Community-Driven Video Learning to Enhance Nutrition

April 30, 2015
SPRINGA video producer consults with local actors before shooting a hand washing scene in the Maradi region of Niger.
The Sahel – an arid belt of land that divides northern and Sub-Saharan Africa and spans 1.1 million square miles – is a drought-prone region where more than 18 million people across parts of Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso and other countries face chronic poverty and food insecurity. It is also a region with high child undernutrition rates, particularly among displaced people escaping unrest in areas plagued by political violence and extremism.
To help address these problems, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is working to strengthen agriculture, food security, nutrition and other needs in the Sahel, including through a Feed the Future-supported program that combines humanitarian and development efforts to end the region’s vicious cycle of crisis and help build resilience among vulnerable populations. 
But donors can only be one part of the solution to sustainable food security and resilience, which is why USAID – through Feed the Future and the Strengthening Partnerships, Results and Innovations in Nutrition Globally (SPRING) project – is partnering with Digital Green, an innovative Indian non-governmental organization that brings together technology and social organizations to improve agriculture, health and nutrition. Digital Green’s grassroots approach empowers rural communities to create and share videos in order to increase adoption of locally relevant practices that can improve food security and nutrition outcomes.
In the Sahel, this partnership is generating a new “human-mediated digital learning approach” tailored to the local context, mobilizing community-based organizations to produce videos in their own language that convey important messages themed around nutrition and resilience. Community members then use facilitated dissemination techniques to screen these videos with their peers and identify pathways to sustainable behavior change – particularly for maternal, infant and young child nutrition – as well as water, sanitation and hygiene practices. 
In Niger, a host of USAID programs supported by both Feed the Future and Food for Peace have piloted this participatory community video program in 20 villages in the Maradi region in order to demonstrate the feasibility, effectiveness and scalability of the approach within the resilience context of the Sahel. Some of the topics covered by the videos include optimal nutrition during the 1,000 days between pregnancy and a child’s second birthday; the importance of hand-washing; and complementary foods, including feeding young children from a separate bowl to help prevent food contamination. 
SPRING and Digital Green have trained a local community radio team on video production, as well as 40 community volunteers and three supervisors in video dissemination and monitoring techniques. Volunteer mediators began disseminating videos in the pilot villages last month.
The Resilience and Economic Growth in the Sahel – Enhanced Resilience (REGIS-ER) program aims to help reach an estimated 1.9 million beneficiaries across the Sahel, reduce the need for humanitarian assistance, and unlock consistent economic growth for the most vulnerable households.