Embracing Climate-Smart Farming in Ethiopia

Digital Green has been working to improve farming advice through videos, focusing on climate-smart agriculture (CSA) in Gumer woreda, Ethiopia. This project aims to educate farmers about climate change and how to adapt their farming practices to mitigate its effects.

We produced two videos demonstrating climate-smart practices, such as making vermicompost and using cow urine as fertilizer. These videos have reached many farmers and significantly increased awareness about climate change and how to combat it in farming.

Ashiket Siraj, a farmer from Abeke Kebele, is a great example of the impact of this project. Before watching the videos, she knew little about climate change or the benefits of using compost. The training changed that. She said, “The videos opened my eyes to the effects of climate change and showed me practical steps I could take on my own farm.”

Inspired by what she learned, Ashiket decided to start making her own vermicompost. Even though the demand for worms has driven up prices, she invested 3 kg of worms for 2100 ETB to get started. She carefully followed the instructions from the videos, setting up a composting area and mixing the right materials.

Ashiket used to put cow manure directly on her fields, not realizing it could contribute to climate change. Now, she includes it in her compost, reducing harmful emissions: “I’m doing my part to fight climate change with my composting,” she said. Her efforts are improving her soil and increasing her farm’s productivity. She’s excited about the organic food she’s growing for her family and the potential to sell excess vermicompost and worms for extra income. “I plan to expand my composting,” she shared, “It’s good for my farm, my family, and the planet.”

Ashiket’s commitment to climate-smart practices has also inspired others in her community. As more farmers see the benefits of her approach, they’re starting to adopt similar methods. This collective shift towards sustainable farming is helping the entire community become more resilient against the challenges posed by climate change. It’s a powerful example of how knowledge sharing can lead to widespread change, with farmers supporting each other in adopting practices that benefit both the environment and their livelihoods.

The success of the CSA project in Gumer woreda, highlighted by stories like Ashiket’s, underscores the potential of video-based learning in transforming agriculture. Digital Green’s initiative is not just about introducing new farming techniques; it’s about empowering farmers with the knowledge and tools they need to make informed decisions. This approach is paving the way for a more sustainable and productive future for farmers in Ethiopia and beyond, showcasing the tangible impacts of integrating technology with traditional farming wisdom.

Climate-smart practices become more accessible for farmers through Farmer.CHAT, a Generative AI assistant from Digital Green and Gooey.AI

NEW YORK, NY – Digital Green has announced a new product that aims to enhance the development of farmer-driven content, research outputs, and policy guidance at scale. This service was developed by generative AI startup Gooey.AI and partnerships with the Governments of India and Ethiopia, FAO, Microsoft, and Apurva.ai.

Famer.CHAT is a locally responsive farmer advisory service designed to facilitate real-time communication between governments and farmers on the frontlines of climate change and water security issues.

By developing content based on call center logs, transcribed training videos and farmer feedback in local languages, this service provides critical two-way exchange that can benefit both parties.

“The best source of information for farmers is other farmers,” said Rikin Gandhi, CEO of Digital Green. “Leveraging generative AI technology alongside our years of experience in creating accessible agricultural advisory content for millions of small-scale farmers across India, Ethiopia, Kenya—and beyond—has the potential to be life changing for the productivity of not just millions of farmers, but hundreds of millions.”

Over its 15-year history working with national governments around the world, Digital Green has facilitated access to trusted agricultural advisory services that have benefited over four million farmers worldwide.

“We believe that by empowering farmers with more knowledge about climate-smart practices we can help them increase their incomes while also building resilience to climate change,” added Rikin. “Our mission is not only about providing better access to tailored information for productivity, but also helping people adapt quickly as climate and market conditions change rapidly.”

“AI has the potential to aid the productivity of everyone,” says Gooey.AI Co-founder Dev Aggarwal. “In Farmer.CHAT, we’ve combined technologies like GPT and vector databases from Microsoft Azure OpenAI, speech recognition from Bhashini.in and the ease of use of Google Docs to create a simple WhatsApp conversational bot. Now any government extension agent or farmer can type or talk in their own language and get clear answers with links to relevant Digital Green videos.”

Transforming Lives Through Self-Help Groups: A Farmer’s Journey to Economic Prosperity

Alimaze Zawuge lives in a small village in Ethiopia. As a wife, mother of five, and farmer, her goal was simple: improve her family’s living conditions. However, her small farm size limited her ability to grow various crops or earn enough income from farming alone.

