Tuesday, July 15th, 2008

The Pilot Project run by The International Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) is focused on research/researchers recognizing the value of farmer knowledge, getting farmers to value their own knowledge and ideas, and finding ways to share farmers’ and other sources of knowledge between farmers. The main activity of the Pilot Project revolved around the organizing of an International Farmers’ Conference.

Farmers' Conference website video quilt

Over 50 farmers attended this conference of a different kind. Instead of being passive participants, listening to presentations by researchers, the farmers were instead asked to present their situations, knowledge, experiences, ideas and skills using storytelling. The stories of the farmers were recorded in video, audio and text forms to be disseminated in various ways. All will be made available on a Conference website to be launched soon.

Farmers’ Conference website video quilt
Video clip showing how to share stories via mobile phones

Additionally the conference organizers uploaded small story clips onto mobile phones of farmers present and showed them how to send these to other farmers with mobile phones. This was done to stimulate some knowledge sharing and a sort of farmer-to-farmer extension system to help facilitate the spread of useful ideas, techniques and knowledge around agricultural activities, specifically plant breeding.

A small video clip was made to show farmers how to share the stories with each other and other farmers. This and other video clips will be available on the website.

Video clip showing how to share stories via mobile phones

Yes this technology exists and works in Syria and some of the other countries involved! No it doesn’t work for everyone-that is true.

When we interviewed some of the participants after the conference we asked about how they felt about the stories made available and shared on the mobile phones. Some of the comments made were:

  • “It is better for me, since I cannot read”
  • “I like it, but I cannot keep the video on my phone forever so I would like a printed copy of the information too.”
  • “I feel very proud to have the stories on my mobile phone and to be able to send them to others”
  • “Not everyone has a phone, especially women”
  • “It is nice to get the information as a story from a real person”

One of the activities proposed by the IWMI Wastewater KSinR Pilot project was the development of an interactive radio program to extend the delivery of research results and messages to target groups. The radio program was targeted at farmers, traders (market women) and caterers-all users of wastewater in various stages of food production.

A script for the radio program was first developed by deriving key messages from results of various research projects working on wastewater issues in Ghana. Once the key messages to be broadcast were developed, these were translated into Dagbani, a local language in Ghana.

The radio program was designed to be interactive, using the following format:

  • jingle
  • introduction by program host
  • traditional music
  • drama
  • talk by host or agricultural extension agent
  • question and answer session
  • panel discussions based on call-ins
  • conclusions

This interactive radio broadcasting on wastewater use messages was recently held on 14th and 20th June 2008.

According to the leader of this activity, Gordana Kranjac-Berisavljevic “it went well.”

She reported back that “we discussed basically 5 key messages for safer use of wastewater where relevant to farmers, vendors and caterers in Dagbani, as well as the recommendations that came out of the World Cafe discussions about key messages held with target groups earlier, with Mr Ghanyu adding some useful advice as facilitator.”

As this is a new approach of dissemination for many research organisations, it is interesting to look at the challenges that may occur as well. Gordana explained that “The problem we found is that everyone talks too much, it was difficult confining them to a 1 hour frame“.

Dr. Pay Dreschel, IWMI researcher and Theme Leader in the Ghana office who oversees the wastewater work and champions the KS efforts within it, responded to this time issue saying “this type of chaos is often inevitable and can be reduced by developing before-hand a clear discussion line for the program“.

This radio program has been recorded and will be shared with others who may be able to use the program itself or learn from this experience for undertaking their own radio programs.

To follow-up on this activity in order to learn from the use of this type of strategy and see whether the messages were received, remembered and used, interviews with listeners will be carried out.

According to Pay “it will be interesting to get the listener feedback. Doing this some weeks later will have merit in terms of seeing if there is any longer-term memory or behaviour change impact from the radio program“.