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Videos that speak to Andean farmers March 26th, 2017 by

Vea la versión en español a continuación

The Quechua language (or group of closely related languages, depending on your perspective), is a Native American tongue with some eight to ten million speakers in Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador. Quechua was actually encouraged in the colonial era: grammars, dictionaries and catechisms were written in the language, chairs for teaching the language were founded in Andean universities. But Quechua was scorned during the republican era, following independence from Spain (1809-1825). In recent years, the language has been recovering ground in a sense. It is starting to be used in schools and in political speech.

Wikipedia lists over 20,000 articles in Quechua. Popular on-line videos in Quechua include language lessons, the Jesus Film, films produced by students, and a rousing version of “Hakuna Matata”. The talented Renata Flores plays “House of the Rising Sun” on the piano and sings it in Quechua, with heart and soul.

But there are few agricultural videos in Quechua. This is rather surprising, since the people who speak Quechua are fundamentally farmers. So we have remedied this, a bit.

Along with colleagues in Bolivia and at Agro-Insight, we have produced seven farmer training videos in Quechua. The same videos are also available in Aymara, the language native to the Lake Titicaca region of Peru and Bolivia.

screening seed in bright lightOnly two of the videos were originally made in Bolivia: one on managing the poisonous aflatoxins in peanuts (groundnuts) and one on tarwi (the lupine bean). Other videos were originally shot in other countries (shown in brackets):

Integrated Soil Fertility Management (various African countries)

Let’s Talk Money:  simple cost:benefit accounting for new farm technology (Mali)

The Wonder of Earthworms (Bangladesh)

Grass Strips against Soil Erosion (Vietnam and Thailand)

Till Less to Harvest More (Guatemala)

You may wonder why we translated existing videos instead of making new ones. Cost is one reason. It is much cheaper and easier to translate a video than to make one. Besides, many of the Quechua videos already on the web are basically translations of other work.  If that works for entertainment, it should be OK for farming.

Farmers understand learning videos other continents, provided the voice over is in a language that the audience speaks. Videos are a way of sharing knowledge from farmer-to-farmer cross culturally.

We hope that speakers of Quechua and Aymara will enjoy seeing smallholders, like themselves, farming and solving problems in Asia, Africa and Central America.

The videos are hosted in the public domain at the Access Agriculture portal, which has many videos in African and Asian languages. These are the site’s first videos in Native American languages.

Videos in Quechua

To watch the videos in Quechua, visit Access Agriculture here.

Videos in Aymara

You can also watch videos in Aymara here.

Acknowledgements

The translations were funded by the McKnight Foundation

VIDEOS QUE HABLAN A LOS AGRICULTORES ANDINOS

Por Jeff Bentley, 26 de marzo del 2017

El quechua es un idioma (o grupo de idiomas muy cercanos, segĂșn su perspectiva), nativo a las AmĂ©ricas, con unos ocho a diez millones de hablantes en Bolivia, PerĂș y Ecuador. Los gobiernos coloniales efectivamente fomentaron el uso del quechua: gramĂĄticas, diccionarios y catequismos se escribieron en el idioma y se fundaron cĂĄtedras para enseñar el idioma en las universidades andinas. Pero el quechua fue desprestigiado en la era republicana, despuĂ©s de la independencia de España (1809-1825). En años recientes, el idioma se ha cobrado fuerzas. Empieza a usarse en los colegios y en discursos polĂ­ticos.

Wikipedia dice que tiene mĂĄs de 20,000 artĂ­culos en quechua. Videos populares en lĂ­nea incluyen lecciones para aprender el idioma, pelĂ­culas producidas por estudiantes, JesĂșs (la pelĂ­cula) y una versiĂłn emocionante de “Hakuna Matata”. La talentosa Renata Flores toca “House of the Rising Sun” en el piano y lo canta en quechua, con alma y corazĂłn.

Pero hay pocos videos agrĂ­colas en quechua, lo cual es sorprendente, ya que las personas que habla el idioma son fundamentalmente agricultores. Entonces hemos hecho algo para cambiar la situaciĂłn.

