Gender Integration in Digital Green’s Work

Agriculture is a family business in Ethiopia, as it is in most countries. Women farmers conduct up to 75% of farm work, accounting for 70% of family food production in Ethiopia. However, women produce up to 35% less than male farmers because they have less access to extension services and inputs such as seeds and fertilizer.[1] This is because agricultural extension services have traditionally been geared toward males and development groups (25-35 farmers organized by the government in their neighborhoods for extension and agricultural development services) are made up of “heads of family,” who are predominantly men. In order to address this, the Ministry of Agriculture of Ethiopia, in collaboration with other non-governmental organizations, is aiming to close the gender gap in agricultural extension services. As part of this endeavor, Digital Green is developing women-only development groups to boost women’s access to agricultural extension services. Furthermore, Digital Green’s video extension approach aims to close the gender gap in farm labor and decision-making by better understanding gender roles in farm labor and decision-making and ensuring that the structure, design, and delivery of video extension services meet the needs of both men and women.

To better integrate the gender dynamics in the project districts and better incorporate them in the video extension approach, Digital Green is collaborating with Tanager[2] through the IGNITE[3] project, a collaboration of Tanager, Laterite and 60 Decibels.  IGNITE supports Digital Green’s effort in increasing women’s access to agriculture extension services and gender integration across project activities.

A qualitative research conducted by Laterite as part of research initiatives of IGNITE titled “Exploring Intra-Household Decision-Making and Best Practice Adoption Outcomes of Women-Targeted Digital Extension”[4] shows that women and men have distinct gender roles in wheat farming. Traditionally, men lead on several farming activities like land preparation and sowing, but women and children provide essential support for these activities, while women also lead on others. Men tend to dominate land preparation, sowing, purchasing inputs such as fertilizer or herbicide, and selling the crop. Men are also heavily involved in harvesting and threshing (with support from women and children) and contribute to weeding. Men are rarely involved in support activities like fetching water or preparing food.

Women play a supporting role in almost all farming activities and take the lead in some. Crucial supporting roles, like fetching water for chemicals and fertilizer, monitoring leaves for rust, clearing land of debris, availing fertilizer, and preparing food for all laborers are led by women. Women also take lead on post-harvest storage of wheat. Together with men and children, women harvest and weed as well, and prepare the threshing floor.

Figure 1:  division of farm labor[5]

Despite their distinct farm labor role, nearly all participants agree that land belongs to the household as a whole and is not owned by any individual. There are also women who owned wheat plots independently, such as households headed by single mothers or widows.

Besides gender mainstreaming, Digital Green is also focusing on women-specific activities, such as establishing Self Help Groups (SHGs) and repurposing a women’s development army organized by the government to tackle different health issues. According to the gender analysis conducted for the Digital Agriculture Advisory Service (DAAS) study, although women make up a large portion of the agricultural labor force, their contribution is underestimated[6], and as a result, they do not receive the necessary agricultural extension services. Moreover, their decision-making ability in the household and on the farm is limited by stereotypical social norms. To address these issues, Digital Green has formed 4900 Women Development Groups, totaling 120,714 members, and thus far has reached 94,037 of them through video-based extension services.

Digital Green is also challenging the stereotyped gender norms through the videos used for advisory services recognizing women’s roles in agriculture and promoting shared decision-making. Whenever it is feasible, we cast female farmers as role models in the videos. Moreover, Digital Green also produces women-specific videos that focus on the activities women play on the farm predominantly. The result of the qualitative study shows that Women farmers appreciated the presence of women in the video and see them as role models to follow. They also spent more time than men praising the video sessions, mentioning that they are relevant, and timely and giving them great motivation to improve as farmers.

