Voices from the field: Using multimedia to tell livestock stories

ILRI photofilms available on the web

Screenshot of one of the ILRI photofilms

In 2010 the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) started making photofilms to capture event highlights and to tell stories about people who depend on livestock for their livelihoods, food, income and cropping.

What are photofilms?

A photofilm combines (mostly still) photographs and audio recordings in a multimedia product, usually just a few minutes in length.

Why photofilms?

Photofilms are a powerful way of presenting the voices and pictures of local people, communities and realities. We use them at ILRI mostly to capture the human-interest elements of development projects and to show how research connects with people’s lives.

The making of a photofilm starts by identifying a story one would like to cover. A small team of two to three people then cover the story using an audio recorder and a DSLR camera. Sounds and images related to the setting of the interview, the topic and the physical location that relates to the story are collected. This process may take anywhere between 15 minutes to several hours for each story. After this, the audio files and pictures are assembled and edited in computer programs and are then combined into short ‘videos’ that make up the photofilm.

How are they used at ILRI?

We use photofilms to get our messages out. The photofilms complement other communication products such as blog articles. We post them online, where they can be easily viewed and either embedded in or linked to websites, blogs and slide presentations. Since 2010, we’ve made photofilms tell stories of drought and herding livestock in the Kitengela rangelands near Nairobi, to record events such as the official presidential opening of the Biosciences east and central Africa (BecA) Hub at ILRI, and to give overviews of projects such as the ‘People, Animals and their Zoonoses’ project in Kenya’s Busia District.

What is the future of using photofilms?

Most of ILRI’s photofilms have focused on stories from Kenya. There are plans to expand the use of this dynamic way of telling stories to Ethiopia, Asia and other countries where ILRI carries out projects.

For more information: To find out more about photofilms and how they are used at ILRI, contact Paul Karaimu.

See a playlist of photofilms here