Junto con colegas en Bolivia y en Agro-Insight, hemos producido siete videos didĂĄcticos en quechua. Los mismos videos tambiĂ©n estĂĄn disponibles en aymara, el idioma nativo a la regiĂłn del Lago Titicaca del PerĂș y Bolivia.

sorting tarwi or lupine seed3Solo dos de los videos se rodaron originalmente en Bolivia: uno sobre el manejo de las venenosas aflatoxinas en maní, y uno sobre el tarwi (chocho, o lupino). Otros videos se filmaron originalmente en otros países (indicados entre paréntesis):

Manejo Integrado de la Fertilidad del Suelo (varios paĂ­ses africanos)

Hablemos del Dinero: contabilidad sencillo para costo:beneficio de nueva tecnologĂ­a agrĂ­cola (MalĂ­)

La Maravillosa Lombriz de Tierra (Bangladesh)

Barreras Vivas contra la ErosiĂłn del Suelo (Vietnam y Tailandia)

Arar Menos para Cosechar MĂĄs (Guatemala)

Tal vez se pregunta porque tradujimos videos existentes en vez de hacer nuevos videos. El costo es una razón. Es mucho mås barato y fåcil traducir un video que hacer uno. Ademås, muchos de los videos en quechua que ya estån en la Web son båsicamente traducciones de otras obras. Si eso vale para el entretenimiento, también funciona para el agro.

Los agricultores entienden a los videos didĂĄcticos de otros paĂ­ses, con tal que la narraciĂłn sea en un idioma que el pĂșblico hable. Los videos son una manera de compartir el conocimiento de campesino-a-campesino de forma intercultural.

Esperamos que los hablantes del quechua y del aymara disfruten de ver a campesinos, como ellos mismos, trabajando y resolviendo problemas en Asia, Africa y Centroamérica.

Los videos estĂĄn alojados en el dominio pĂșblico en el portal de Access Agriculture, que tiene muchos videos en idiomas africanos y asiĂĄticos. Pero los presentes son los primeros videos en el sitio en idiomas nativas a las AmĂ©ricas.

Videos en quechua

Para mirar los videos en quechua, visite a Access Agriculture aquĂ­.

Videos in Aymara

Se puede mirar los videos en aymara aquĂ­.

Agradecimientos

Las traducciones se fundaron por la McKnight Foundation

 

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Call anytime March 19th, 2017 by

It’s difficult to know who reads a fact sheet, listens to a radio broadcast or watches a farmer learning video, but those of us who produce such information always want to know what happens to it, once it leaves our hands. In 2011 my colleagues at Access Agriculture tried a new way to do audience research. Access Agriculture and partners distributed 20,000 copies of a DVD on striga (the devil weed) across East Africa. Each copy contained a questionnaire, formatted as a letter, asking the viewers to tick off a few boxes and mail back the letter in the post. No one bothered to return the survey.

GerardSo in 2015, PhD candidate GĂ©rard Zoundji tried a slightly different way to get feedback from viewers in Benin, as he explains in a recent paper in Cogent Food & Agriculture. First he compiled a DVD in five languages, with nine different videos on growing vegetables. Next, GĂ©rard distributed his DVD through the private sector, mainly through agro-input dealers and people who sell movie DVDs. Previously DVDs had been distributed through extension providers, NGOs or government agencies, not from small shops.

GĂ©rard asked the vendors to collect names and phone numbers of people who bought the DVD, so he could do follow up work with the buyers. GĂ©rard gave the vendors the DVDs for free, in exchange for their cooperation, but allowed them to keep the equivalent of a dollar or two which they collected for each sale. He also tried a new way of doing follow up. He put a sticker in the DVD jacket, with a note inviting the recipients to phone in if they had questions. The number was for a SIM card that GĂ©rard bought, just to receive such calls.

It was a pleasant surprise when people started phoning in. Of 562 who bought the DVD, a whopping 341 phoned GĂ©rard. Some just called to say how much they had enjoyed watching the videos. Others wanted to share their story. Nearly 20% of them had been so eager to watch the videos that they bought their own DVD player. Others called to ask where they could buy the drip irrigation equipment featured on one of the videos.