Furthermore, Digital Green has formed SHGs, voluntary organizations of 20-25 individuals homogeneous in terms of socioeconomic background and gender, who get together to solve shared problems and enhance their level of living. SHG involvement is significant because it contributes to women’s economic, social, and political empowerment through increases in income, savings, and/or loan repayments, and skills after women are exposed to group support and accrue social capital through frequent meetings. Accordingly, under the DAAS project, Digital Green has formed 66 SHGs with a total of 1650 members providing technical and financial support to the group members. Digital Green also provides training on the SHG approach for Woreda staff from the Women and children affairs office, Agriculture Office, and Micro and Small Enterprise Office. The training helped the trained staff to provide the necessary support and follow-ups for the SHGs. “The SHGs approach is increasingly recognized as a community development strategy to fight poverty, promote grassroots democracy and build social capital. The approach was introduced to Ethiopia from India in 2002 and has enabled numerous low-income women to pull themselves out of poverty, exercise local governance and revitalize social solidarity.”[7]

The DAAS project is generously supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the United Kingdom’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office.

 

 

 

 

 

Footnotes: 

[1] USAID, Empowering Women Through Agricultural Development in Ethiopia, 2017

[2]  Tanager is an international non-profit organization established in 1993 and an affiliate of ACDI/VOCA.

[3] Impacting Gender and Nutrition through Innovative Technical Exchange for Agriculture (IGNITE) program, is a five-year investment in a technical assistance mechanism to support African institutions to integrate gender and nutrition into their agriculture interventions and way of doing business. IGNITE is implemented by Tanager, Laterite and 60 Decibels.

[4] Exploring Intra-Household Decision-Making and Best Practice Adoption Outcomes of Women-Targeted Digital Extension

[5] Note: the roles displayed are community normative roles for women and men, as expressed by the farmer in the focus group discussions. However these differ on an individual household basis, especially differ for female-headed households.

[6] The role of women in the agricultural economy in Ethiopia: the case of Aira woreda in western Wollega zone, Oromiya regional state, Moa Alemayehu, International Journal of Sociology and Anthropology Research, 2019

[7] Yntiso, Gebre. “The Self-Help Groups Approach in Ethiopia: Promising Achievements and Formidable Challenges.” Journal of Ethiopian Studies, vol. 48, 2015, pp. 33–60. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/44326306. Accessed 18 Aug. 2022.

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.”

Teach by showing and learn by doing: Insights from a development agent in Ethiopia

Tejo Teneshu, 25 years of age, is a development agent  and a mother of two who lives in Edo Balo Kebele, Gedeb Hasasa Woreda, Ethiopia. As a development agent, Tejo is a government employee working closely with farmers and the community in support of the agricultural system.  In the Edo Balo Farmers Training Center, where Tejo works, three development agents  are assigned to support 410 farmers.

“We used to go door to door to teach farmers. but now the farmers not only hear from us but see the process and outcome in their own eyes.” With the new approach, the development agents’ role has evolved. “Our role has changed to more of a mediator,” says Tejo. According to her, Digital Green’s video extension approach recognizes the logistical and resource challenges faced by development agents in disseminating information about improved agricultural practices through individual interaction and enhances the knowledge of smallholder farmers, particularly women.

Tejo concludes with her idea of how she work with farmers:  “Go to the farmers, live among the farmers, learn from the farmers, plan with the farmers, start from what the farmers know, build on what the farmers have, teach by showing and learn by doing.’’ For dedicated development agents like Tejo, the video extension approach is one tool they can use to improve how they build on the farmers’ existing knowledge and work with them to improve their livelihoods.

Using gender analysis to ensure the inclusion of women in agricultural extension services

The Digital Agricultural Advisory Services (DAAS) project aims to help farmers adopt relevant customized advisories delivered via digital channels while strengthening extension systems using a combination of technology solutions and capacity building, systems change, and partnership. In order to identify and respond to the barriers that women face in accessing technology and extension services, DAAS undertook a gender analysis to generate information on gender gaps, needs, constraints, and opportunities of women and men in the access, use, and adoption of digital advisory services. The study covered eight woredas in four regions of Ethiopia. 

 

What did we learn from the gender analysis? 

The majority of households are headed by men. Decision-making patterns show that women make fewer household decisions compared to men, who make major decisions. Women have more diverse income sources compared to men, but men have the upper hand in determining the household budget allocation. Apart from the women-only groups, women’s participation in membership and leadership positions in other development or social groups is minimal. 

