Mercy Corps Timor-Leste SECURE Project Uses Mobile Videos to Share Best Practices with Farmers
A little bit of background
From 2009 to 2013, Mercy Corps implemented a European Union funded food security project in Timor-Leste – called SECURE. As one of the project’s main components, and in collaboration with the government extension workers, SECURE provided trainings to target farmers and their families to produce diversified agriculture production both for income and consumption (including maize, various legume-beans and vegetables, coffee and inland fish). During most of the project period, farmers received training from extension workers and project field officers.
Eight months before the end of the project, the Mercy Corps team undertook an effort to identify good practices and document them so that the learnings could be transferred to relevant stakeholders for further adoption. Instead of creating paper-based documentation (i.e. printed manuals) the project team decided to document these practices using videos.
How is content produced and distributed?
Mobile infrastructure and penetration in Timor-Leste has been surprisingly good for several years. When it was decided to document best practices using video, almost 90% of project target districts were already covered by mobile service. It was projected that more than 60% of households (not necessarily the parents, but maybe their kids) had access to low quality android mobile phones that could play 3gpp/MP4 video clips or other similar formats (e.g. knockoff video music videos are widely available and it is very common to transfer them from one phone to another). With these facts in mind, the project team made sure the informational videos could be played on low cost mobile phones.
Prior to script development and video production, the project team held discussions with extension officers and farmers to (a) select best practices and skills to be recorded and promoted, and (b) to determine the present degree of know-how (in order to decide the level of detail needed, taking into account farmer needs and technology limitations – especially the size of each video-clip). Once these determinations were made, script development and video production were done very quickly thanks to the excellence of the video producer and the ready availability of well-developed and tested practices (since these videos were developed towards the end of the project timeframe). Script development, production and editing for a total number of 21 video clips took place in just a three-week period. Selected farmers and extension officers were used as the performers. Video clips were distributed via extension officers, kiosks selling agriculture inputs and local NGOs. A sample of the video-clip can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sme-EXZzc14.
Impact of mobile videos for learning
The videos were no more than 3MB and could be viewed easily on Java-enabled phones the farmers owned. They were also easy to share via Bluetooth, a process familiar to farmers and others who already shared music this way. The presence of these videos on beneficiaries’ phones allowed them to review the material as needed, e.g., when mixing pesticides to apply to a crop.
The participatory process used to design and develop the clips contributed to its success. Both the content developed and the technology employed aligned with the interests and skills of the target audience. During production, a quick review of available literature did not find many references or evidence of the effectiveness of mobile videos in learning. However, six months after the production and distribution of the video-clips, more than 40% respondents of farmers across target districts who participated in the SECURE final evaluation mentioned that they have accessed and liked the video clips (more than 70% accessed them from peer-farmers – most likely through Bluetooth).
Recommendations & ways forward
At this point in time, these videos are not a financially sustainable mobile-based solution. However, that does not mean they shouldn’t be considered as a supplement to development program training. Relevant government agencies and mobile network operators should also consider the use of mobile phone information-share solutions.
The SECURE videos appeared to spread virally, which is one aspect of scaling to test the design of a mobile video system, along with the impact on learning and behavior. This means that building better monitoring systems to track the use and impact of the videos should also be taken into account.
Although content would be program and project specific, the recommended process for others to develop video-clips would be similar. Videos should be self-contained and short, and the format localized to meet users viewing and interaction style. For example, this may mean that some programs use live-action videos, while others use various animation techniques or some combination of the two. The technology also may change in terms of viewing on Java-enabled phones, smart phones, or other means depending on what’s most familiar and available. Outcomes will also vary depending upon the effectiveness of the videos. Improved learning and knowledge retention should be the principal goals.
Please contact Wahyu Nugroho, firstname.lastname@example.org, with any questions about the SECURE project.