Videos and photos used as research tools in Indonesia

Farmers and village leaders have been interviewed on video and their landscapes photographed to collect baseline data for a new research project


Sixteen farmers and eight village administration representatives from Buol district, Central Sulawesi province, Indonesia, talked about the challenges and opportunities facing their farms and natural environment during the Climate-smart, Tree-based Co-investment in Adaptation and Mitigation in Asia (Smart Tree-Invest) project’s video baseline survey and photographic data collection.

The farmers selected were the most active in focus groups conducted in the previous year of the project, which is funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry’s component on Landscape management of forested areas for environmental services, biodiversity conservation and livelihoods. The eight villages were divided into two main clusters, with five in the Buol upper watershed and three on the coast, to capture the issues in the two different areas.

In the video survey, respondents were asked three main questions: first, what they thought about their surrounding environment; second, what and how they thought their surrounding environment should ideally be; and, third, what has already been done and what more should be done to make their ideal environment a reality. In following years, the same respondents will be re-interviewed so that the researchers can monitor any changes of perception.

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Interviewing a farmer in Buol, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia, about climate risks. Photo: World Agroforestry Centre/Nichola Sarvangga Valero Mitakda

To gather photographic data, the farmers were given free rein to pick whatever locations they considered were most inspiring or most worrisome in their landscapes. A team from Smart Tree-Invest then took 360 degree photos of the landscapes and recorded the farmers describing the issues. The team will also return to the same locations in following years to monitor whether there have been any changes.

The Smart Tree-Invest team will analyze the farmers and village leaders’ stories and photographs to enrich their understanding of the issues the communities face in becoming resilient to climate change.

‘Being able to understand farmers’ knowledge of their landscapes and how that knowledge has contributed, positively or negatively, to their livelihoods is critical for designing ways of improving agricultural practices so that farmers will not suffer from a changing climate’, said Smart Tree-Invest Indonesia coordinator Betha Lusiana. She added that any change in farmers’ views, or lack thereof, would also reflect the project’s impact.

Smart Tree-Invest is developing conservation and livelihoods’ strategies to enhance farmers’ livelihoods and reduce their vulnerability to climate change while at the same time also maintaining or improving the ecosystem services of their environment. The second year of the project will feature more intensive focus groups with all levels of stakeholders while the third year will be policy formulation with governments.

‘Video interviews and photos are two methods that seem like ideal tools for capturing how the project transforms—or doesn’t—perspectives about, and knowledge of, landscapes’, explained Smart Tree-Invest Southeast Asia coordinator Beria Leimona. ‘We also expect the tools will help increase farmers’ resilience by sharing information about co-investment in ecosystem services with governments and the private sector’.

Video will also be used to present business cases for co-investment in vulnerable landscapes to ensure they continue to provide ecosystem services, such as clean and plentiful water, and productive livelihoods for local people. Smart Tree-Invest is operating in Indonesia, the Philippines and Viet Nam.


Blog by  Nichola Sarvangga Valero Mitakda


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Smart Tree-Invest is supported by the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry’s component on Landscape management of forested areas for environmental services, biodiversity conservation and livelihoods

Rob Finlayson

Robert Finlayson is the Southeast Asia program's regional communications specialist. As well as writing stories for the Centre's website, he devises and supervises strategies for projects and the countries in the Southeast Asia region, including scripting and producing videos, supervising editors and translators and also assisting with resource mobilization.

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