In June 2023, Alimaze’s situation began to improve when she joined the Muruta Self-Help Group (SHG), an initiative supported by Digital Green and the local government. This group was designed to help community members like Alimaze by providing them with financial and educational support.

By August 2023, Alimaze had saved enough money through the group to secure a loan to start a small business buying and selling spices, which allowed her to earn extra money in addition to what she made from farming. Her husband, Markose, supported her by helping with the business and caring for their home while she worked.

This new source of income has been significant for Alimaze’s family. It has increased her weekly income to 120 ETB and has opened up new possibilities. Alimaze now hopes to provide her children with a better education, including the opportunity to attend tertiary school.

The success of Alimaze and her family is a testament to the impact of community-based initiatives like SHGs. By providing access to financial resources and fostering a supportive community environment, Digital Green and the local government have helped Alimaze and others in her village to improve their livelihoods.

Alimaze’s story highlights the importance of supporting rural communities through education and economic opportunities. It shows how, with the right support, individuals can overcome challenges and achieve their goals, leading to stronger, more resilient communities.

How Video-Based Extension Transformed Wheat Farming in Bonga, Ethiopia

A remarkable transformation is unfolding among a dedicated group of wheat farmers in the lush landscapes of Bonga, Ethiopia. These farmers, who had been tilling the land together for nearly a decade, found themselves at the heart of a revolutionary change brought about by a collaboration between Digital Green, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Ministry of Agriculture—a collaboration that brought video-based extension service to farmers, designed to empower them with practical, actionable knowledge.

Traditionally, these farmers depended on conventional extension services for agricultural guidance. Often crowded and overwhelming, these sessions covered everything from land preparation to harvesting in a single sitting, leaving many farmers feeling lost in a sea of information. The one-size-fits-all approach failed to engage them fully or address their specific challenges, leading to a disconnect between the training provided and its practical application on their farms.

Introducing the video-based extension service marked a new beginning for these farmers. Tailored agricultural videos were introduced covering crucial aspects of wheat farming, like land preparation, row sowing, and urea application. The farmers, now equipped with the knowledge presented in their local language and at their own pace, embraced these new practices with open arms.

Beyond the Fields: A Community Transformed

The videos were more than just instructional content; they were a source of inspiration. By demonstrating best practices in an engaging and relatable format, the videos motivated the farmers to try new techniques and improve their farming practices. The result was a collective cultivation of 17.25 hectares of wheat land, following the best practices showcased in the videos with precision and care.

In July of 2023, fueled by the guidance from the videos, the farmers invested significantly in quality inputs and embarked on a season of farming with high hopes. Their goal was ambitious yet achievable: to harvest 30 quintals of wheat per hectare, translating to a total expected yield of 517.5 quintals. When sold at the market rates, this yield brought them substantial revenue above what they normally received, transforming their livelihoods.

The benefits of Digital Green’s video-based extension went beyond increased yields and potential earnings. The videos fostered a sense of community among the farmers, encouraging collaborative work and shared learning. They provided a platform for farmers to reflect on their technical mistakes and build upon their existing wheat farming experience, enhancing their skills and confidence.

The success story of Bonga’s wheat farmers is a powerful endorsement of the video-based extension service. Ato Alalo Abebe, the local District Agriculturalist, praised the approach for its effectiveness in overcoming the limitations of traditional training methods. The farmers themselves, reinvigorated by their success, are eager for more. They look forward to accessing additional agricultural advisory services and are keen to continue their journey of learning and growth.

 

Cultivating Knowledge: Bridging Agriculture, Technology and Indigenous Wisdom

As we observed International Indigenous Languages Day this week, we reflected on the unique intersection of language, agriculture, and technology and how these elements combine to support farmers around the world, particularly in culturally rich regions like Ethiopia. Farming embodies a heritage interwoven with the cultural and linguistic fabric of communities. Recognizing this, Digital Green champions the use of indigenous languages in delivering agricultural advice. This approach not only respects but also revitalizes the deep-rooted connections between traditional practices and contemporary farming wisdom.

Improving Access and Adoption with Local Language and Videos

Language barriers can significantly hinder access to vital agricultural information. By offering advisories in the local languages of farmers, these barriers can be removed, paving the way for a more inclusive and accessible exchange of knowledge. Digital Green’s commitment to this cause is evident in our extension services, available in over 24 local Ethiopian languages. 

