A new approach to communication for development will help low-literate farmers adopt improved agronomic practices in Timor-Leste.
Farmers who adopt new maize varieties developed by the Seeds of Life (SoL) program and Ministry of Agriculture (MAF) can expect significant yield increases if they use traditional cultivation methods. If they also apply appropriate agronomic practices (such as planting in lines, weeding, drying and storing seed in airtight containers etc.), even higher yield increases are achievable. But how do you teach these practices to farmers?
|Farmers at a maize field day: a traditional form of communication for development|
The low level of literacy among Timorese adults, particularly in remote parts of the country, and their often limited exposure to television and radio, presents a significant challenge when it comes to delivering new information.
To overcome this barrier, the SoL–MAF team is trialling an animation presenting guidelines for growing maize.The animation was prepared by final year students in the Bachelor of Animation degree program at Charles Sturt University (CSU), Wagga Wagga. A large component of the professional development in this course involves students undertaking pro bono work for not-for-profit organisations.
Animation has advantages over static images (such as on leaflets and banners) because viewers can be better directed to key information and are less likely to misinterpret what they see. The technique also has advantages over conventional video presentations, as animations can be made off-shore using established production facilities, and avoid the cost of hiring actors and crews.
|In development: testing the opening scene and characters|
|Fully developed scene and characters|
|Using anatomical measures for easy to understand guides|
SoL–MAF will screen the animation at district film nights run by the local organisation Cinema Lorosa'e. They will also share it with farming families with video-capable mobiles, and use it as an extension tool. If the animation proves successful in raising awareness of good agricultural practices for maize, similar animations for peanuts, sweetpotato, rice and cassava may also be created.
By Chris McGillion (Charles Sturt University) and Kate Bevitt (Seeds of Life)