Nexus


May 2010

posted May 20, 2010, 12:00 PM by Rikin Gandhi   [ updated May 20, 2010, 8:23 PM by kevin@digitalgreen.org ]

THE NEXUS

Issue 3 - May 2010
Transforming Partnerships
By VINAY KUMAR

The most exciting aspect of our work in the past few months has been finalizing partnerships with four new organizations. This will take our mission to improve the livelihood of small and marginal farmers to an accelerated implementation mode.  Our new partners in Madhya Pradesh are Action for Social Advancement (www.asaindia.org) and Access Development Services (www.accessdev.org); and in Orissa we have partnered with VARRAT and PRAGATI (www.pragatikoraput.org).

These organizations bring different strengths; have an expansive community reach and a track record of working in agriculture extension systems.  Through these partnerships we have added a new dimension to our work – integrating Digital Green approach to the existing government led agriculture system implemented through Agriculture Technology Management Agency (ATMA), an arm of the state agriculture department.

We are very excited to work with our new partners. Our work is now being implemented through seven partnerships, including our old partners BAIF, PRADAN and SPS and in four states: Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Orissa and Karnataka. We plan to reach over 400 villages and 4,000 households by the end of this year. 

These partnerships were chosen through a structured competitive process, seeking proposals from potential partners, conducting their institutional, financial and program evaluation, on-site assessments and then discussing with them the best possible way to implement the project. With all these changes, Digital Green has taken a leap forward in its organizational evolution. We have moved from actually implementing the project in partner locations to training, managing, and supporting implementation by our partners

Our work over the past one year has equipped our staff with the requisite ground level experience and skills critical to successfully implementing the project. They are now ready to transfer these learnings to larger set of organizations and locations. The partners will now be the main implementers of the project, responsible for reaching milestones and accomplishing project outcomes. This is a paradigm shift in Digital Green’s strategy from being a project implementer to a project manager.
This shift in strategy will seek greater ownership of partners to the project implementation process, place long term responsibility and accountability on community groups that commit to Digital Green’s approach and sow seeds of sustainability.

This also means that Digital Green staff will no longer be embedded in the partner offices but  be available for support and facilitation after initial project planning and capacity building exercises have been  completed. The first round of trainings for the staffs of ASA and ACCESS were conducted during the week of April 12, 2010; for the staffs of PRAGATI and VARRAT during the week of May 10, 2010; and for the staff of BAIF’s expanded locations during the week of May 17, 2010.   The feedback from the participants across our partners has been very positive.

We will soon be establishing regional offices in Bhubaneswar for the Orissa and Jharkhand region and in Bhopal for Madhya Pradesh and anticipate that this will be complete in the next three months.

Vinay Kumar is the Chief Strategist of Digital Green.  He works primarily from Digital Green's New Delhi office and travels to the many Digital Green field sites all over India.


Ownership: The Ultimate Community Contribution
By ABHISHEK RANJAN (CRUSADERS)

If we go by the definition, community -owned processes are those that allow the community to influence its operation through some mechanism for representation.. This point is very much pertinent in the Digital Green project context, especially when it comes to ensuring sustainability and ownership.

As a method of bringing community ownership and sustainability to the project in any Digital Green project location, at the beginning of the project, community interest is assessed through a process of concept sharing with an appropriate community institution. The crucial objective of concept sharing is to develop a plan of action for intervention and estimate the financial load by analysing aspects of running costs, asset costs, honorarium of the mediator, battery charging fees, maintenance of equipment etc. which as a whole is called the service charge by the community.


It has been seen that in many of the villages, where we have the concept sharing, people come out with a figures which they are able and interested in contributing for the on-going expenditures of the programme. What is important is not how much the community plans to contribute , but rather why they should contribute?
Here, it is  imperative that they be able to visualise the relevance of the project in their life and for their livelihoods.. When asking a question like whose programme this is, they should be able to say “ours”.  To whose assets these are, they should be able to say “ours”.  And, to who should be responsible for maintenance, monitoring and for regular dissemination, they should be able to answer “WE”.

