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 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.