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Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice)
Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice)

Rural Learning


AfricaRice has a long history in developing learning methodologies and tools with its national partners and farming communities. Over the years, we expanded our range aiming to build synergies between learning methodologies. Intensive methodologies, such as Participatory Learning and Action Research (PLAR), have been supplemented by technology-mediated learning methodologies, using video, radio and ICTs.

This shift has two major reasons, both aiming to decentralize and democratize learning within the rice sector.

One and foremost, AfricaRice  realized that with more and more service providers entering the scene, it had to try to reach as many actors as possible, both known and unknown to AfricaRice. By way of example, by 2008 AfricaRice had shared farmer-to-farmer videos with about 80 organizations, who in turn distributed them to over 300 organizations across Africa.

The second reason equally underwrites the innovation systems philosophy. Stimulated through technology-mediated learning, AfricaRice research in collaboration with the University of Abomey-Calavi revealed that rural communities expressed new demands after having watched the rice videos, often leading to the creation of new linkages between them, service and credit providers and other actors in the system.

Participatory Learning and Action Research (PLAR)

Building on earlier work conducted in irrigated rice systems, in 2001 AfricaRice developed an approach for Integrated Crop Management (ICM) under inland valley conditions. The objective of PLAR is to promote technological and organizational change by building farmers’ capacities.

Groups of farmers learn to find adaptive responses to site-specific problems and make the best use of available resources, namely local knowledge and research-based understanding of underlying processes. Through weekly group sessions, a wide range of tools are used such as cropping calendars, maps, diagrams and field observations. These form the basis of 28
PLAR modules covering land preparation, transplanting, weed and pest management, but also post-harvest and marketing.

By 2008, PLAR had been introduced in Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Madagascar, Mali, Nigeria, The Gambia and Togo. To know how PLAR triggered significant social changes among women groups in Mali, please read this case study. Farmers now apply their learning to a wide range of other crops. Application of ICM often increased yields by 1,000 kg/ha. Research in collaboration with KNUST, Ghana indicated that PLAR farmers increased their yields by 56% and their profits by 86%.  

Apart from training trainers on PLAR, AfricaRice in collaboration with various universities conducts research on how the social position of PLAR participants and farmer trainers influences the diffusion of knowledge and technologies within and between communities. Insights will lead to policy recommendations to improve service delivery and farmer-to-farmer extension.

Video-mediated learning

Video is a powerful tool that can significantly increase the impact of good practices and research around the region. Besides being more cost-effective than farmer-to-farmer extension, video has the power to better explain underlying biological or physical processes if made with the end-users. To guarantee that the farmer-to-farmer videos adhere to high quality standards, a local video production team was trained.

What makes our farmer-to-farmer videos different from classical training videos? First of all, apart from explaining the how to do, it also explains the why behind technologies and processes. And secondly, our farmer-to-farmer videos are based on adult learning principles, fully valorizing and building on farmers’ knowledge.

How did we decide on the topics of the video modules? To ensure more farmers can benefit from PLAR, those modules with the highest perceived local impacts and regional scaling-up potential were turned into video products. Also, AfricaRice developed two videos with women rice processors to stimulate technological and institutional innovations to improve rice quality and marketing potential. Besides, a set of four videos on on-farm rice seed management (developed with rural women in Bangladesh) form the basis of an experiment on video-mediated South-South exchange. To see all these videos on-line, please click here.

The rice videos are now available in more than 30 African languages (see map) and have been broadcast on national TVs in The Gambia, Guinea, Nigeria and Uganda, illustrating their regional relevance and that partners find them locally appropriate.

Mobile cinema vans, village cinema halls, rural radio stations, Q&A Services, women's associations, grassroot organizations and other public and private sector dissemination channels are all explored. Evaluating learning processes, uptake pathways and impacts are part of AfricaRice research portfolio. Currently, research is conducted in collaboration with the University of Abomey-Calavi in Benin and Makerere University in Uganda.

A survey conducted in central Benin among 200 women rice processors indicated that video reached almost three-quarters of women parboiling rice while conventional training covered just 27%. Farmer-to-farmer video proofed far more powerful to trigger women to innovate than conventional training or exchange via informal networks. Also, the recognition by more women of the profit potential from parboiling stimulated them to create formal groups so they can work closely with NGOs and negotiate for microcredit financing to further develop their parboiling activities. They also started selling their parboiled rice at more diverse market outlets.