By delivering advice in the indigenous languages and dialects of a variety of regions, we provide farmers with advice that’s not only linguistically accessible but also contextually relevant. Utilizing video-based extension services, we bring agricultural practices to life in the most relatable way possible — in the farmers’ own languages. This method not only improves comprehension but also fosters a sense of belonging and community among farmers. They can see and hear practices in action, narrated in the familiar cadence of their mother tongue by a local farmer they already know, which significantly boosts the chances of these practices being adopted successfully.

A Prosperous Future for All Farmers, No Matter the Language 

Beyond video, Digital Green employs a variety of technological solutions like an AI assistant, mobile apps, voice messages, and interactive platforms, all adaptable to deliver content in indigenous languages. This ensures that crucial advisories reach farmers everywhere, even in areas where internet access might be sporadic.

Our vision at Digital Green is to create a future where every farmer, no matter their language, has the knowledge and resources to thrive. By honoring linguistic diversity, we’re not just sharing agricultural advice; we’re nurturing a global community of informed, connected, and empowered farmers. Let’s celebrate language’s vital role in preserving cultural heritage, fostering community, and advancing sustainable agriculture.

Summary of Evidence Review of Digital Green’s Video-Mediated Farmer Extension Approach

Site-Specific Fertilizer Recommendations for Wheat in Ethiopia – Project Report

Unleashing the Power of Technology and Data in Agribusiness

In Ethiopia, where agriculture is a key economic driver, a significant change is underway. With the global population rising and the demand for food increasing, Ethiopian agriculture is turning to technology and data-driven methods. This shift is crucial as agriculture represents 40% of Ethiopia’s GDP and employs about 75% of its workforce. The country is focused on transforming its agricultural sector from traditional methods to more productive and industrialized processes. Emphasizing a comprehensive farming approach, Ethiopia is working towards sustainable agriculture by integrating social, economic, and environmental factors.

For over two decades, Ethiopia has championed a holistic farming approach, weaving together the social, economic, and environmental threads into a tapestry of sustainable agriculture. The fields of Ethiopia are more than just plots of land; they are the foundations of entrepreneurial ventures and the pillars of agripreneurship. This new wave of agribusiness is fueling local economies, bolstering food security, and seeding jobs across communities.

Yet, in this fertile land, agripreneurs face daunting challenges. The foremost among these is the barrier to critical information. This gap in knowledge affects their ability to navigate market trends, understand climatic changes, and adopt best agricultural practices.

Our Game-Changing Partnership with FAO

Digital Green joins forces with the FAO to bridge this information divide in a groundbreaking partnership. Together, we’re crafting a digital haven – a data-sharing platform that promises to be the compass for agripreneurs navigating the complex agricultural ecosystem.

This platform is more than just a repository of information; it’s a gateway to empowerment. It equips agripreneurs with the tools and insights needed to enhance digital advisory services and bring innovative solutions to the fore. Imagine a world where an AI-powered Telegram bot serves as your personal agricultural advisor, offering customized access to a treasure trove of data – from market insights to soil health, from financing options to cutting-edge research, and even images to identify crop diseases.

Revolutionizing Agribusiness with Technology and Data

Ethiopia’s combination of technology and agriculture is a significant shift, marking a new chapter in agricultural practices. Facing challenges like a growing global population and environmental concerns, adopting innovative technology is essential. This approach aims to create sustainable and efficient farming practices, making them a practical reality rather than just an aspiration.

With the introduction of digital tools in agriculture, Ethiopia is poised to experience substantial improvements in farming. We are at a point where these changes can lead to notable advancements in agricultural productivity. We invite you to be part of this journey as we move towards an era where modern technology and traditional farming methods work together to transform Ethiopian agriculture.

 

Growing Smarter: Embracing Site-Specific Fertilizer Recommendations in Ethiopia

In the rolling wheat fields of Ethiopia, a digital revolution is taking root. In a country where traditional blanket fertilizer recommendations have long governed farming practices, a pioneering initiative is breaking new ground, promising not just higher yields, but a brighter future for farmers. Digital Green, in partnership with the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, is blending technology with traditional farming practices to revolutionize how farmers nourish their crops by tailoring fertilizer recommendations to the unique needs of each location. 