Women engage less in agriculture advisory services. Women do not adopt agricultural technologies and practices as quickly as men, citing the need to receive the approval of their husbands before proceeding. Furthermore, women are considered supporters in the productive activities and are represented by their husbands. Development Agents find many challenges in reaching women farmers, including the uneasiness of husbands when a male Development Agent provides extension support to their wives and women’s heavier workloads that mean they have less time to participate in extension activities. 

 

What can we do differently to include women in extension activities? 

There are numerous ways we can ensure women receive agriculture advisory services. Some examples include: 

     – Support women access and use digital technologies;

     – Ensure that agriculture advisory services align with women’s time availability;

     – Provide access to inputs to enhance agricultural production; 

     – Introduce technologies that ease women’s workload; 

     – Conduct training that considers women’s role in agriculture and society;

     – Create an enabling environment for women to develop and own assets; and

     – Provide assertiveness training for women in male headed households to boost their participation in household decision-making.  

The gender analysis is guiding programming decisions. The DAAS project is operationalizing the recommendations from the gender analysis through the development of a gender strategy. 

The Digital Agricultural Advisory Services (DAAS) project is led by Digital Green in partnership with Precision Agriculture for Development (PXD) and driven by the interests and priorities of the Ethiopian Government. The Impacting Gender and Nutrition through Innovative Technical Exchange in Agriculture (IGNITE) project, implemented by Tanager in partnership with Laterite and 60 Decibels, led the gender analysis, which was conducted with support from the AGILE consulting firm. DAAS is implemented with the generous support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the United Kingdom’s Foreign Cooperation Development Office. 

Advancing the livelihoods and resilience of women farmers in India

Gender Inequalities in Agriculture: A Context

“When technology reaches a man, it serves the man. When it reaches a woman, it serves the entire family and her community. There is an urgent need to engender digital connectivity and digital technology to have a snowballing impact”

Women small-scale producers across India lack the information, and agency to lead resilient and sustainable livelihoods. As compared to their male counterparts, women farmers have significantly lower literacy rates, and lesser access to resources, advisory, and competitive markets, often receiving as little as 25% of their crops’ final sales price. The divide only becomes more nuanced when tribal communities and tribal women in  particular come into the picture. 

In the country, tribal majority areas are the most poverty stricken areas and are primarily dependent on forests, agriculture and livestock as their source of livelihood. In most cases agricultural extension and agronomic advisories do not even reach the particularly vulnerable tribal groups (PVTGs) in India. 

Even as gender-related inequalities continue to marginalize women in agriculture, the agriculture sector in itself is going through a change. Agriculture value chains are becoming increasingly digitized by making technology more accessible and affordable for several communities to solve pressing challenges such as access to markets, readily available information about climate, soil, and crops. The strong gender digital divide with women having limited access to technology could further exclusion of women from policy and practice.

 

What could be a way forward?

Farmer Producer Organizations (FPOs) are becoming the fulcrum for improving farmers’ bargaining power in India, and can unlock the benefits of group purchases and sales in competitive markets. Women-focused groups could potentially enhance women’s agency in decision making, bringing more equity in their access to markets, reduce production costs, and increase incomes.

At Digital Green, pairing scaleable, and high quality agricultural & post-harvest advisory and mobile coaching with our FPO strengthening and data-sharing solution Kisan Diary Enterprise could significantly improve FPO performance and support buyer discovery and aggregation of commodities for sale. This is what is taking place in the Advancing Tribal Livelihoods and Self Reliance (ATLAS) project in Odisha and Jharkhand, where tribal communities make up nearly 50% of the population. 

Digital advisories are specifically targeted towards tribal women farmers to equip them with information to meet the market demands. By building the capacities of frontline extension agents on video production and dissemination, community videos will help women get information necessary to prepare their harvests and forest products. With FPO interventions and leadership capacity building, these resilient groups of women small scale producers would also be able to confidently navigate market opportunities through collective sales.