The six agro-input dealers who were selling the DVD were also impressed with the video on drip irrigation, and the interest it inspired in farmers. Two of these dealers actually began to stock drip irrigation supplies themselves.

As Paul has written in an earlier post, farmers who have been exposed to drip irrigation through development projects usually abandon drip irrigation once the project ends. Projects usually make little effort to involve the private sector. Yet here were dealers who were motivated enough to find out where to buy the drip irrigation equipment, and stock it, in response to interest shown by farmers who had watched a video. Sometimes simply watching a video can excite people more than participating in a full project.

I am always delighted to learn about someone using a cell phone in a new way, especially if it involves giving rural people the chance to make their voices heard. A sticker inside a DVD cover was enough to encourage buyers of a DVD to call in with comments.

Since publishing the paper, GĂ©rard has been discussing with Ministry of Agriculture staff in Benin about ways to design an advisory service via phone call.

Agro-input dealers and movie DVDs sellers, including some who were not involved in the study are now requesting new DVDs to sell.

In this story we see the phone was linked with the DVD. Both are ICTs (information and communication technologies), but the connection between the two was one of the oldest ICTs: the printed word on paper.

Further reading

Zoundji, GĂ©rard C., Florent Okry, Simplice D. VodouhĂȘ, and Jeffery W. Bentley 2016 “The Distribution of Farmer Learning Videos: Lessons from Non-Conventional Dissemination Networks in Benin.” Cogent Food & Agriculture 2(1):1277838. https://www.accessagriculture.org/publications

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Simple is beautiful March 12th, 2017 by

Grove seen down the slope copyA lot of time and effort goes into development projects, from writing proposals and getting funds through to building partnerships, doing the work and finally evaluating it to show that you’ve made a difference. Sometimes a simpler, direct approach is more effective, as my experiences with bamboo in Ethiopia have suggested.

I first learnt about the vast swathes of bamboo in Ethiopia twenty years ago. I was engaged in a pilot project to assess a largely untapped resource comprising huge natural stands and a patchwork of smaller plots dotted around peoples’ homes. Existing uses of bamboo included conversion into charcoal, building fences and making small household items, such as baskets. The resource assessment was the first step in suggesting profitable enterprises on a much larger scale.

Mats used for construction big building copyEach year the million hectares of Ethiopian bamboo produce new culms, as the woody, fast-maturing stems are known. There has been no shortage of ideas on what to do with this rapidly regenerating biomass. The most ambitious suggestion has been to burn bamboo and generate electricity. More modest proposals, though still requiring major investment, have included fashioning the bamboo into high quality flooring and decking for export to the North.

When I returned to Ethiopia ten years ago for a new bamboo project, I found little evidence of new enterprises or large scale industrial uses. The most striking discovery, though one that at first seemed commonplace, was the continuing operation of a workshop where people were trained to make handicrafts from bamboo. Some of the oldest ideas had been the most enduring.

Fuel bundles2 copyDuring the second visit I went to talk with a small group of shopkeepers who sold bamboo furniture to the better-off denizens of Addis Ababa. These were, as far as I could see, the same shops that had been present when I made my first visit in 1997. The shops were well-stocked with chairs, beds, tables and all the other furniture that middle class families were keen to have in their homes.

The furniture sellers and the handicraft makers were all beneficiaries of a much earlier initiative, some time back in the 1980s, when Ethiopia was run by the Derg, a revolutionary committee drawn from the army and police. The Derg admired the socialist ideals of China and one of the outcomes was a visit by Chinese technicians, who introduced Ethiopian artisans to new designs for bamboo arts and crafts. The Chinese supported the establishment of a workshop in a government-supported, small enterprises institute, where people were still being trained thirty or so years later.

In 1997, the bamboo furniture makers and the craftsmen seemed unremarkable to me because at the time I thought that chairs and baskets would never generate huge amounts of income. But as roads improve, cities expand, and the Ethiopian middle class comes of age, there is now solid demand for sensible furniture. Bamboo industries benefit farm communities with small plots, who send regular truck loads to the bustling workshops of Addis Ababa.