In many villages, the farmers have built ownership for the program from the get go, while others are evaluating the program and coming on board with each passing day. The process of inculcating the realisation always takes some time.  Thus, we often give the community a few weeks to understand what the program has to offer before having to contribute towards its costs;  success of this programme lies in community ownership.  Based on my experience, I have seen that communities who contribute toward service charges are not only more regular and active participants during dissemination but they also demand a more diverse and relevant set of content. This reveals the type of ownership that every stakeholder of the Digital Green system is looking for. All of us are trying and should try to achieve the same by following one mantra: “Success of any community-based initiative lies upon the ownership among them”.

Abhishek Ranjan
is an Assistant Development Manager for Digital Green working in the fields of the West Singhbum district of Jharkhand for the past 11 months.



Note from the Editor:
 
Dear Readers, thanks for viewing the Nexus.  A key component of Digital Green is Video Production and over the the past year in the fields, we have gained a great deal of learning on how to operate a camera: the Do's and Don'ts. This learning is not only applicable for video but still photography as well.

1) Always Check the Frame --> The frame is the box that goes around your picture or video being shot; it may seem simple but many times not paying attention to the background, the foreground, and the appropriate positioning of your subject or topic can make your picture very ineffective.

2) Lighting --> If you want to take a shot of someone's face (set the appropriate frame) and then take your shot early in the morning with the sunrise, or in the evening just before the sunsets.  You will find that the most aesthetic lightning at these times.

3) For Video Specifically -->  Don't Zoom!  Just because most cameras give you the option of zooming does not mean you must utilize it.  Zooming creates confusion in a shot and causes your frame to change constantly and most important, causes me a headache! If you need to take a closer shot of something:  press stop, zoom, set your frame, then start recording again!

// Stick with the Nexus and Digital Green.

April 2010

posted Apr 16, 2010, 8:09 PM by Rikin Gandhi   [ updated Apr 17, 2010, 9:54 PM ]

THE NEXUS

Issue 2 - April 2010
From Campus to Company via Chaibasa
By SYSTEM'S INTERNS

Life is a journey and its course can change very quickly.

 Who would have thought that we would have the opportunity to be a part of Digital Green?  After our on-campus interviews at Dhirubhai Ambani Institute of Information and Communication Technology (DA-IICT), we were stressed while we waited to learn whether we would be selected as interns at Digital Green. When we learned that we had been accepted, we were all excited to start work and to learn more about Digital Green.

 Before joining Digital Green, we first went to our homes and prepared to start on a new course for our lives.  After gathering our belonging, we started on the trip to participate in the orientation program in Chaibasa, Jharkhand.  Almost 36 hours later, we reached Chaibasa station by train and took a bumpy car ride to the Tribal Research and Training Centre where the orientation program was organized.  The orientation program introduced us to the various components and processes of the Digital Green system, the manner in which Digital Green works in the field with its partners, the steps involved in producing videos, etc.  The orientation program also gave us our first exposure to the field.  On one of the days, we had the chance to attend an actual Digital Green dissemination where farmer groups regularly gathered to attend screenings of videos. This is the heart of the Digital Green system and the experience inspired all of us.  Though we are interns in Digital Green’s systems engineering team, the visit gave us a first-hand understanding of Digital Green’s objectives.  We may be focused on software and user experience development, but we share the drive to contribute to Digital Green’s work on and off the field.

After the orientation, we embarked on the journey to Delhi where we eagerly anticipated to start work and to contribute to Digital Green’s vision.  From Chaibasa, we went by road to Ranchi and then by train to Delhi. We started from Ranchi station with a 5 hour hold and then arrived in Delhi at 1am -- 17 hours late!

 These were the adventurous beginnings of our journey from our campus to our company via Chaibasa.

Sweta Panwar, Parth Nagar, and G. Sreenivasula Reddy, are interns in Digital Green's System's Team.  They have been based in New Delhi for the past 3 Months.