 

Our Journey so far 

Since the launch of the ATLAS Project in mid-2021, Digital Green has conducted community mobilization and video production and dissemination training with Community Resource Persons (CRP) in Odisha and Jharkhand. Even at a foundational stage, the impact that these training and dissemination workshops have had on the community resource persons are commendable.

Videos that tell stories: Malati Mohanta’s Experience in Odisha

Malati Mohanta in Odisha has been a CRP under Odisha’s PVTG Empowerment and Livelihoods Improvement Program since 2019, and has majorly contributed in improving living conditions of particularly vulnerable tribal women in the field. 

Considered as one of the most competent CRPs by the block officials, her impact on the community has been extraordinary with respect to community mobilization and capacity building training of tribal women. Through conducting Self-Help Group (SHG) meetings, she educates women on relevant agricultural practices, and provides support on market linkages. In December 2021, Malati also received Digital Green’s video dissemination training.

Having previously worked on a similar project with Centre for Youth and Social Development (CYSD), she was well versed in Digital Green’s community video approach and had already trained 200+ tribal women on videos related to vaccination and livestock farming. Then and even now, the village level communities have shown interest in the innovative approach of community videos because of how unique it is, and are eager to adopt practices that are demonstrated. 

Malati recalls a challenge she had faced – “earlier women were very hesitant and showed little interest in adopting new practices because they felt that they did not have the resources to do so.” With consistent efforts on her part, Malati has popularized the community videos within the community because this information gets shared in the form of stories which holds the interest of women.

A step towards giving decision-making power to women’s FPOs: Munita Oraon’s Experience in Jharkhand

Since 2019, Munita Oraon has been working as an ‘AKM (Ajeevika Krishak Mitra)’ in her village. This role includes mobilizing, and training her community on best agricultural practices. Until a few months ago, a major challenge was that community members did not really apply the practices they learned and there was little buy-in on technology being used for agriculture. Recently, with micro-practice-based community videos, the response has changed. “Community members now believe that what is being shown in the videos is actually applicable and possible in their settings.”

 Munita received video dissemination training in October 2021. So far, she has been able to disseminate videos, in person and via WhatsApp groups, about crop advisory, producer groups, farmer producer companies, etc. This has not just increased knowledge but has also given decision-making power to women producer group members.

 

Looking ahead

Over the life of the project, ATLAS will reach 50,000 women with targeted advisories and improve the participation of FPO members in group sales. Our target is also to see that at least 5,000 women participate in a transaction and get an enhanced income after selling their produce.

ATLAS is implemented with the generous support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Foundational and complementary approaches nutrition sensitive agriculture: UPAVAN’s legacy

Introduction to UPAVAN

Maternal and child undernutrition in tribal areas of rural India has been one of the most pressing issues in the Indian development landscape. Odisha, in particular, has 13 particularly vulnerable tribal groups (PVTGs). Members of these PVTGs have low literacy rates and are mostly cut off from technology, with agriculture being the primary source of livelihoods. 

Across the country, there are 75 PVTGs and numerous rural tribal communities, smallholder farmers and agricultural laborers that work in the most remote and hard-to-reach areas. This is challenging for agricultural producers to gather information, not just for the purpose of maximizing their production and profits, but also for their health and nutrition. 

Upscaling Participatory Action and Videos for Agriculture and Nutrition (UPAVAN) was a randomized controlled trial that sought to address the systemic problem of maternal and child undernutrition in a tribal area of rural Odisha, in India, by testing a novel and potentially scalable intervention. The UPAVAN team aimed to assess the nutrition and agricultural impact and cost-effectiveness of technology-enabled, participatory agriculture extension intervention, compared with a control group, in Keonjhar district, Odisha. 

 

Learnings from UPAVAN

Learnings gathered from UPAVAN were both foundational and complementary to Digital Green’s work and approaches across other initiatives. 

Formative research that was a critical component of UPAVAN for one had helped in understanding and analyzing community behavioral patterns. Digital Green has adopted this formative research approach as a basic component of project implementation. Under the ATLAS Project for instance, which aims to empower tribal farming communities by strengthening the capacities of women farmer producer organizations (FPOs), formative research was conducted to understand the current status of FPOs, women’s knowledge, their ability to support their farmer members, and gender roles. Similarly, in Project Samvad, formative research was used to hyper-localize messages disseminated to communities through hybrid digital approaches.

