SMARTE Solutions for Value Chains: Telling Stories Through Community Video to Improve Agriculture
Most people know that agriculture plays a key role in the nutrition of mothers and children because it involves the growing and selling of healthy foods. Much less obvious are the benefits of nutrition-sensitive agriculture practices that consider how agriculture indirectly affects nutrition. Improving agriculture value chains, from planting to processing and beyond, can improve livelihoods and contribute to better nutrition. In Guinea, USAID’s multi-sectoral nutrition project Strengthening Partnerships, Results, and Innovations in Nutrition Globally (SPRING) teamed up with Feed the Future’s Strengthening Market-Led Agriculture Research, Technology and Education (SMARTE) to increase the nutrition-sensitivity of an agricultural value chain using storytelling via community video. Locally produced and featuring actors from the community, these videos — which present engaging and entertaining mini-stories about families — are a powerful vehicle for change. I connected with Phil Moses, social and behavior change technical advisor at SPRING, and Andrew Kovarik, Guinea chief of party for Winrock International — which administers SMARTE — to learn more about the partnership and how local videos are helping improve agricultural practices in Guinea.
SPRING is a global nutrition project and Winrock International works in agricultural value chains in Guinea. How did this partnership come about?
Phil: SPRING began working with Winrock International in the Faranah Prefecture of Guinea in 2016. We worked with our partner, Digital Green (DG), to start using community video to spark discussions with groups of mothers and their families to promote maternal, infant, and young child nutrition behaviors such proper complementary feeding of children and nutrition-sensitive agriculture practices in households, such as drying vitamin-A rich sweet potato leaves to preserve them for feeding to babies during the off season.
Since women in Guinea do a lot of the agricultural work, agricultural practices that help make nutritious foods available and affordable can also be adapted to contribute to nutrition by improving women’s control over income and reducing the burden on their time and energy. Good nutrition is especially important for children under two years who require a lot of their mother’s time and attention for optimal feeding and care to develop properly.
We’ve strengthened and expanded that partnership to include producing and disseminating videos on some of these improved agricultural technologies and practices that can contribute to better nutrition; for example, a video showing women how to properly grow nutritious vegetables using improved seeds to improve yields and make more money.
Andrew: Given the enthusiastic acceptance of community video by community members and partners, we expanded our collaboration in video to help Winrock introduce nutrition-sensitive practices into our market-led agriculture value chain project.
Why do you consider video to be a good choice for a value chain program?
Andrew: Community video is very useful for promoting improved farming techniques, best practices and even technology inputs. Since so many people in our project area can’t read, we can use videos almost like user manuals to help teach them about a specific method or product. The videos also allow us to disseminate an accurate and consistent message that community members can absorb from a broad array of actors at a very low cost, and that can help our project have a wide impact with a smaller investment.
How are you using video within the SMARTE project?
Andrew: Community video is a promising approach for delivering extension and other behavior change services through our network of youth agents called AVENIR, young people who are trained in agro-entrepreneurship. Among other responsibilities, these agents support marketing campaigns for nutrition-sensitive agriculture technologies, such as solar or forced-air driers that preserve nutrient-rich vegetables and fruits for sale and consumption during the dry season when these foods are largely unavailable.
SMARTE and SPRING worked together to develop videos for agents to disseminate in various settings, targeting small producers and agro-enterprises within the rice, horticulture and livestock value chains
To produce videos, we engage content experts and social and behavior change and extension experts to develop a one- or two-page description of the technical content of the video called a Package of Practices (POP). Using this POP, we work with one of the two video production teams, or “hubs,” that SPRING trained and mentored to develop a storyboard. Using a small video camera or smartphone, a tripod and a microphone, the videos are shot in rural communities using the villagers as actors speaking local languages such as Malinke, Pular and Soussou. The video production hub members then edit the video and sound on a laptop using free software.
Why did you create video hubs rather than filming videos yourself?
Phil: To build capacity at the local level. DG helped us to train and mentor two video hubs, each in a different language area. For community video to be cost-effective, we needed to have people on the ground who could develop videos with the community, not for the community. This ensures that the final videos use local languages and portray local situations that villagers can identify with.
How do you plan for your agents to use these videos in their work?
Andrew: The video hubs have made sure to include actual agents from the SMARTE program as actors to highlight their ability to introduce new technologies to client farmers. Agents who are selling a technology that SMARTE is promoting or who are capable of introducing a particular agriculture method, such as planting seedlings from improved varieties of okra, or using a motorcycle-powered pump as a micro-enterprise offering irrigation services to small plots, have their contact information listed at the end of the film.
SMARTE makes portable battery operated pico projectors available and downloads the films onto the agents’ tablets so that they can screen and discuss the videos in villagers’ homes. As we move from screening the videos to making them available on tablets and smartphones, it will be even easier for our network of agents to work together to broaden specialized services and increase access to new agriculture technology.
How did you identify themes for your videos?
Andrew: At the onset of the program, Winrock conducted a mission to identify technologies with good market potential among farmers and agricultural product processors in Guinea, considering both performance and cost of the technology. SPRING assessed which of these were nutrition-sensitive. We prioritized practices that could be marketed by our agents or linked to a marketable service provided by an agent for this year’s growing season and began developing videos on these.
So far, we have produced videos on elevated vegetable nurseries to increase yields of and income from nutrient-rich vegetables, using a motorcycle-powered pump for small-scale irrigation, using solar and forced-air driers to preserve nutrient-rich vegetables and fruits, and other nutrition-sensitive methods and technologies that we are promoting among small producers, input suppliers, and other value chain actors.
Based on this experience in Guinea, what advice would you give to other projects about to embark on using community video within a market-led value chain project?
Andrew: When using a market-led approach, the private sector is key. By tailoring our video work to the needs of our agents and their host organizations, we are helping the market provide key technologies and services to small holders and entrepreneurs — especially women.
Since this is a market-led project, it has been very important for us to work closely with the video hubs when designing the storyboards and producing the videos to make sure they make the business case for a new technology. We need to communicate that the technology can improve income. While nutrition messages can be helpful as a selling point, the main reason someone will invest in a new product or method is to improve their livelihood.
In our case, installing videos on agents’ digital tablets will help spread these videos to a broader range of value chain actors than by just using pico projectors. Widely disseminating these videos in communities and among value chain actors is key to their success.
For more information about Winrock and the SMARTE program, please visit www.winrock.org.
To learn more about SPRING’s community video approach in Guinea, please visit our website.
To learn more about Digital Green’s work, please visit www.digitalgreen.org.