Fighting Striga

By Paul Van Mele

Paul Van Mele is the Director of Agro-Insight, a Belgian enterprise that merges expertise from science, communication, and arts to support sustainable agriculture and equitable trade.

‘Fighting Striga’ may not be a Hollywood – or even Nollywood – blockbuster but it is set to grab the attention of farmers throughout Africa.

A listing of the available programs offered. (Image credit: Agro-Insight)

Scientists have invested heavily over the past 40 years to fight one of the world’s most troublesome weeds, Striga. This parasitic weed seriously damages maize, sorghum, millet, rice, and fonio. While developing Striga-resistant varieties is a key area of research, insights into how soil fertility management and other options can help to reduce Striga infestation proved hard to communicate effectively with farmers.

In 2006, the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) embarked on farmer field schools and came up with practical integrated Striga and soil fertility management practices for pearl millet and sorghum. A scarcity of skilled trainers, however, made it hard to maintain quality while scaling up.

Inspired by the experiences of AfricaRice with farmer-to-farmer videos, ICRISAT approached Agro-Insight, a communication agency specializing in agriculture, to have their staff and the staff of their partners in Niger, Nigeria, Ghana, and Mali trained. One year later, in 2011, a comprehensive series of 10 farmer-to-farmer videos was ready for wide-scale dissemination under the name “Fighting Striga”.

The “Fighting Striga” videos have been shown in farmer exchange visits and discussed at open-air evening screenings. They are effective because they are made according to the zooming-in, zooming-out (ZIZO) method, which relies on strong interactions with farmers. The ZIZO method results in regionally relevant and locally appropriate farmer-to-farmer training videos and can be applied to many topics.

After watching the videos in French, all asked: “Can we get a copy?” and “Can you translate them into our local language?” As a response, the “Fighting Striga” videos were translated into 20 West African languages.

Participants learn during a two-week workshop how to make a quality farmer-to-farmer training video. (Photo credit: Marcella Vrolijks)

The distribution of 40,000 DVDs is scheduled to start in April through national farmers’ organization platforms, Chambers of Agriculture, rural radio networks, national agricultural research and extension agencies, and major development organizations and projects.

The international NGO Access Agriculture established a web-platform to enhance access, facilitate local language translations, and promote the distribution and use of agricultural training videos. By using the most advanced technologies in video-streaming, any development organization can watch and download video and audio files that are of interest to them, free of charge, even with low internet connectivity.

If you would like to explore other local language translations of any of the videos listed on the Access Agriculture website, please send a message to

To purchase State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet please click HERE. And to watch the one minute book trailer, click HERE.

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