Showcasing Digital Green
By
CHANDRA SHEKHAR (CRUSADERS)

Maha Adhibhesan is a get together of Self Help Group (SHG) members.  Such a Maha Adhibhesan was organized in the Karanjia block of Odisha (formerly, Orissa) in March 2010 by a women’s organization called Sampurna. The main objectives of the Maha Adhibhesan is to identify development issues in local villages,  to take action on those issues, to enhance mutual support through peer learning, and to establish linkages with surrounding communities for mobilizing financial and knowledge support.  The Maha Adhibhesan was a great success and, for example, was able to mobile Rs. 1.2 crore investments from banks to support livelihood activities and  to develop process to streamline the internal accounting system used by SHGs.
The Digital Green team had the privilege of being a part of this huge gathering of around 3,000 SHG women. We set up a Digital Green stall to showcase the complete Digital Green process and its technology-based extension system to the gathering. Our stall featured a pico projector demonstration and videos along with bright banners and posters that were designed to give visitors an understanding of the end-to-end Digital Green system. Several distinguished guests attended the occasion including the local Sub Collector, Block Development Officer, Odisha Programme Director of PRADAN, Senior Forest Officer Karanjia Division, and Area Manager BJP. 

Everyone who visited our stall was impressed by the Digital Green system and the impact that we are having in improving the livelihoods of local communities.  We were also continuously screening videos on various agricultural practices which brought together gatherings of curious visitors to our stall.  The stall triggered not only the interest of the SHG women who attended the Maha Adhibhesan but also government officials and other distinguished guests that learned about the Digital Green system and its work in the area for the first time.  This was one of the first opportunities for Digital Green’s Karanjia team to share its work with a broader audience and it was both a motivating and learning  experience for everyone involved.

Chandra Shekhar is an Assistant Development Manager for Digital Green working in the fields of the Karanjia district of Odisha (Orissa) for the past 10 months. .

A Change in Heart

By
Dr. S. B. NADAGOUDA (BEACONS)

In June 2009, Digital Green started working in Surashettikoppa, a block in the Dharwad district of Karnataka. The work began under not so rosy circumstances. We tried many different ways to convince the community that knowledge of simple agricultural and livestock practices could create a positive change in their livelihoods. In one meeting, Siddavva, a woman farmer from Kamplikoppa village, challenged the idea that an extension system could run without physical or financial support for necessary external inputs.  She did not believe that Digital Green’s knowledge-based model, based on sustained and participatory learning and discovery, would provide any benefit to the community.


Nonetheless, we decided to still go forward with initiating video screenings in Siddavva’s village. We also decided to feature Siddavva and her husband, Channappa, as model farmers in videos on ‘low cost, homemade cattle feed’ and ‘low cost vermicompost’.  The plan worked!  

The community developed confidence and keen interest in taking up these very simple techniques for themselves.  After one month, the screenings also began to occur on a regular basis. Soon, even Siddavva and Channappa were encouraging their fellow community members to attend the video screenings.  They observed that the Digital Green system was able to convince farmers to adopt simple practices which improved their livelihoods.
Now, Siddavya says that, “Earlier, we used to spend Rs. 10 to see an entertaining commercial movie.  Now, we feel that we are gaining Rs. 10 by seeing Digital Green films.”

Dr. S. B. Nadagouda is a Development Manager with Digital Green. He has been working in the fields of various districts in Karnataka for the past 10 months.

 

Cash for Worms
By GANGA ANKAD and SUNITA KUSUGAL

Gauravva Channappa Morabad is a hard working woman who resides in Kamplikoppa village in the Dharwad district of Karnataka.  She is involved in field activities of all types and is a member of the Shri. Kariyamma Devi Self Help Group (SHG). Gauravva has attentively attended every Digital Green screening conducted in the SHG.  She has taken up many of the agriculture- and livestock-related practices that she has learned through the videos  on her farm.


