During one of our meetings with people involved with the technological aspects of content delivery (not necessarily agricultural content specifically, though), two representatives from the Ministry of Communications told a story that illustrates the power of evaluation to create change (but, really, this is only the case if the results are followed up on).
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They described an experimental design that asked rural farmers to compare their traditional farming techniques with those recommended by the weather service. To do this, they selected farmers who selected a section of their land to plant using the traditional way, and another section to plant using the recommendations of the weather service.
As the farmers were a bit leery of the weather service recommendations, and (in some cases) their lives literally depend on the yield of their farm, they hedged their bets by reserving the best portion of their fields for the traditional methods and the worst portion for the new methods. As you would expect, this probably skewed the results a little.
So, how badly skewed were the results, you ask? Well, the answer is a little surprising. Even with the worst sections of the land, the new techniques provided yields “only” 30% higher than the old results. The power of information encapsulated in a nice tidy result…
Unfortunately, there’s a post script to this story. With these kinds of yield increases, you would expect that the program would be considered a huge success, and would be spread widely. This, as you could probably guess by the “unfortunately” above, has not been the case so far. There are lots of farmers clambering to be included in the experiment, however, there weren’t many details about how this would be disseminated for the benefit of all. Hopefully, this is simply a matter of time, and the delay is caused in the name of results verification.