• Announcement
26. February 2024
© GIZ / Saskia Widenhorn

VR-based training in the field of agriculture is an innovative approach that GIZ has piloted in Cameroon and Burkina Faso together with the International Cotton Advisory Committee (ICAC). With the help of VR videos played through VR glasses, learners find themselves in a virtual cotton field and see plants, beneficial organisms and pests deceptively realistically before their eyes. Compared to traditional training methods, VR training videos are therefore more intensive and have a more lasting learning effect.

Saskia Widenhorn was involved in the development and implementation of the project on behalf of GIZ and was also partly on site in Cameroon. On the advantages of VR-based training, she says:

“It's much more like experiencing what you've learnt than with traditional training, which makes the learning content even more memorable.”

Saskia Widenhorn, GIZ

Widenhorn also cites the advantages of VR training as being that training can also be carried out easily in remote, rural regions and that no reading and/or writing skills are required.

The video footage for the educational material was recorded by ICAC in cotton fields in India at different times of the year in order to show the plants at different stages of growth and thus ensure a holistic learning experience. Although this makes production more complex and cost-intensive, it also results in very high-quality educational videos.

In terms of content, the aim of the training courses is to promote more sustainable cotton cultivation. The focus here is on pest control: "It's about integrated pest control. The aim is to be able to maintain or increase yields with less use of inputs," says Saskia Widenhorn. Participants therefore learn, for example, how to control pests naturally. In this context, Widenhorn explains that excessive use of chemical inputs is not only bad for people's health, soil fertility and the climate as a whole, but is also more expensive than natural means. The VR training courses therefore also use detailed close-ups to teach how to differentiate between pests and beneficial organisms.

Virtual reality-based training on sustainable cotton cultivation in Cameroon and Burkina Faso
©GIZ / Saskia Widenhorn

In general, the project pursues a "training of trainers" approach: firstly, multipliers were trained in the use of VR training, who are now to pass on their knowledge to cotton farmers in the country. In addition, ICAC has incorporated the VR training courses developed with GIZ into its standard programme, translated them into several languages, including local languages, and rolled them out in other countries. Specifically, 285 farmers have already been trained in a total of five countries - Zambia, India, Côte d'Ivoire, Kenya and Egypt.
The further course of the project in Cameroon and Burkina Faso will now be ensured by the partner organisations, even if GIZ remains the contact partner and continues to monitor the project. According to Widenhorn, clear role allocations and training in the proper maintenance of the glasses are necessary for the smooth continuation of the project.

The integration of VR technology in agricultural training is an innovative step towards improving the learning experience for farmers. Despite the comparatively high costs of developing the learning content and providing the goggles, VR-based training offers many advantages and promises high learning success. It is also possible to develop additional, less cost-intensive learning content that can then be transferred to the goggles. Training with VR glasses could therefore be used more frequently in the future in addition to traditional training methods.

A video report on the project was published by Deutsche Welle (DW):

How virtual reality helps cotton farmers boost yields – DW – 12/18/2023

Journalists had become aware of the unusual training sessions and conducted interviews and collected video material on site.


Additional information can also be found on the GIZ website Virtual seeds with real benefits – GIZ.