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Information Technologies as a Tool for Agricultural Extension and Farmer to Farmer Exchange: Mobile-phone Video Use in Mali and Burkina Faso

Mobile phones are widespread in the rural areas of Mali and Burkina Faso, but their potential as a tool for knowledge transfer by extension services in the region remains largely unexplored. The aim of this contribution is to evaluate the potential of video on mobile phones as a tool for farmerto-farmer exchange and agricultural extension in Western Africa’s rural reality. This aim was addressed by interviewing 460 farmers in Mali and Burkina Faso. Third generation (3G) mobile phones with video and Bluetooth technology were found to be widespread in the study area. Furthermore, videos on 3G phones were found to have a high frequency of contact and a high information utility. The participating farmers reported that 3G phones are readily accessible: including to people who had previously had limited access to information sources, such as young women. Video based information is particularly advantageous to illiterate farmers, and has potential to transform the typically top-down nature of information flow from extension agents to farmers. The farmers, in this case, hold ownership of video based information, which thereby extends its outreach. These findings allow the conclusions that video on mobile phones has tremendous potential as a tool for agricultural extension and farmer-to-farmer exchange in developing countries. The use of video on mobile phones is a novel approach to farmer-to-farmer exchange, which could contribute to transforming and amplifying extension efforts and thereby enabling the necessary intensification of land use, while also enabling more resilient, inclusive and democratic farming systems.

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