A Tailored Approach to Farming

Gone are the days of one-size-fits-all fertilizer recommendations. Imagine a world where farmers receive personalized advice as unique as the soil they till. That’s the vision brought to life through the Decision Support Tool (DST) developed by CIAT. This innovative tool generates site-specific fertilizer recommendations, ensuring every grain of wheat reaches its fullest potential. The results? A remarkable 24% increase in yield per hectare per season compared to local recommendations and a 16% rise over national blanket recommendations.

The journey from data to field is facilitated by Digital Green’s cutting-edge digital technologies. Our video-based extension and a pioneering Telegram Bot serve as conduits, delivering these golden nuggets of advice directly into the hands of Development Agents and, ultimately, the farmers. Initially, farmers received advice through printed maps and videos. However, as the number of participating farmers grew, the need for a more scalable and sustainable solution became evident. Enter the Telegram bot, a game-changer in agricultural advisories, enabling frontline workers to effectively share vital information with farmers.

Reception and Adaptation

Frontline workers have embraced the Telegram bot, praising its user-friendliness and the ease it brings in dispensing advice at both village and individual levels. Their feedback is a testament to the tool’s effectiveness in making a real difference on the ground. This digital transformation has not just boosted crop yields; it’s changing lives. Over 50,200 farmers, including a significant 25% female representation, from 16 woredas have been reached through these advisories. What’s more, 38,810 farmers have accessed information directly from the Telegram bot, embodying the success of this digital leap. 

Initially skeptical, farmers have also gradually recognized the benefits of site-specific recommendations. Despite challenges like fertilizer shortages and high prices, many are eager to adopt these new practices, drawn by the promise of higher yields and better livestock feed.

Looking Ahead

Frontline workers are not just users but innovators, suggesting integrations for comprehensive advisories covering diverse crops and farming practices. The vision is to create a digital ecosystem that supports every aspect of farming, from sowing to harvest. As we stand at the intersection of tradition and technology, it’s clear that the future of farming is digital. By personalizing agricultural advice, empowering farmers with knowledge, and leveraging the power of digital tools, we are not just growing crops; we’re nurturing a new era of sustainable and prosperous agriculture.

Read the full assessment reporthere.

Reviving Soil, Transforming Lives

 

Beneath the vibrant tapestry of our rural landscapes lies an unsung hero – the soil. This living, breathing foundation is not just dirt beneath our feet; it’s the bedrock of our existence, pivotal in feeding the ever-growing global population. Yet, its silent cry for help often goes unheard. This World Soil Day, join us in unearthing the story of soil – a tale of neglect, revival, and hope.

Rural agriculture, the backbone of many economies, thrives on the health of its soil. It’s a delicate balance – managing the chemical, physical, and biological aspects that constitute healthy soil. This balance is critical, not just for sustainable farming practices, but for our very survival.

At Digital Green, we’re pioneering a movement to restore soil fertility and health. Our approach? A blend of traditional wisdom and modern technology. We champion sustainable agricultural practices, from soil and water conservation to the use of organic fertilizers like compost and vermicompost. Our methods go beyond enhancing soil’s nutrient availability; they rejuvenate its very essence, improving water retention and structure – keys to a resilient soil ecosystem.

Meet Emuye Muche, a 40-year-old farmer from Korata Kebele in Ethiopia. Her journey with Digital Green transformed not just her farm but her life. “My soil was acidic, and growing maize was a challenge,” she shares. “But after attending Digital Green’s video sessions on vermicompost, I saw a dramatic change. My backyard, once barren, now flourishes with vegetables, fruits, and maize.”

Kefelegn Tariku’s story is no less remarkable. Residing in Amhara, Ethiopia, this father of five faced the challenge of overusing inorganic fertilizers. Through our partnership with Alliance Bioversity and CIAT, and a customized Telegram bot, Kefelegn discovered the power of location-specific fertilizer recommendations. “I tried it on a small plot,” he recalls. “The results were so promising that I expanded it to a hectare. My yield skyrocketed in just a year.”

This World Soil Day, Digital Green reaffirms its commitment to nurturing soil health. By equipping farmers with knowledge and tools, we’re not just promoting sustainable practices; we’re empowering them to be guardians of their land and our ecosystems.

Together, we hold the power to safeguard soil health, champion sustainable agriculture, secure food supplies, and foster a healthier planet for generations to come. As we commemorate World Soil Day, let’s pledge to be active participants in this vital mission. The health of our soil reflects the health of our world. Join us in this crusade, for the earth beneath our feet holds the key to our future.