Impact Of Community Media On Farming Communities

This is the first of a 3-blog series by Jessica Mayberry, the founding director of VV on the of Community Video Unit (CVU) – the organization’s pioneering community media model,  in addressing sensitive issues such as caste, sex and gender, and find innovative ways to deal with them.To read more about Ms Mayberry, visit our staff page.

Many of Video Volunteers' Community Video Units (CVU) work in rural areas and they address issues critical to farming communities, such as crops, water and land rights. One of the CVU films addressing land rights led to 700 people filing requests for land. In Andhra, amongst the Tribal communities, the CVU there (called Manyam Praja Video, supported by the NGO Laya) has made strong efforts to encourage Tribal farmers to return to their traditional farming methods, and away from the commercial seeds which have gotten them into debt through corrupt money lenders. Because of these films that promote traditional agriculture, Laya has seen participation in its credit societies increase, and has numerous instances of farmers who say they were convinced to return to traditional agriculture because of the films. In other rural areas, the theme of water has been major issue the films have addressed.

For instance, one film of the Apna Malak Ma CVU in Gujarat addressed how an upper caste hotel owner was sending the toilet waste into the fields of nearby Dalits. This hotel owner, after seeing the film and meeting the Producers, voluntarily dismantled his toilet and moved it elsewhere. With another film, the film explained to an audience of farmers the correct depth at which the government must be digging borewells.

They came to understand that government contractors were cheating the villagers and not digging the wells deep enough, which explained why they dried up. After the film, people in several villages lobbied the authorities successfully and the wells were dug to the proper depth.

The CVUs in rural areas make more of an impact than the ones in urban areas. For one, the lack of information is greater. In some of the Tribal villages, people say they see a newspaper a couple times a month if that. The lack of information is so severe and so one also sees the power of basic information to make people lack. We also see in rural areas people’s fascination, one would say innocence, about media. In the Tribal areas, there is dancing at the CVU screenings. They are a real event, where people sometimes ask to see the films twice. When people say they have never seen a movie screen in their lives, seeing their own images on a screen, blown up at twice their actual size, makes a deep impression.

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