Given that making Agriculture Work for Nutrition has been a top policy priority in India, at the beginning of UPAVAN, nutrition sensitive agriculture (NSA) was identified as a key concept to disseminate and engage with the community. Field level agents, training staff, and mediators were trained on video production, dissemination and home visits which resulted in a higher uptake. Now Digital Green works to ensure that nutrition-related videos are included in training modules across different programs.

UPAVAN’s approach involving local family and community members as actors in videos to impact faster comprehension and uptake has been integrated into Digital Green’s approach to social behavioral change communications (SBCC). Over the years, we have found that featuring local community members within videos has increased familiarity and has gone a long way in sensitizing and driving influence within communities. 

The emphasis on reaching women during the 1000 day period (from the time of conception to when a child is two years old) in UPAVAN was also applied to other programs implemented by Digital Green such as Project . This was also a project that engaged with women in the 1000 day period to share information on maternal and child health nutrition. By engaging frontline workers, both male and female to share these messages, discussions around these topics openly broke gender stereotypes.

One key takeaway across all our work at Digital Green has been the hybrid approach which builds on the success of the proven community video approach, and complements it with other digital channels such as WhatsApp and IVR to rapidly scale impact across rural communities. This can be applied to any context, sector, and geography, and we have found that using technology builds an intrinsic strength at horizontal as well as vertical levels – not only do they facilitate dialogues and joint learning within the community, they also serve as an interface between health system structures and the women beneficiaries.

 

Further Reading

We have gathered extensive insights, and disseminated information about UPAVAN: 

Digital Green’s website has an evidence page containing reports and journal articles including the following UPAVAN documents: 

Effect of nutrition-sensitive agriculture interventions with participatory videos and women’s group meetings on maternal and child nutritional outcomes in rural Odisha, India (UPAVAN trial): a four-arm, observer-blind, cluster-randomised controlled trial, published in Lancet Planetary Health

How to design a complex behaviour change intervention: experiences from a nutrition-sensitive agriculture trial in rural India, published in BMJ Global Health;

Agricultural and empowerment pathways from land ownership to women’s nutrition in India, published in Maternal and Child Nutrition; and 

Upscaling Participatory Action and Videos for Agriculture and Nutrition (UPAVAN) trial comparing three variants of a nutrition-sensitive agricultural extension intervention to improve maternal and child nutritional outcomes in rural Odisha, India: study protocol for a cluster randomised controlled trial, published in Trials.

Digital Green produced a short video to showcase how women are playing a role in nutrition in Odisha. This video highlights the importance of collective action of women and their journey in enhancing livelihood by producing nutritious crops. The video has over 700 views. 

Digital Green’s video library (https://solutions.digitalgreen.org/videos/library) contains hundreds of videos, including video produced as part of the UPAVAN project on nutrition, agriculture-nutrition nexus, and videos about maintaining crops showcasing practices such as seed treatment, fertilizer preparation, and growing of nutritions crops like spinach.

Digital Green’s YouTube channel, with over 300,000 subscribers, contains more than 100 videos on nutrition sensitive agriculture, kitchen gardens, crop planning for nutrition, the importance of dietary diversity, and other nutrition related topics, produced by various projects, including UPAVAN.

Digital Green and KALRO partner to improve the data sharing ecosystem in Kenyan agriculture

We are honored to announce a new partnership with the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) to improve the agricultural data ecosystem in Kenya. KALRO will serve as a “steward” for FarmStack, a software tool for secure, controlled data sharing. Through FarmStack, KALRO will build a digital community committed to benefitting Kenyan farmers that will enable private, public, and nonprofit organizations to tailor products and services for farmers, ultimately increasing their productivity and resilience. 

