknowledge support from District Project Management Unit, SERP-CMSA, Anantapur, A.P., K.Masthan Vali, Assistant Program Manager, Digital Green)

A Tippy Tap Revolution

A Digital Green case study from Niger on how video-enabled health extension prompts behaviour change


Rakiya Idi is 27 years old and has lived with her husband, Idriss Yahaya, in Malam Daweye village in Niger for more than a decade. Like her parents before her, Rakiya is a farmer. Idriss farms and works as a trained video mediator in Malam Daweye. There were no schools in her village growing up, so Rakiya never had the opportunity to access formal education. However, as Malam Daweye has a primary school, her four living children, ages 2 to 12, have the opportunity to go to school. In 2013, Idriss took a second wife, Lantana, 17, and the couple have a 19-month old daughter named Nusaifa. Rakiya and Lantana are close and share household responsibilities for their families.


Rakiya, at right, with her co-wife Lantana, Lantanas infant daughter, their husband Idriss, and Rakiya and Idriss four children.





Rakiya first encountered Digital Greens video-enabled approach to nutrition and health extension in early 2015. As part of the JSI-led SPRING project, Digital Green and SPRING introduced this approach in Niger following successful piloting in India. Under the guided facilitation of a trained female health extension worker, Rakiya watched videos on the first 1000 days of a healthy child, hand washing, responsive feeding, exclusive breast feeding, complementary feeding, female nutrition, diarrhoea prevention, and harvest planning. Each video, averaging about ten minutes in length, was produced locally and featured fellow Nigeriens demonstrating good practices and behaviours specific to the videos theme.


Rakiya still remembers watching the video on hand washing in March 2015, and the discussion led by the female health extension worker. Before watching it, she and her family washed their hands infrequently and only with water, never soap. As she watched the video, which showcased behaviours like washing hands using a tippy tap device after going to the toilet, before cooking, before eating, and before feeding children, she was able to immediately make connections between her familys lack of hygiene and their frequent bouts with stomach aches and diarrhoea. Rakiyas third-born child, a daughter named Saratou, had died at the age of two over five years ago; her death caused in part by diarrhoea.


After watching the video, Rakiya literally practiced the steps demonstrated in the video in order to master how to properly wash her hands.  Rakiya says, To be honest, I adopted the practices I saw in the hand washing video immediately because I understood the content and was fully convinced that these small changes could create a positive impact in the life of our family and prevent us from experiencing sickness.


Rakiya carried the videos messages and handwashing practices home with her and shared them with Lantana. Lantana was receptive, so Rakiya taught her the steps and invited her to attend the next video dissemination to view the video for herself.


Now both on board, Rakiya and Lantana, with help from Idriss, built a tippy tap hand washing station in their compound, based on the guidance provided in the SPRING-Digital Green video, which emphasized sighting the station outside the washroom and kitchen. In doing so, they became among the first households to construct a hand washing station after watching the video. Idriss regularly provides the family with soap, but when they dont have the means to buy it, they use ashes as demonstrated in the video. Hand washing is now regularly practiced by all members of their family, and Rakiya and Lantana report fewer cases of illness and diarrhoea among their family since they started hand washing with soap.


Lantana uses the familys hand washing station, which they constructed after watching Digital Greens locally-produced video on hand washing.


For her part, Lantana, is grateful that Rakiya brought the message of hand washing into their household. Lantana acknowledges that, I did not know the steps followed in hand washing until I watched the video. I did not use soap, and I used to dry my hands by rubbing them on my clothes instead of a clean, designated cloth.


Meanwhile Idriss too says that even at 35 years old and despite working as a mediator for the SPRING-Digital Green project, he never knew that there were steps in hand washing until he watched the video for the first time. Now, he calls it easy, because it has become a part of our daily life.” In his opinion, the hand washing video has been a great tool to convince people that they can make a small but important change.


Now many people in Malam Daweye see Rakiya and her family as role models because their hand washing station is properly constructed and used by all members of their family. Their compound has become a de facto demonstration site, with people stopping by their house to see how the hand washing station was constructed and is used. In some instances, even people who were not direct beneficiaries of the videos have built hand washing stations and practice hand washing as the videos messages have spread by word of mouth. Idriss has even received invitations to help people construct their own household hand washing stations.


Rakiya proudly reports that hand washing is now common sense to her family members. She says, Before the hand washing video was disseminated, people did not understand and believe hand washing is very important. Now, people are awakened and good change is happening in Malam Daweye. She goes on to say that, SPRING- Digital Green videos are vital to my life and the life of my family because they touch on problems we face every day and offer us clear ways to make easy changes that improve our lives. I learn new things whenever I watch their videos.


Through March 2016, Digital Green has screened ten locally-produced videos 873 times to over 1,644 households in 20 villages of Guidan Roumdji and Aguie communes in Maradi region in Niger, as part of a one-year pilot project operated under the JSI-led Strengthening Partnerships, Results, and Innovations in Nutrition Globally (SPRING) project, supported by USAID. Approximately 55 households out of 100 participating households in Malam Daweye have constructed hand washing stations in their homes to date.