This study assesses the effects of video-mediated agricultural extension provision on both small-scale farmers and extension agents in Ethiopia. The study evaluates a public extension program that integrates informational video screening with extension service provision to improve farmers’ knowledge about specific crop management technologies and practices, and to accelerate the adoption of improved agricultural technologies and practices. The study specifically focuses on a program first piloted in 2014 by the Ethiopian Ministry of Agriculture (MoA), the regional bureaus of agriculture, and Digital Green, a social enterprise, in the country’s four most agriculturally important regional states. The program--deemed a candidate for scaling up following the pilot--was expanded to 68 woredas (districts) in 2016. We use the program's scaling-up phase to measure the impact of the video-mediated extension approach.
The video-mediated extension program is comprised of three interlinked components: (1) bringing farmers together in small development groups, (2) conducting videos screening with development groups that are facilitated by extension agents (referred to as "development agents" or DAs in Ethiopia), and (3) verifying the uptake of the crop management technologies and practices in the field. In this approach, Digital Green works with partners—woreda extension staff such as subject matter specialists and local NGOs where appropriate—to produce short videos featuring local farmers speaking in local languages about the subject technologies and practices. These videos were screened using USB-charged PICO projectors by local DAs assigned to the kebele. Videos are screened with development groups (or several development groups if necessary) in a manner designed to facilitate learning and discussion. Specifically, DAs screen the videos several times during the meeting, and pause the videos at certain intervals to entertain questions or provide additional details. DAs augment their facilitation with input from model farmers belonging to the development group(s) present at the screening. These screening sessions are conducted several times during the season in a manner that synchronized the video content with the crop calendar and farm activities.
Our evaluation investigates three main questions related to this program. First, to what extent does video-mediated extension lead to increased farmer adoption of improved agricultural technologies and practices by smallholder farmers? Second, is extension targeted at both spouses of the household more effective than when targeted at the (typically male) household head only? Third, does video-mediated extension lead to improvements in extension agent motivation, effort, and performance?
We approach these questions with a randomized controlled trial that explores the impact of video-mediated extension on the production of three crops (teff, wheat, maize) with three technologies (row planting, lower seeding rate, and fertilizer top dressing) that have been prioritized by the Government of Ethiopia. We use a three-arm stratified cluster randomized design, with stratification at the level of the woreda and clusters at the level of the village cluster (kebele), which is also the primary level at which agricultural extension is organized in Ethiopia. Within each woreda, kebeles were randomly allocated to one of three groups: (T0), a control group in which the Government of Ethiopia’s conventional extension approach is targeted at the (typically male) household head; (T1), a treatment group (denoted “Regular DG”) in which Digital Green’s standard video-mediated approach is targeted at the (typically male) household head; and (T2), a treatment group (denoted “DG + spouse”) in which Digital Green’s standard video-mediated approach is targeted at both the household head and his spouse. In each group, the same suite of agricultural technologies and practices was promoted. The design allows us to compare how farmers respond to the same information regarding improved technologies and practices when the information is disseminated through the standard extension approach versus when the approach is supported by video mediation.
The trial was initially rolled out in 350 kebeles during the 2017 meher (rainy) season in May-June 2017, with 118 kebeles assigned as controls, 115 assigned to T1, and 117 assigned to T2. Data were collected as follows. First, a total of 896 extension agents (referred to as “development agents” (DAs) in Ethiopia) working in these kebeles were surveyed with the rollout (i.e., at baseline). Second, a total of 2,422 households were then surveyed after the initial (year 1) rollout in early 2018, following the meher season harvest. Third, the same DAs were visited in early 2018 for a follow-up survey. A subsequent round of household and DA surveys is scheduled for early 2019, following the year 2 rollout of the implementation. Data on household, farm, kebele, and extension agent characteristics were collected in this initial series of surveys and will continue to be collected in subsequent surveys. Data are also collected on key outcome variables, including access to extension services, knowledge about the focal technologies, uptake and adoption of these technologies, and changes in productivity and marketing.