FarmStack is an open-source software protocol which provides data connectors to enable secure peer to peer data transfer and the provision of data usage controls. Digital Green has active FarmStack applications with project partners in Ethiopia and India, including the Ministry of Agriculture and Agricultural Transformation Agency in Ethiopia, and we also are supporting live applications with the FAO’s digital services platform as well as a number of other partners.

Figure 1. A FarmStack data sharing network is orchestrated by a “steward” which is a nodal agency with a deep network of partners and the inherent incentives to improve the lives of farmers in their jurisdiction.

In Kenya we are working with KALRO to enable their partners to securely share data across the agriculture ecosystem. We’re currently evaluating initial use cases for FarmStack that can demonstrate the value of data integration and showcase how partners can collaborate to improve their services.

Learn more at farmstack.co and feel free to contact us at Digital Green at farmstack at digitalgreen.org if you’d like to explore opportunities to utilize FarmStack in your work.

>> For an introduction to FarmStack, view this video

>> For a demo of the FarmStack user interface, view this video

>> To access the Digital Green GitHub page, click here

Delivering customized and climate smart dairy cattle advisory services in Ethiopia

This blog outlines the Digital Agriculture Advisory Services (DAAS) project’s approach to climate smart livestock advisories. The project is implemented by Digital Green, Precision Development, and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), in partnership with the Government of Ethiopia’s Ministry or Agriculture and Agricultural Transformation Agency, and is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.

Tsegaye Ayana, pictured on the left with her dairy cows, lives in the Amhara region of Ethiopia with her husband and seven children. In addition to her cows, Tsegaye also raises oxen and sheep and farms maize. She credits extension services with teaching her how to better care for her animals, and notes that “I learned how to feed dairy cows to increase their milk production. My family works hard and we are able to earn more income from dairy activities. There are customers who buy milk from us and with this, I earn a 6,500 ETB per month income.”

Tsegaye is one of many small-scale producers turning toward livestock as a growing source of income. In Ethiopia the population of cattle, the most popular type of livestock, increased by ~50% from 2004 – 2015 and the total number of livestock owning households increased by over 5 million during that same period. As an important source of income, nutrition, and household resilience, livestock ownership is expected to continue growing as small-scale producers aim to diversify their incomes in response to a changing climate which increasingly affects their ability to rely on annual crop productionThese trends represent significant economic opportunities for farmers and show that livestock production should be a priority investment area for governments, non-governmental organizations, and agribusiness actors; however, there is another important aspect to consider – emissions. Globally, livestock production contributes an estimated 14.5% of total GHG emissions, primarily through methane emissions accounting for an equivalent of 7.1 gigatonnes of CO2-eq per annum. In Sub-Saharan Africa, on a per unit basis, milk production is a high contributor to GHG emissions primarily due to enteric fermentation and lack of manure management.

Simple solutions come with complex implementation challenges

There are many practices which can reduce emissions and improve productivity in small-scale livestock production systems. Improving general calf and cow health, enhancing genetic stock through artificial insemination, and providing more digestible fodder all contribute to reduced emissions. Some climate-smart practices can also greatly improve livestock productivity, which is an immediate co-benefit seen by the farmers themselves. Additionally,  in accordance with the DAAS project’s climate and nature strategy, we also consider the natural resource conservation or nature improvement value of the practices promoted. Within the DAAS project we have focused our dairy value chain efforts on some of the most impactful dairy husbandry practices, found within the Ethiopian Ministry of Agriculture’s package of practices, for reducing GHG emissions which also offer clear and immediate co-benefits to the farmer. Additionally, some of the practices promoted lead to clear natural resource conservation outcomes. The table below outlines the key dairy husbandry practices promoted within the DAAS project, the mitigation pathway and/or nature positive value, and the co-benefits seen by the farmers.


