Covid 19 Response
Covid 19 Response

COVID-19 challenges and preparedness in rural India

The second wave of COVID-19 pandemic in India has pushed the country into a state of humanitarian crisis of significant proportion. The scale and impact are of such never-seen-before magnitude that it has pushed the entire health care and governance system into disruption. While the second wave of COVID-19 has started to ebb in urban India, higher caseloads are being reported from semi-urban and rural demographics. 

For past six years, Digital Green (DG) has been working closely with National Health Missions and Rural Livelihood Missions in the state of Bihar, Odisha, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand and Assam, directly reaching close to a million people to bring positive health and nutrition behaviour change by leveraging technology. It is this experience that prompted us to reach out to the FLWs and understand how they are handling and coping with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Digital Green conducted a rapid assessment in May 2021 to understand the challenges experienced by the FLWs in dealing with Covid-19 pandemic on ground the issues related to testing and vaccination for COVID-19, and the support that the FLWs and community need to respond to the pandemic.

The findings of this survey are expected to contribute to efforts of the central and state governments, district health officials, non-government and other voluntary organizations, as well as the donor community to provide a comprehensive response to COVID-19 in rural and semi-urban India.

Forging Digital Connections

COVID-19 threatened both the health and livelihoods of rural communities -shutdowns of rural markets and transportation restrictions disrupted supply chains and markets.

Digital Green is supporting farmers by establishing new ways of delivering advisory services and strengthening market linkage, building on the potential of a more connected society. We also leverage offline solutions due to key gaps in digital access, with rural populations 40% less likely to use mobile internet than urban populations, and women 23% less likely than men.

Customized and relevant content

Digital Green customizes content based on farmer feedback. We are working with government partners to develop locally-relevant video(s) with COVID-19 awareness messaging, to supplement videos on agronomic topics. Digital Green has developed more than 6,000 localized videos in over 30 languages and dialects, with over 60 million views on our YouTube channel demonstrating the demand for this advisory information

Strengthening digital behavior change communication

As in-person extension is interrupted, Digital Green is reimagining the future of digital extension. The videos produced by Digital Green and its partners have reached over 1.9 million farmers (80% women), to increase uptake of practices by 50% & yields by 46% compared to traditional approaches. In addition to screening videos in smaller groups to comply with social distancing requirements, we are also repackaging and Commented [1]: link to solutions page
redelivering content via digital communication channels such as radio, IVR, WhatsApp and SMS. We are strengthening online digital communities (on platforms like WhatsApp and to enhance peer-to-peer learning and use integrated channels to reinforce messaging (for example, by combining videos with IVR).

Managing farmer feedback and data

Digital Green is developing new methods for farmer-centered data sharing to respond to immediate and changing needs. Digital Green’s system for tracking farmer-and agent-level data, Connect Online Connect Offline (COCO), collects and analyzes data on message content, dissemination, and adoption of promoted practices, generating a dashboard with views by geography, gender and practice. We are also developing an open interoperable data sharing platform called FarmStack which will provide the data standards and technology architecture for multiple organizations to build their own data-driven applications on top of it. Digital Green conducted farmer surveys in 4 states in India (Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, and Odisha)to collect feedback on emerging needs related to the crisis and working with government partners to build a database of farmer phone numbers.

Improving market linkages

To help farmers overcome market disruptions, Digital Green has launched a supplier directory connecting buyers and farmers, as an alternative to traditional approaches (such as farm visits and collection centers) that may be restricted during lockdowns. Buyers discover local produce, assess quality via photos and connect directly with farmers to purchase. This directory builds on Kisan Diary, an online smart ledger to maintain, analyze and improve farming using financial records. Digital Green also facilitates transport services and logistics for farmers via Loop, an application that aggregates farmer produce to improve their negotiating power to lower transport costs and increase income from sales.

Building extension system capacity

Digital Green supports government partners by building their capacity and helping support policies and programs. As we do with farmers, we seek to be both responsive to immediate needs of our partners and proactive in planning for the future. In India, we work with the National Rural Livelihood Mission and its state counterparts. With in-person training on hold, we are now building extension capacity via our online training courseware. We already have a track record of training 21,800 frontline workers (42% women).

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