Radio to link actors

Experiences from the development and use of the Participatory Learning and Action Research (PLAR) approach with farmers have formed the basis for the development of farmer learning videos. Building on this,  rural radio scripts have been developed in partnership with development actors and farmers.

Sometimes the videos were used by radio broadcasters in various innovative ways. For example, some farmers involved in PLAR or video sessions gave their testimonials through rural radios. To read a case study on how AfricaRice integrates various media and learning approaches on a regional scale, please click here.

Also, local innovations were turned into radio scripts. Most rice radio scripts are hosted on the website of the Canadian NGO Farm Radio International who distributed them to over 300 rural radios in 38 SSA countries.

AfricaRice assesses how rural radio can play a role in changing rural people’s knowledge, behaviors and practices, as well as revealing and managing the role it can play in strengthening rural institutions and actor linkages.

Various innovative ways are currently being tested to strengthen capacities of rural radio stations by integrating various learning approaches, while at the same time building-in ethical income generating approaches in knowledge sharing.

Zooming-in Zooming-out approach

Based on experiences with the video and radio programs, AfricaRice also developed the Zooming-in Zooming-out approach to guide especially international research and development organizations to create regionally relevant learning materials that are locally appropriate. The Zooming-in Zooming-out approach can be applied to any media form.

Suggested reading and links

  • Van Mele, P., Wanvoeke, J. and Zossou, E. 2010. Enhancing learning, linkages and institutions: the rice videos in Africa. Development in Practice, 20(3), 414-421. Click here to download a pre-print of the article or contact the senior author for any of the publications listed.  

·         Van Mele, P., Wanvoeke, J., Akakpo, C., Dacko, R.M., Ceesay, M., Béavogui, L. and Anyang, R. 2010. Videos bridging Asia and Africa: Overcoming cultural and institutional barriers in technology-mediated rural learning. The Journal of Agricultural Education and Extension, 16(1), 75-87.

·         Zossou, E., Van Mele, P., Vodouhe, S.D. and Wanvoeke, J. 2009. The power of video to trigger innovation: rice processing in central Benin. International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability, 7(2), 119-129. Click here to download full article.

·         Zossou, E., Van Mele, P., Vodouhe, S.D. and Wanvoeke, J. 2009. Comparing farmer-to-farmer video with workshops to train rural women in improved rice parboiling in Central Benin. The Journal of Agricultural Education and Extension, 15(4), 329-339.

·         Van Mele, P., Zakaria, A.K.M., Hosne-Ara-Begum, Harun-Ar-Rashid and Magor, N.P. 2007. Videos that strengthen rural women’s capability to innovate. Communication for Development and Social Change, 1(3), 79-99. Click here for abstract.

·         Van Mele, P. 2006. Zooming-in zooming-out: a novel method to scale up local innovations and sustainable technologies. International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability 4(2), 131–142. Click here to download full article.

·         Van Mele, P., Zakaria, A.K.M., Nasrin, R., Chakroborty, B. and Rodgers, J. 2005. Bringing science to life: video development for women-to women extension. In: Van Mele, P., Salahuddin, A. and Magor, N. (eds.) Innovations in Rural Extension: Case Studies from Bangladesh. CABI Publishing, Wallingford, pp. 49-60. Click here to download chapter.

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Innovation Systems
Rural Learning
Impact Pathways
- Facilitator's Manual
- Technical Manual
- Manual-Madagascar
Rice Videos
Rural Radio
Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice)



AfricaRice is a CGIAR Research Center –
part of a global research partnership
for a food-secure future.
It is also an intergovernmental association of
African member countries.


AfricaRice Headquarters
01 BP 4029, Abidjan 01, Côte d'Ivoire
T: +225 22 48 09 10; F: +225 22 44 26 29

M’bé Research Station
01 B.P. 2551, Bouaké 01, Côte d'Ivoire
T: +225 22 48 09 20; F: +225 31 63 25 78

E: AfricaRice@cgiar.org


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