India’s Farming Women Use Cameras to Share Lessons – Businessweek

Kavita Devi has spent 50 years farming the way her elders taught her. Until recently, that meant working other people’s land in the northeastern Indian village of Gosaibigha in exchange for 10 pounds of rice once a season. But since July, twice a month she’s been joining about 30 women neighbors in saris who file into a makeshift movie theater in a buffalo shed, where they watch videos from a battery-powered, handheld projector shown on a fuzzy brown blanket hung on a wall. In the videos, which run for 8 to 10 minutes, women from nearby villages demonstrate ways to boost rice yield by spacing the seedlings farther apart and using compost instead of fertilizer. “They look very successful,” Devi says later. “I would like to be one of them.” Since July she’s been leasing a small patch to plant her own crops.

A videographer watches as farmers demonstrate techniques in Uttar Pradesh

Technology is transforming the way women like Devi farm. In rural India, impoverished women do most of the labor using methods passed down for millennia. About 100,000 (mostly male) government and private agricultural experts roam the country to teach farmers modern techniques. But fewer than 6 percent of farmers have ever seen one, according to the World Bank, and women are often excluded from those training sessions because they lack legal rights to their husbands’ land.

Digital Green, a nonprofit founded by Microsoft (MSFT) researchers, is trying to change that. The group distributes pocket cameras and tripods to local women and trains them to storyboard, act in, shoot, edit, and screen videos demonstrating farming innovations. Because the villages where the women work often lack reliable electricity, it’s all done via battery-powered projectors. Women who screen the videos keep track of attendee questions and monitor adoption of the practices to help directors improve later versions. Using the audience’s peers as actors is particularly important, says Rikin Gandhi, Digital Green’s co-founder and chief executive officer. “Viewers identify with those featured in videos based on dialect and appearance, etc., to determine whether it is someone they can trust,” he says. Villagers will tune out if they see items that aren’t common in their communities, such as a plastic bucket or a watch.

via India’s Farming Women Use Cameras to Share Lessons – Businessweek.

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