Thursday, September 30, 2010

Purdue Scientists Use Viral Cell Phone Videos to Share Cowpea Storage Techniques With Farmers

Researchers have turned to mobile phone videos to help farmers share information on how to use improved cowpea storage technology to protect their cowpeas in the field.

The Purdue University in collaboration with researchers in Cameroon developed the Purdue Improved Cowpea Storage (PICS) to help farmers in West Africa protect their cowpea in storage.

With farmers in Niger faced by challenges of effectively sealing the PICS bags, Purdue and its partners in World Vision and INRAN developed a small 3-7 minute video that showed the sealing of the bag which was difficult to explain effectively via other formats. With many West African farmers having cell phones, the videos have been a hit. Farmers can share the videos using Bluetooth. Click here to view the video.

"This a low cost technology and we find that it spreads very fast and so in one test in Niger, we gave the cell phone video to several extension workers that we were working with as well as a couple of radio station and few pilot farmers and in a month's time it spread to hundreds of people who saw the cell phone video and were able to benefit from the information," said Prof. Jess Lowenberg-DeBoer, Associate Dean and Director of International Programs in Agriculture at Purdue University. "Farmers have liked the videos because they help them understand better how to use the bags instead of only the oral messages on the radio."

Animation has opened new opportunities for helping farmers share information on controlling cowpea insects. Cell phone videos have also been developed in Fufuldé, French, Wolof and English. One of the big advantages of cell phone videos, says Lowenberg-DeBoer, is that they are inexpensive to produce and can be made for specific locations. The videos are made in low resolution so they can be easily viewed on small cell phone screens.

Farmers love to see familiar surroundings and hear their native language. This lets them know that the message is made specifically for them," Lowenberg-DeBoer said.

- Busani Bafana

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