DIGITAL FARMER FIELD SCHOOL (DFFS): EXPLORING ALTERNATIVE COMMUNICATION AND EXTENSION OPTION FOR DAIRY FARMERS OF BHUTAN
Keywords:Dairy Farmers; Digital Farmer Field School; extension and communication; responsible innovation
The study was conducted to explore DFFS as an alternative innovative communication and extension option for dairy farming communities in Yoeseltse gewog (block) under Samtse Dzongkhag (District), applying a perspective of responsible innovation to enhance extension policies and strategy of the Department of Livestock. A case study approach was adopted to gain in-depth insight into how the three multi-level stakeholders conceive the present situation of dairy extension service, the dairy extension problems and constraints, and what the farmers’ and the extension agents expect from the dairy extension. The case study was operationalised through (a) open prototype trial of DFFS in groups and individual prototype trial & discovery (b) free discovery exercise and (c) semi-structured individual interview. The findings showed that DFFS is feasible in Bhutan. The operational skills shown by the farmers in operating the prototype was commendable. Hardware wise, all the respondents owned mobile phones, but the issue of access in terms of mobile and internet connectivity was still a concern in some pockets. A broader policy support for ICT development in the country exists but policy focus for use of ICT in rural agriculture extension system is needed to give impetus to the conventional extension system. There is a need to upgrade the ICT skills of the extension agents. In order for DFFS to become successful, it needs close collaboration among media designers, developers, and film makers. A longer-term solution would be to include DFFS in the extension and communication course curriculum at the College of Natural Resources (CNR). DFFS could be a highly effective means of service delivery during lockdown situations in the future.
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