Save Generation Assoc staff and goods2 copyWhat of the other more ambitious schemes for bamboo? A quick search of the web for current bamboo activity in Ethiopia shows USAID giving a grant of $1.75 million in 2014 to ‘develop processes to make industrial and quality bamboo’. This grant will have a detailed proposal, plan of action and agreed outcomes, all requiring regular monitoring, reporting and so on. In other words, a hefty administrative overhead will eat into the available finds.

But this recent public/private enterprise may also mean that bamboo enterprises are finally going to succeed on a big scale – though there’s no guarantee that this will happen. Meanwhile the impact of a small gesture by China forty or more years ago to show solidarity with Ethiopia continues to reap benefits, an unexpected outcome of the otherwise tragic and violent period of Derg rule. Sometimes the most effective interventions are also the simplest.

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Nourishing a fertile imagination March 5th, 2017 by

New ideas spark the imagination of smallholders, whether they have experience with the topic or not. We saw this last week in Nanegaon, a village just outside of the booming city of Pune, India, where farmers reviewed four fact sheets written by our 12 adult students.

Hunamat Pawale reads fact sheetA fact sheet is only one page, so it has to narrow in on a specific topic. The first fact sheet suggested cleaning maggots from wounds on cattle with turpentine, a common disinfectant distilled from pine resin. One man, Hanumant Pawale, read the fact sheet quickly, pronouncing the text clearly in a booming voice. When he finished, several farmers began to speak, adding ideas they wanted to include in the fact sheet. The first woman said that here they treat the cows’ wounds with kerosene, which is cheaper than turpentine, and is available at shops in the village. Her neighbors mentioned other products to treat cattle.

tweezersWe had wondered how farmers removed maggots. One of the farmers went to get a pair of tweezers to show us the tool that he used for plucking maggots from a wounded cow. Tweezers may be too sharp for such a delicate operation, but every household has a pair of tweezers, and they work if you are careful not to poke the cow’s flesh.

The farmers shared another important insight with us: it is best to avoid letting maggots grow in wounds in the first place. The villagers keep their cattle healthy by looking for wounds. Cows lick their wounds, the villagers explain, and if people see a cow licking her wound, they know that she needs some care.

The authors of the fact sheets got excited about improving their fact sheet by taking the farmers’ ideas on board.

It was a great meeting, but there was one little problem. After the first woman spoke, only men took the floor. Later I mentioned this to Pooja, one of our participants.

“The women won’t speak if the men are there,” she says matter-of-factly.

After meeting with the dairy farmers I went with two young men, Ajinkya and Pradeepta, who were writing a fact sheet on mulch: a simple layer of straw or leaves put on the soil surface to keep in moisture. We met a farmer, Mukta Naranyan Sathe, who was just setting down a pile of small, delicate legumes onto a tarp, for threshing.

Mukta Narayan Sathe reads fact sheetMukta-ji had never heard of mulch, but she was interested. After reading the fact sheet, she understood that mulch helps to conserve water. But, she told us that she did not really need to conserve water, because Nanegaon has abundant irrigation, provided by seven or eight bore-hole wells.

Even so, the fact sheet still inspired her to think creatively. She imagined that a large plant could be mulched with whole straw, but for a fragile herb, like fenugreek, the straw would have to be cut into small pieces.

We were soon joined by Mukta’s great nephew, Ganesh Dhide and a friend, Shubhan Pawale. They read the fact sheet and then all of them began to imagine ways of making mulch. They said that instead of burning the leaves off of sugarcane (a common practice which makes the cane easier to harvest), they could use them as a mulch.

They added that they now have a clear idea of mulching and that if one person tries it, and it works, the others in the village will surely adopt the new ideas as well.

The villagers could tell us practical ways to cure wounded cows but didn’t know about mulching until the fact sheet caught their imagination. Even so, they thought of two new ways to make mulch not mentioned in the fact sheet: cutting straw for fenugreek, and using sugarcane leaves. Farmers are inherently creative, and relish new ideas. We do not know if the farmers will adopt any of the ideas in the fact sheets, but before trying a technology one must first imagine doing something new. Our readers had already taken that step.

