Digital Green (DG) is a research project that seeks to disseminate targeted agricultural information to small and marginal farmers in India through digital video. The Digital Green system sustains relevancy in a community by developing a framework for participatory learning. The system includes a digital video database, which is produced by farmers and experts. The content within this repository is of various types, and sequencing enables farmers to progressively become better farmers. Content is produced and distributed over a hub and spokes-based architecture in which farmers are motivated and trained by the recorded experiences of local peers and extension staff. In contrast to traditional extension systems, we follow two important principles: (1) cost realism, essential if we are to scale the system up to a significant number of villages and farmers; and (2) building systems that solve end-to-end agricultural issues with interactivity that develops relationships between people and content.
The DG system provides structure to a traditional, informally-trained vocation. The system improves the efficiency of extension programs by delivering targeted content to a wider audience and enabling farmers to better manage their farming operations with reduced field support.
The features of the Digital Green system include:
Digital Green borrows concepts and experiences from the Digital StudyHall (DSH) system. Launched in September 2006 by Microsoft Research India's Technology for Emerging Markets team, a live deployment of a prototype is currently in development with the GREEN Foundation in villages near the Karanataka and Tamil Nadu-state borders in India.
We are actively compiling a repository of videos that includes testimonials of progressive farmers, field demonstrations led by agriscientists, interactions amongst farmers, and market-based opportunities. The library currently contains over 150 locally-produced videos in the Kannada language. These recordings are minimally-edited prior to screenings, which are shown to individuals on laptops, small groups using shared TV and DVD players, and communities through the village cable network. Unlike attempts to use traditional mass media to broadcast agricultural information, DG is local and relevant. Farmers are motivated to adopt a new practice when they see a fellow villager, living in similar circumstances, experience its benefits.
Digital Green has demonstrated early success in the popularization of sustainable farming practices in the 12 villages in which the system is currently deployed. At least 5 times more farmers attempted better agricultural practices after integration of the DG system over the NGO's previous efforts. Today, DG is still a young research project, as we continue to work on rigorous evaluations and seek to understand many outstanding questions. DG aims to scale its system to offer relevant agricultural extension services to a much wider population of farmers. We hope to eventually scale up the system to cover a far greater number of villages and farmers, contributing toward the Millennium Development Goals of sustainable agriculture productivity and food and nutrition security.