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.

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.