Although we know the practices in the table above are effective, there are complex implementation challenges which must be addressed in order to effectively promote them. The predominant environment where most small-scale livestock production happens is highly variable. In Ethiopia, despite the large  number of government Development Agents delivering crop and livestock training services, the reality is that localized conditions, variability in access to goods and services, and language and structural barriers to information dissemination and uptake make the delivery of these solutions difficult. There is a need to develop information pathways which complement the ability of the extension system to provide more tailored advisory services at a larger scale while capturing data on uptake and results of those interventions.*Hypothesis within the DAAS project

Utilizing technology to customize solutions and overcome barriers

We believe that digital solutions can help overcome implementation and dissemination challenges. Within the DAAS project we are working closely with the Ethiopian Ministry of Agriculture and the Agricultural Transformation Agency to build digital solutions which enhance the ability of the extension system to deliver customized advisory services to small-scale producers. Depending on the value chain or solution being developed, the level of customization can vary from simply ensuring that a recorded phone message is delivered in the right language for a geographic area, to precisely calculating the fertilizer needs for wheat production at the village level. Any level of customization depends on the successful utilization of data and dissemination of information; we are addressing these requirements by developing FarmStack, an open source protocol which facilitates the secure exchange of data to inform advisories, and strengthening digital dissemination channels, such as the ATA’s 8028 IVR push line, to complement the existing government extension package. We are also building a farmer registry and work management application which will be deployed at the Development Agent level via tablets. In short, we are bringing together disparate data sets and filling the existing gaps in those data sets to develop more informed advisory content and then delivering that content via digital channels.

Delivering customized, climate smart advisories to millions of farmers

Within the livestock sector, we’re piloting a number of customized advisories based on the practices outlined in the table above. One key channel is a government managed phone information service (called 8028) which farmers can call from any phone in Ethiopia. Through the 8028 service we’ve been able to reach a significant number of small-scale livestock producers with a variety of content and we are continuing to pilot new use cases through these channels. As shown in the chart below, there is relatively high demand for dairy and beef cattle content from farmers using the 8028 hotline. We are also using this service to “push” advisories directly to farmers via recorded voice messages, which allows for a much higher degree of customization by targeting specific farmers based on predefined criteria such as location, type of livestock, or availability of services in their area.

Number of users accessing livestock content via the Government of Ethiopia’s 8028 service from July – September 2021

The push call advisory interventions are tailored to the individual farmer’s language and location and focus on the following:

  1. Artificial insemination: This is targeted at AI technicians and dairy farmers in their area in order to: (i) Improve AI technicians efficiency through reminders of the key steps of AI service provision; (ii) increase farmers demand for AI services; and (iii) inform farmers how to identify when the proper time is for AI services (i.e. heat identification);
  2. Calf and cow management: This promotes key practices for improving calf and cow mortality rates during pregnancy and after giving birth; and
  3. Location based content: This use case will utilize location data to tailor general messages about feeding practices which are timed to the seasonal availability of feed stocks and local conditions and can greatly reduce enteric fermentation. For example if a farmer in Oromia has heifers and sells milk then the feed advisory to optimize the health and reduce the emissions from the cows in March may be different than another farmer who is raising steers for plowing in SNNPR.

We are actively developing a methodology for measuring the adoption of practices promoted via the 8028 channel which will support our ability to quantify the economic and climate related impacts of these advisories. Early phone survey data indicates that farmers who use the inbound 8028 line often understand and retain the information they learn, but further studies are needed to definitively determine the adoption outcomes from this service. When the final iteration of the adoption methodology is complete and tested, we will release that and update these materials accordingly.

A pathway to scaling climate smart dairy cattle practices in Ethiopia

The DAAS project’s approach to reaching scale, with a target of 3.5 million farmers across all value chains by 2024, is threefold:

  1. Proof of concept: Develop customized use cases to demonstrate the value of data integration and customization
  2. System strengthening: Improve digital channels and tools, including video enabled extension, IVR technology, and digitizing extension processes
  3. Catalyzing the ecosystem: Build an ecosystem of actors utilizing FarmStack to share and combine data to further developed future advisories

What we aim to achieve here is to demonstrate how data sharing and digital tools can complement and strengthen existing extension systems in a scalable and repeatable way which can grow with the dairy sector. By prioritizing climate-smart advisory content and targeting the dairy value chain we are supporting farmers to increase their incomes while mitigating emissions from increased dairy production in Ethiopia.