Other blog stories on writing fact sheets

Chemical attitude adjustment

The rules and the players

Learning from students

On the road to yoghurt

A hard write

Guardians of the mango

A spoonful of molasses

Turtle hunters

Acknowledgements

The first photo is by Mohan Dhuldhar. The second one is by Ajinkya Upasani.

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Chemical attitude adjustment February 26th, 2017 by

Kannappan, C. Sekar, his wife, Bharathidasan, BagyarajAgricultural extension can work deep changes in farmers’ attitudes. Ironically, the extensionists themselves often think that a change in heart is difficult to achieve, so it was good to meet some inspired farmers last week in Tamil Nadu, India, while teaching a course with Paul Van Mele to agricultural researchers and extension agents.

We wrote four fact sheets with advice for farmers and we wanted to show the papers to real farmers, as a kind of peer review. One of the participants, Mrs. P. Tamilselvi, took us to the village of Seethapappi, where she works as an extensionist. The course participants, mostly agricultural researchers, formed small groups and found farmers to talk to.

We approached a farmhouse, where entomologist K. Bharathidasan called out, asking if anyone was home. When a surprised couple emerged, Bharathidasan introduced himself and soon had the farmers reading a fact sheet in Tamil on groundnut stem rot.

After Mr. C. Sekar read the fact sheet he talked about an organic agricultural concoction he used as a fertilizer and insecticide. He called it pancha kaviya, alluding to five ingredients it contained. Bharathidasan wrote down the recipe:

Mix 1) cow dung, 2) cow urine, 3) ghee, milk and curd, 4) coconut water and 5) jiggery (a candy) or sugarcane juice. Mix the ingredients thoroughly. Keep for 45 days. Filter the liquid directly into a sprayer and spray the crop.

This was only the first of many natural agro-chemicals farmers in this village described to us. Sekar also makes an organic pesticide with eight types of local plants. He adds them to cow urine and keeps them for 20 days. Then he filters the liquid and sprays it on his crops.

When Mrs. Sekar read the fact sheet she mentioned another organic pesticide. Two more farmers had their own recipe for a home brew to spray on plants.

Bagyaraj and farmer Prakash Kanna CROPPEDFarmer Prakash Kanna showed us a batch of pancha kaviya he’d made, a dull brown mix in a plastic drum. It had a strong, sour smell. He put it in irrigation water to fertilize his plants. He called it a growth regulator. (The pancha kaviya adds nutrients and beneficial flora and fauna to the soil).

The farmers said they also used marigold extract and gypsum powder to control various diseases in groundnuts (peanuts). And they enhance the soil with a beneficial bacterium, Pseudomonas, mixed with aged cow dung which helps the bacteria multiply and suppress fungi that cause disease.

That’s quite a lot of innovation.

Bharathidasan later told me that the farmers really liked the fact sheets, except for the references to chemicals. That wasn’t surprising given the many non-chemical options the villagers were using.

Later that week we visited another village, Panayaburam, slightly larger than Seethapappi, with a small cooperative office where the farmers met.

Here we quickly learned of a different set of attitudes. The farmers did mention neem oil and using a net to keep small insect pests out of vegetables, but many said that “here we only use chemicals.” One went so far as to say that if you used a mix made from cow dung on your plants, the other farmers would say that you were insane.

Anthropologists have long known that each village is unique; conclusions drawn in one village may not apply to neighboring ones. Even so, such a big difference in attitudes to chemicals was surprising. Seethapappi farmers said that they liked everything in the fact sheets, except for the chemicals. In Panayaburam farmers only wanted to know about pesticides to manage pests and diseases.

There is one major difference between these two villages. Organic-leaning Seethapappi has a KVK (farm science center), where farmers receive training and get advice. Extension agents in that KVK have generated a lot of excitement about making inputs from local materials. Panayaburam does not have a KVK, and farmers rely on the biased advice of agro-chemical dealers to keep plants healthy.

A KVK is a permanent structure, with a building and staff, working with farmers over the years. Extensionists may become frustrated with the pace of change because farmers seldom adopt a new technique instantly. Smallholders have to try out innovations on their own. Extension agents can and do make a difference in farmers’ attitudes about agrochemicals, even if it takes time.

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