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June 1, 2020

Scientific Animations Without Borders launches global education program

In a time of crisis, how do we protect our health and safety, safely store our food, plant our fields or care for livestock? The coronavirus has touched every corner of the globe — forever changing the way we live. An immediate need exists for global information dissemination on mitigating COVID-19’s impacts. 

Feed the Future, the U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative, recently awarded a grant to Scientific Animations Without Borders (SAWBO) to launch the Feed the Future SAWBO Responsive-Adaptive-Participatory Information Dissemination Scaling Program, or SAWBO RAPID, an educational intervention program to disseminate crucial information related to COVID-19’s secondary economic impacts, including disruption to trade, supply chains and markets. 

SAWBO RAPID will ensure that important COVID-19 information will be delivered across borders, cultures and literacy levels by quickly developing educational animations in local languages and using virtual dissemination platforms to reach remote and marginalized communities.  

The project is led by Barry Pittendrigh, Julia Bello-Bravo and John Medendorp, three Michigan State University researchers with significant international development experience. 

A recent study conducted by Bello-Bravo showed that Mozambique farmers who viewed an animation on using jerrycans for safe, long-term grain storage resulted in a 97% retention rate and an 89% adoption rate of the storage solution.

“Our videos can be adapted to a diversity of cultural scenarios, allowing women, men and a wide range of age groups to view them and learn proper techniques,” said Bello-Bravo. “In this study we observed women taking a very active role in learning and sharing the information they gained from the animations. Besides the high retention rate of 97%, 92% of survey participants reported telling an average of eight other farmers about the technique, and 55% personally demonstrated the technique to an average of six others. SAWBO RAPID activities will build upon the success of this system.”  

SAWBO RAPID will also build on Bello-Bravo’s decade-long co-founding and development of SAWBO’s research-to-impact program. Bello-Bravo’s research program, with over 33 publications addressing research questions necessary to support SAWBO strategies, is an example of a cutting-edge approach where land grant institutions can take research outcomes to create meaningful impacts in a COVID-19 world without travel. SAWBO videos can currently be found on TV stations in both West and East Africa, with over 43 million people known to have benefited from them. 

Efforts like SAWBO RAPID are especially important during the current pandemic.

“SAWBO RAPID is about crisis intervention. The program operates 100% in virtual space and has had almost a decade of experience creating educational content to respond to crisis situations,” said Pittendrigh. “Content is created and distributed through online networks — all achieved while actors across this educational pathway maintain social distancing.”

The content is also intended to democratize information.

“These digital delivery systems have the capacity to break down barriers by making information accessible to all. My research shows they have the potential to be a great equalizer due to their ability to bypass gender, generational and other established hierarchies that suppress, marginalize, ostracize and create information asymmetries,” said Bello-Bravo. 

"This is about creating networks, partnerships; building goodwill," said Pittendrigh. "Each and every person has the right to access knowledge so that they can make informed, safe decisions. SAWBO RAPID will bring us one step closer to this goal.”

By: Janet Fierro

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