Video screening in Sirbaa village, Rift Valley, Ethiopia

From the desk of Vinay Kumar, Chief Operating Officer, Digital Green

We will adopt this practice tomorrow shout all 23 farmers, with a show of hands. They just finished watching a video that demonstrated how urea should be applied to improve the yield of teff. Their enthusiasm to adopt the practice as soon as the screening ended was a fitting end to a fascinating day with the community in Sirbaa.

Sirbaa is a small village of Udee kabele in the beautiful Rift Valley area of Ada woreda, nearly 53 kms south-east of Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. The travel from Addis to Sirbaa presents a breathtaking panoramic view of green meadows along the road, though marred by thick fumes of carbon dioxide bellowing from heavy vehicular traffic. Along the way, we came across the familiar sight of 3-wheelers as in India. My colleague, Wondwossen, confirms that the 3- wheelers are from India and actually called Bajaj, eponymously named after the owner of the manufacturing company.

It was raining incessantly and I was wondering if we would be able to get any farmers to come for the dissemination. Finally, when we reached the village, there was no road to the venue. We thought wed trek to the venue but it was far and the ground too muddy and watery. Thanks to our driver Shobhit, who used his skills to navigate us through the dangerously muddy way, when we often felt that we could move no further.

Much to my surprise, the makeshift venue for the video screening was packed with farmers, despite the rain. A thatched hut was neatly converted into a studio. Farmers had brought wooden benches from their homes that were used for them to sit; they also used their shawls to cover the window and the doors to stop light from entering the hut. The Pico projector, a battery-operated device used to screen the video, was placed at just the right distance from the wall, where a white sheet was pasted to serve as a screen.

Degefa Mecha, a development agent and facilitator of the video, was trained a month earlier by Digital Green trainers in video dissemination skills and techniques. He started off, much like a professional, taking the attendance of the farmers present and talking to them about the videos they had seen earlier. He created a great environment conducive to discussion and learning. He screened the video stopping at several places using the remote, summarizing the key points and prompting a discussion.

The farmers seemed fully immersed in the session and asked several questions about the way urea should be applied. He not only answered all the questions but also encouraged farmers to respond and clarify doubts from one another. By the time the video was about the end, it was clear that the farmers had not only enjoyed viewing the practice but also learned it and were enthusiastically discussing it. Degefa was at ease with handling of the pico projector; he was also familiar with the practice and was able to ably respond to the questions that farmers asked.

I kept wondering what it was that made this dissemination so successful that all farmers were willing to adopt the practice. Was it a great facilitation by Degefa? Was it seasonal relevance of the practice? Was it the quality of the content in the video? Or was it that the video was screened to the right audience?

An interaction with the farmers shed light on all these questions. There were five model farmers in the group, and one of them was trained in video dissemination by Digital Green.

The facilitation was of good quality, but the farmers also felt that the practice shown was very timely. They could adopt it the very next day. I asked the group how they would get the urea and they said they had already procured it from the cooperative union and had it in their homes. What they learned today was its proper application. With regard to the content of the video, the farmers felt it was easy to understand.

How can we make this video better for you? They said it would be more effective if one of them featured in the film. I personally also felt that the video was more of a monologue and it would have been much better if the practice was presented as a dialogue between two persons.

A key factor that contributed to the willingness of all the farmers present to adopt the featured practice was that the practice was relevant and mattered to all the farmers – they were just the right audience for the screening.

Incidentally, all the farmers attending the screening were males.I asked them if it would make more sense to include their wives for these dissemination and all of them agreed it would really be great as their wives help them out in their farms. One of them also said their wives are the ones who do most of the work. Would they feel reluctant to ask questions and participate in the discussions in the presence of their husbands? No, that was true in the past. Times have changed now.

What I personally felt made the dissemination so effective was the detailed and timely feedback our staff (Wondwossen and Gudissa) gave Degefa in improving the dissemination session.

I would like to acknowledge the contribution of Gudissa who supports this woreda and thank Oxfam America for the good work.

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