Wednesday, 30 March 2011

How local innovation, coupled with scientific insights and principles, can help improve yields without harming the land, water and the rest of the environment

Documentary film series: the ingenuity and grassroots expertise of small farmers in developing countries

Organisation: Prolinnova and TVEAP

A new documentary film series highlights one way forward: tap the ingenuity and grassroots expertise of small farmers in the developing countries. They have long mastered the art of resilience and survival against formidable odds.
The 4-part series, produced by TVE Asia Pacific (TVEAP), shows how local innovation, coupled with scientific insights and principles, can help improve yields without harming the land, water and the rest of the environment.

TVEAP, a non-profit media foundation, produced the series in partnership with Prolinnova, a global learning network that promotes local innovation led by small-scale farmers in sustainable agriculture and management of natural resources.

The film series were premiered at the 2011 Prolinnova International Partners Workshop, on 21 March 2011 in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. (see related blog spot:
 International Forum on the Mainstreaming Participatory Approaches into Agricultural Research and Development

Filmed during 2010 in four countries on three continents, the short film series begins with an overview of the global agricultural research and development challenges tackled by Prolinnova partners. It shows how this work improves farmers’ ability to feed a world that’s both crowded and warming.

It also showcases the processes and products of participatory innovation development in three countries: Cambodia, Niger and South Africa. 

The examples featured in the series cover both technological and social innovation. Among them: an improved fish smoking oven and the use of millet glumes as cassava fertiliser in Niger; how goat rearing strengthens the economics of poor families in South Africa; and more efficient rice farming that uses considerably less water in Cambodia.

All four films illustrate how Prolinnova operates: bringing government, academic and civil society groups together with small farmers to work as equals.

Prolinnova partners are pleased with how the film series has turned out.

“The whole project -- which involved making three short films in Cambodia, Niger and South Africa, and an overview film covering the global programme -- was done within the span of a year. It was most challenging and exciting,” says Chesha Wettasinha, Coordinator of the film project of on behalf of Prolinnova at the ETC Foundation in The Netherlands.

She adds: “It was no small feat to capture in film concepts and approaches espoused by Prolinnova, but TVEAP did remarkably well in showing in a nutshell what we had written in reams of publications. Hats off to TVEAP for a job well done!”

The series was researched and scripted by TVEAP Director Nalaka Gunawardene, a science writer with wide experience in covering development issues in the print, television and online media.

“Many researchers and development professionals talk among themselves, usually in their own technical language,” says Gunawardene. “They don’t reach out enough to the policy makers, business leaders and the public. Films like these can bridge this gap, and make a difference.”

The series was conceptualised and produced by TVEAP under commission from the Prolinnova Network. It comes in two languages: English (original) and French (version). Interviews have been conducted in several local languages.

Says TVEAP’s Series Producer Manori Wijesekera: “Our challenge was to distil the essence of nearly a decade of field work by dozens of Prolinnova partners. We had to tell their story in an engaging and authentic manner – and in a nutshell.”

The series was filmed with local video crews in Cambodia, Niger and South Africa – as well as at the 2010 international partner meeting held in Wageningen, The Netherlands. Prolinnova partners at each location provided technical guidance and logistical support. The series was edited and post-produced in Colombo, Sri Lanka, where TVEAP is anchored. 

Both Prolinnova and TVEAP are firmly committed to the principles of open content. Thus, the video film series is being released and distributed without any copyright restrictions. The films may be used, adapted, versioned or copied without license fees or royalty payments, as long as the original sources are acknowledged.

The films can also be viewed online, in their entirety, at the TVEAP website:

PROLINNOVA Niger: Arid Land, Fertile Minds