In the first survey of its kind in a conflict zone, the AVS team of 15 local promoters on the ground surveyed approximately 1,000 farmers in the agricultural region of Northwestern Syria in 2021 and 2022.
Outreach was carried out in four waves, beginning with in-person network contacts and existing digital networks on platforms such as WhatsApp.. The first wave, in April 2021, promoted our 15-episode agricultural support podcast Agricultural Voices Syria, produced
largely by expat Syrian agricultural experts in Turkey. The second wave, in May 2021, collected feedback and conducted the first survey which included questions about age, gender and education; relationships to the land they were farming; ownership and use of
technology; social media usage; prior podcast listening experience; the tone and topics of the AVS podcast; and ideas for improvements for subsequent AVS iterations and further support material. Highlights of the survey conducted in 2021 can be accessed here.
The feedback collected in 2021 showed significant interest from farmers for receiving video material alongside podcasts on agricultural practices and techniques. As a result, the AVS
team produced a series of videos accessible on YouTube and this website. The third wave, in May 2022, promoted our 15 short videos within the farmer’s community in Northwest Syria.
The last wave, in September 2022, collected feedback through a second survey on how farmers are using podcasts and videos to improve their agricultural practices, the quality of the material provided, challenges posed by local conditions inherent to a post-conflict zone, and possible solutions. A short selections of these answers is presented below.
The chart shows overwhelming support among our respondents for receiving extension services via the new media. This is promising for taking this model forward.
The oldest and most established social media, Facebook, was the most popular means for receiving this information. Interestingly, despite having the trail blazed by podcasting for this material, farmers are slightly keener on print and video methods – perhaps because much of it is demonstration of techniques which is obviously easier
to absorb visually.
The two media forms did seem complementary in the survey, with the majority of the respondents saying they utilized both video and audio. 72% of the podcast users
said they liked the material, while 77% of the video users said they liked the material.
Respondents most liked the appeal of the video topics, followed by the engaging way they were presented. It is worth noting that the producers refined their presentation techniques in the podcasts and became better presenters and producers. The videos are more dynamic while the first podcasts can sound like lectures. We acknowledge there is merit in an integrated or trans-media approach.
We compared the technological challenges and content issues between the podcasts and the videos. While there were fewer technical problems in accessing the podcasts, the improved production values in the videos and the shorter length
proved more appealing.
In terms of what was most important for our users off the back of the whole of the AVS project: the expertise of the producers and presenters was the most important followed by the entertaining and engaging presentational mode. While nearly half said including actual farmers’ voices in the productions was important, only about a
quarter said that hearing the voices of female farmers was important; promoting an inclusive environment for female farmers remains and area to develop further for the AVS team.