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Imagine farmers in a remote village in the countryside sitting around a TV screen to watch a video on agriculture! Well, times are changing and a project on multi-media — the presentation of information in an organised and understandable manner using more than one medium — is helping farmers across Africa gain new agricultural knowledge.
Through videos, says Florent Okry, Regional Coordinator for West and Central Africa at the Kenya-based Access Agriculture, farmers are empowered on good agricultural practices such as planting time and suitable varieties for their farms.
"Video-mediated learning is gaining importance as a way of reaching a large number of farmers and decreases the cost and need for many extension agents in many countries." Okry told delegates at the 3rd Africa Rice Congress in Yaoundé, Cameroon, this week (21-25 October).
But there is need to develop the technical knowledge of new extension staff in their use as a quick way of scaling-up farmers' initiatives and successful techniques according to Okry.
"It is a proven way of triggering farmer experiment. It is an inductor of change; sometimes more than the traditional face-to-face training," explains Okry.
He adds: "It targets farmers, farmers' associations and extension services who would receive videos from the radio stations—distribution points — and technical discussions will emerge among users and distributors involving the extension services".
Initiated by the Benin-based Africa Rice Center, it delivers quality learning videos and the loose experimental set up —no formal agreements or written contracts — has allowed Access Farmers the opportunity to analyse positive deviants within systems: understanding "champions" who emerged in unplanned developments.
Information contained in the videos is used to strength the curriculum of the extension services and help build the confidence of extension agents in interacting with farmers.
Farmers who watch the videos, according to Okry, in turn actively seek additional advice from extension agents.
The rice training videos has enabled new institutional relationships among radio stations, extension services and farmers, and reinforced existing ones.
The farmer-to-farmer rice videos have created a momentum in Benin and across Africa, but more is needed.
Okry says they aim at boosting video-mediated learning in African countries. The videos have been translated into 40 African local languages.
This article has been produced by SciDev.Net's Sub-Saharan Africa desk.