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Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Farmers make films - sharing knowledge in video

Is watching videos entertainment or education? Sometimes, of course, it can be both. In Ghana, for example, farmers growing cocoa have been making short films for other farmers to watch. The films contain lots of useful tips on the best ways to grow a healthy crop, from pest control to pruning. The film-making farmers have not been working alone.

The videos are a joint production between them and the Sustainable Tree Crops Programme, an international research and development programme. Isaac Ansah, the programme's master trainer, spoke to Kofi Adu Domfeh about how the films are made and the impact they have had.

During the planning session, in order not to impose the technical men's idea on the farmers, we first assess how much the farmers know about the particular technology we want to communicate. You will be surprised to know that the farmers do write their own scripts. They can't communicate very well in English, so they put everything in their local dialect, which is the Twi or the Akan, and then they write their script. And then they also decide on what type of shot they would need to fit with a particular idea they want to communicate.

Again, they also go about their own narration; how they want to narrate it in the film. So all these are done by farmers, guided by subject matter specialists. And then sometimes we will be surprised; the technical persons may have different ideas about what they want to say, but the farmers can go a long way to convince them that this is what they want to say. I'm giving a typical example. When we were producing the video on pruning, farmers said they used ladders on their farms to do the pruning, and to prune trees that are very high.

But to the technical men, they thought no, it wasn't feasible to bring a ladder from the house to the farm, but the farmers said they already have it and they are using it in their farms. So this convinced the technical men so much that they allowed that one to go through the production. So I want to emphasise the uniqueness of this video production is the idea that we allow the farmers to come up with what they want to say, how they want to say it, when they want to say it, and even the way the want to present the video to their fellow farmers. And this has been very effective.
Certainly the scientists or the experts want to impart certain knowledge to the farmers. In the process of making the video, at what point does the scientist or the agricultural extension officer, how do they come in, and how do they factor applying the technology that they want to give to them?
During the planning session, the subject matter specialists stay behind and first listen to what the farmers have to say. And if they don't understand, or they don't agree with the farmers in one way or the other, they don't just say no, we don't agree with this, but they rather ask the probing questions to find out why do farmers do this, and why is it that you don't do it this way. And if the farmers are able to give a convincing answer to the researcher, they accept what the farmers say. If it's not convincing, they keep on probing, and trying to lay on the table other alternatives, whether it will be feasible for them to adapt or not or whether some of them are already practising. In some cases, they refer to where they have been working with farmers already, and then some of the technologies these farmers have been developing in their own farm, where the researchers have adapted and verified, and they have been recommending those ones to other farmers.
Is there a target as to the number of videos you may want to produce within a period?
As of now, it is when and where funds are available. Let me emphasise here that the topics were not selected by subject matter specialists. During our first planning session, the farmers sat down and prioritised. They listed their problems that they face in the cocoa industry and they prioritised them. They did the ranking and scoring, scoring and ranking exercises, these participatory exercises, to do the prioritisation. After that they selected, based on the season they want to film. For example, if we want to film black pod disease, automatically we should go in the wet season when the disease will be prevalent for them to film. If we are looking at pruning, we film around the time that we could get most of the materials to film. So when the funds are available, they go through their prioritised list and identify which of the important diseases or problems can be addressed at that particular time.
In practical terms, what would you say has been the impact of the video project on the farmers?
We get evidence in the communities. The farmers themselves are there and they are increasing their yields. Of late, their production is going so high. And the other interesting aspect is that these farmers identified their own colleague farmers, who have increased their yield, and they interview them as part of the video production, to tell their colleagues. So if they had not been increasing their yield, others would not even use the video. But they have seen that this farmer 'A' has increased the yield from this to that, and it's an evidence that is within their own community, and they adopt it very easily. And some of these achievements have been included in the video, based on what the production team, which is the farmers, have themselves identified in their own community. And there is evidence and testimonies all around the farming communities. End of track.
Closing Announcement:Isaac Ansah, talking to Kofi Adu Domfeh about how farmer-made videos are boosting cocoa production in Ghana.
Contact:Video Viewing Club helps family to achieve their dreams http://www.worldcocoafoundation.org/difference/STCPGhana_success-story3.asp

Job Opportunities In Grasscutter Rearing

Each year, Ghana’s forestry authorities place temporary ban on hunting to ensure animals are not in extinct in the forests. But this is often violated apparently because most Ghanaians have good taste for bush meat and such species are hunted for commercial purposes.

In a bid to protect the forests while satisfying demand for bush meat, the country’s Ministry of Food and Agriculture is encouraging a group of farmers to promote domestic rearing of the bush meat, especially grasscutter.

Kofi Adu Domfeh reports that the venture is attracting the interest of the youth to earn income from the non-traditional agriculture sector.

Sfx: sound of grasscutter chumming…

I meet Joseph Prempeh on his grasscutter farm, located on the outskirts of the city. He is busy attending to the nutritional needs of his animals. To get them attracted to the meal, Joe attempts speaking the language of the animals.

Joe shares his experience in establishing a grasscutter farm.
In Ghana, most households and restaurants serve meals with grasscutter on the menu. Apparently, the taste for the delicacy is without remedy to forest’ sustainability.
The Grasscutter Farmers’ Association has the agenda of promoting commercial production of the forest specie.

With support from the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, the association directs members to expand their sources of income by going into beekeeping, mushroom and snail farming.

Eli Kumatse is a Director at the Ministry. He says non-traditional agriculturists are afforded the requisite technical support to improve production.
Cue: GRASS-1

Mr. Kumatse says the Ministry is encouraging the rural and urban youth to seek job opportunities in the sector and contribute to food security.
Cue: GRASS-2
The Grasscutter Farmers Association is already creating avenues for interested persons to acquire the basic knowledge and skills in establishing productive farms.

At one of such empowerment sessions, I sampled opinions of new farmers and other participants on the importance of promoting the grasscutter industry.
Financial institutions are beginning to turn attention to the sector as some farmers expand from small-scale to big agriculture enterprises.

From Ghana, Kofi Adu Domfeh reporting…


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