Paul Van Mele, Access Agriculture International Development Director, speaking on Digital Extension Systems
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Dr. Paul Van Mele is an agricultural scientist with a Ph.D. from Wageningen University. For over 25 years, Paul has managed agricultural R&D projects dealing with sustainable agriculture across the global South. Paul has spearheaded farmer-to-farmer training video, coordinated research on video-mediated learning, and taken it to scale. In 2010 he swapped his senior position as Program leader on Learning and Innovation Systems in the CGIAR to start his own enterprise. In 2012, Paul co-founded Access Agriculture to create impact at scale.
Farmers and their representatives registered on www.accessagriculture.org, 142 participated in an online survey in November 2017, designed to learn farmer’s opinions of Access Agriculture, an NGO which hosts a digital platform where anyone can watch or download videos and other information for free. These farmer learning videos all convey practical information on sustainable agricultural innovations, to encourage farmer experiments. Previous experience showed that smallholders liked having their own copy of videos (e.g. on DVD), but this study showed that farmers are now starting to find their own way to the internet to pro-actively search for information. Although some farmers learn about online videos by social contacts, most of the farmers found the videos on www.accessagriculture.org by surfing the web. This suggests that limitations of reaching farmers with traditional forms of video distribution (e.g. DVDs and village screenings) will be partly overcome by the Internet. Youth have become the new information brokers for communities, as elders may lack the digital technology skills needed to use the Internet to get agricultural information. To share videos with other community members, youth will benefit from additional tools, such as an app, to allow easy download and sharing with limited data consumption