Creating a world for all ages: Safeguarding the environment while empowering youth to build better futures

International Youth Day 2022 focuses on creating a world for all ages. Young people continue facing age-related barriers in many spheres of life, including employment. Over the last two years, Digital Green, in collaboration with Environment and Coffee Forest Forum (ECFF), has empowered youth in the Jimma Zone Gera and Shebe Sombo districts of Ethiopia as part of the Advancing Conservation, Agriculture and Livelihoods in Oromia project generously funded by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. Through this project, Digital Green has helped 170 youth (40% women) form 10 youth-led enterprises that contribute to job creation and economic opportunities for youth while reducing deforestation and forest degradation, supporting biodiversity, and adapting and mitigating the effects of climate change. The members of the youth-led enterprises have been trained on business skills, sustainable forest-based livelihood activities, and nursery site management. As a group, they have been provided with seed capital to jump start the enterprises  and land for nursery and/or seedling production.

The Bedadina Dema youth-led enterprise is among those enterprises  established by the project, with a total of 16 members (eight male and eight female members) ages 15 to 29. Many of the members had to drop out of school because their families were unable to cover the expenses associated with their schooling. The Bedadina Dema youth-led enterprise established a nursery and is currently involved in forest and fruit seedling cultivation. Ahmadin Yazid (pictured above) is a member and leader of the group. He said he is looking forward to selling at the local market the 4,000 avocado, 32,000 coffee, and 447,550 exotics and indigenous forest seedlings they have produced.

Rijal Abatemam used to be an unemployed youth with limited economic opportunities. Now, as a member of the Bikiltu youth-led enterprise, he supports the group in maintaining 17 coffee seed beds with 3,000 coffee plants. In addition to planting seedlings, he is also engaged in beekeeping as part of the enterprise. Rijal calls upon other youth to be part of such groups and independently create job opportunities for other youth in their community.

Digital Green believes in the importance of engaging youth in actions to preserve and enhance the environment, which has a direct impact on their views, behaviors, and livelihoods, as well as on their families and their community.

Transforming agricultural extension for indigenous farmers by providing advisories in their local languages

In celebration of International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples (August 9) and in observation of the International Decade of Indigenous Languages (2022-2032), Digital Green would like to draw attention to the importance of supporting indigenous people and preserving indigenous languages and their unique cultures. 

In Ethiopia, although agriculture is the mainstay of the economy, generating over 45% of the GDP and 90% of the total export earnings of the country, agriculture is characterized by very low productivity.  The Ethiopian Government has been actively pursuing agricultural extension as a key means of strengthening agricultural productivity and transforming economic and rural development. However, indigenous farmers struggle to increase their productivity because extension services are delivered using technical terms in a non-native language that is difficult for the farmers to understand and implement. 

Tegen Kars (pictured with his family) is a farmer living in Goritnamag Kebele of Bench Maji zone. Tegen used to receive agricultural extension support in Amharic. He struggled to apply what he had learned, as he is a native speaker of Bench, a Northern Omotic language spoken by about 174,000 people. According to Tegen, “No matter what kind of farmer we are, most of us do not understand technical terms, which causes the agricultural extension training to be misunderstood.”

Tegen said that receiving agricultural advisories via videos helped him and his peers better understand the agronomic practices. The videos are made in Bench language and feature local farmers just like him.  “To be honest, every farmer is happy. I learned things I did not know before and did not pay much attention to would increase productivity from the video tutorials. I am able to make a difference in my agricultural practices by getting a good education from the video extensions,” Tegen noted. 

Tegen recommended video extension services for farmers elsewhere noting, “If all farmers get video-based extension services and learn from the practice of fellow farmers they watched on the videos, they will be able to translate the videos into action. Video tutorials correct us from many mistakes as we need up-to-date lessons.” Speaking of his success, Tegen said he was able to increase his profit from maize production. 

Digital Green joins forces with government, private sector, and most importantly rural communities themselves to co-create solutions that are of the community and for the community. In order to enable more effective dissemination of information, Digital Green’s video extension approach focuses on delivering timely advisory messages featuring model farmers in their local languages and local context. In Ethiopia, Digital Green, in collaboration with the local agricultural offices, has produced more than 1,500 agricultural extension videos in 24 local languages which have reached more than 630,000 indigenous smallholder farmers in 10,000 villages. Globally, Digital Green has supported the production of more than 6,000 videos in over 50 local, indigenous languages.

Improved agricultural practices that yield happiness and resilient livelihoods

In Ethiopia, Digital Green has been implementing our flagship community video approach to build the capacity of extension agents (known as development agents in Ethiopia) and provide much needed advisory services to farmers. The community video approach trains development agents to produce localized, relevant and timely videos of improved agricultural practices. It also provides with development agents, or mediators, with the skills to facilitate video dissemination sessions that provoke dialogue, answer questions, and collect feedback from farmers.

The following two case studies represent how video extension can be transformative for farmers. Not only can following the video extension advisories yield more production and higher incomes, but also bring happiness and a sense of satisfaction to farmers.


Sinafikish’s Story

Sinafikish Bogale lives in Hadiya Zone Lemo Woreda. After her husband passed away, her life changed drastically. Before, she dedicated her time to the household and her six children while her husband managed their one hectare farm, growing bean, wheat, barley, and maize. Her husband used to be an active member of a development group in the area, but Sinafikish had not been involved. After her husband’s passing, Sinafikish began taking a more active role in the farm.  She said, “I decided to engage myself in farming. I started communicating with the development agents of my village and actively started attending video dissemination sessions. Even if I did not have prior knowledge and practice of how to prepare land, sowing, harvesting, I have gotten practical knowledge about wheat growing from the video dissemination sessions that I have attended in women development groups.”

Sinafikish watched videos on various agronomic practices and the discussions with her peers helped her to acquire knowledge about wheat production. Accordingly, Sinafikish has managed to produce and collect 16 quintals of wheat from half hectare and five quintals of broad bean from quarter hectare of land:  “Even if I can’t yield as much as my husband used to get and bring to our home, I am working hard to bring back my family’s joy and happiness.”


Ermisa’s Story

Back in 2019, Ermisa Dindo, a resident of Damboya woreda, used to think of a video-based extension was a waste of time. But he gave it a chance, and now Ermisa is an active attendee of video dissemination sessions. He adopts each practice to the extent possible. Ermisa explains, “I started to practice Teff and wheat row planting after watching the videos. Adopting these practices saved the seed rates and the fertilizer amount per hectare, and there is also a yield difference in the produces. I would also like to diversify my income through cattle farming by improving and crossbreeding local cattle as well as producing vegetable crops.”

Ermisa said that the video-based extension approach helps farmers gain knowledge and experience, as well as to adopt different agronomic practices: “By adopting the practices I saw during the video-extension sessions and by accepting the advice of development agents, I have been able to diversify my income and improve my living condition. My family has enough money to send the children to schools, to buy quality clothes and get nutritious food.”