As one example, Gauravva learned and took up a practice to produce vermicompost in a low-cost manner that allows for its harvesting every 1.5 months. She notes that this spread-based method "reduces dampness and accelerates the multiplication of worms that consume organic matter. Within a short period of time, the method converts waste material into vermicompost and a large number of worms."Within six months, she has harvested 17 quintals of vermicompost and sold it for Rs. 3910. She says, "many television programs broadcast information on vermicomposting, but those methods involve high-cost inputs. The Digital Green video taught me a much lower-cost, easy-to-implement method for vermicomposting that is much more useful." We estimate that the technology has enhanced her vermicompost production by 8.5 times over the previous pit-based method that she was following. And, apart from the production of vermicompost, she is also producing huge quantity of valuable worms.

As another example, Gauravva had known about the use of Adasal tappala (Adhatoda vasica) and Amrita balli (Tinospora cordifolia) as medicines but had never used them. After watching videos on the benefits of these medicines, she started to prepare decoctions of Adhatoda leaves with Tulasi leaves along with a pinch of pepper and jaggery. She now uses it to reduce symptoms of cough and asthama. She also uses decoction of Tinospora leaves combined with tulasi leaves, pepper powder and jaggery to reduce symptoms of fever. Now, whenever Gauravva or any of her family members suffer from cough, cold, or fever, she prepares the decoctions and serves.

Gauravva has been successful in acquiring returns from the videos that have been disseminated in her SHG. She notes that she is grateful to both Digital Green and BAIF for bringing such a "beautiful program" to her village.

Ganga Ankad and Sunita Kusugal are members of BAIF's team in Karnataka.  Digital Green and BAIF have been working together for the last 11 months to extend the Digital Green system in Karnataka state.

March 2010

posted Mar 16, 2010, 3:06 AM by Rikin Gandhi   [ updated Mar 17, 2010, 2:55 AM ]

THE NEXUS

Issue 1 - March 2010
Ticket to Ride
By RIKIN GANDHI

2415/B2/29M: My berth as we travel the Intercity Express from Indore to Nizamuddin.

The train makes its usual stops as we snack on moong dal and pawa. As  each passenger boards the boogie, their fellow passengers make covert and (often) glaring assessments of their fellow passengers’ station in life. But as the train moves from one station to the next and the afternoon sun sets, the awkward silence begins to break. Someone starts playing ring tones from their mobile, compartment mates strike a loud chord, and then, dinner is served. Curries and chapatis are juggled, and all of a sudden, the passengers are strangers no more. Those who have brought home cooked meals share them with their less fortunate brethren and business cards along with philosophies of life are exchanged.

Our work often places us on motorcycles, planes, buses, trains, and sometimes even boats to get us from one point to another. You may have heard that life is a journey, but for many of us, it really is. We have all encountered punctured tires, uncomfortable seats, and unscheduled delays that make these journeys tougher than they already are. Still, with each step, we also become stronger and wiser about how to take the next one. We all know that we do this better when we do this together, when we enjoy the richness of the journey’s highs and lows, and when we are united toward one common destination. We may not always travel the same train, but this is one of our first attempts to do so. This is The Nexus of Digital Green.

Rikin Gandhi is the founder and CEO of Digital Green. He is currently living in New Delhi working at the Digital Green office as well as traveling to the many Digital Green field sites all over India.


Empowered Self Help
By K MUTHUMARI (CRUSADERS)

A platform for developmental workers to work and for women members to be empowered.

A Self Help Group (“SHG”) is a community mobilizing technique in which members collectively take care of their social capital needs by the means of credits and savings. Money that is transacted through these Self Help Groups is reinvested into the development of their farms, health care, and other local expenses.. Working with individual is tough rather work with group is ease. An SHG is a great medium where development workers can work many group members instead of single individuals.

I would like to illustrate a story of an SHG member, Itwari Gudia, a woman I met through my work at Digital Green and one of our partner’s PRADAN. Itwari is an excellent leader who organizes meetings flawlessly, expresses her ideas boldly, and also understands all the intricacies of farming. On one particular day, I attended a meeting at an SHG led by Itwari. Introducing yourself to the members and then hearing introductions from the SHG can be very interesting; many times the women feel shy to speak and they tend to not look at you. However Itwari organized and facilitated the introduction session nicely as usual. They allotted time at the end of their meeting for me to speak and till then I had observed the meeting silently. Duringthe meeting, Itwari was collecting various amounts of money for savings, interest, fines from her fellow SHG members. I was shocked to see that she couldn’t do simple subtraction like Rs.70-56.  Because of the way she conducted her meetings, lead the groups, and presented herself, I thought she must have completed her tenth standard. I was curious to learn more about Itwari, so after the meeting winded up I asked the local professional about her. He told me that she came from a different district in Jharkhand called Simdega. She had never gone to school and had learned how to write her name after marriage. To me, she did not present herself as someone without an education; she was a strong leader who I simply admired. I smiled and thought to myself, “THIS is empowerment.”

K. Muthumari is an Assistant Development Manager for Digital Green. She has been working in the fields of Kunti District, Jharkhand for the past 9 months.



The Clever Trick

By KUMAR SATYAM SALIL (PIONEERS)


I had a very interesting on-field experience at a village called ‘Karegaon’ located in the district of Dindori, Madhya Pradesh. I had been to Karegaon to monitor a video dissemination program. Digital Green dissemination screenings are a process in which good farming techniques or institution capacity building videos are screened for the benefit of farmers in their village. The mediator for this movie was ‘Ganpat Das Padwar’ who came before scheduled to organize the dissemination and invited the female farmers (didis) to watch the film. On this particular day, one heavily drunk old person tried to disturb the dissemination program by shouting at the people present and not allowing didis to enter the room. People tried to take him away but he kept shouting rubbish and even started demanding money as some sort of tax. Since this old man was related to some of the didis, no one tried to take strong measures against the old man. Then, one didi who was also in the dissemination group, understood the gravity of situation and thought of a clever trick to drive the old man away from the dissemination site.
She poured some water in an empty liquor bottle and tried to entice the old man with the bottle and eventually she led him to a place outside, far away where other people were sitting and drinking in a group. Meanwhile the dissemination started and all didis sat and started watching the film. Soon, the didi came back to the dissemination and very attentively participated in the dissemination process with her SHG group.

I was overwhelmed to see the effort of the didi and the group members who tried to solve the problem in order to make sure the Digital Green dissemination program ran.

Kumar Satyam Salil is an Assistant Development Manager for Digital Green working in the fields of Dindori District of Madhya Pradesh for the past 5 months.



Blink
By KEVIN GANDHI (PIONEERS)

Blink. You get off a plane into the country of your ancestors. Blink again. You are dropped off in a village with a box of Bisleri and a vague knowledge of Hindi to live with a farmer for a week. Blink again, you are ducking your head on top of a bus as live wires and tree branches sweep over you.  You blink again with your wind in your face; you are sleeping under the universe which is brightly smiling back at you. Blink again; you find yourself tilling the rocky land with an archaic plow and two bulls.  Blink again and there you find yourself sleeping next to snakes and washing clothes with scorpions.  Every time I open my eyes there lies a new adventure and a new experience waiting for me.  In this job, when you close your eyes to blink, you better be ready for what lies on the other side because it is going to change you.  Straighten your shoulders.  Throw on your Digital Green book bag. Put on the sunglasses.  Stretch your neck from side to side. Take a deep breath in and then… BLINK.

 

Kevin Gandhi is an Assistant Development Manager for Digital Green working in the fields of Dewas District, Madhya Pradesh for the past 7 months and is the current editor of The Nexus.

 



Note from the Editor:  Thanks for reading the NEXUS! Many articles in this newsletter have been edited or modified to appropriately fit into this newsletter.  The Editor also has received many articles which will be used in future editions of the newsletter.


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