A look behind the scenes of FarmQuest with Radio Fanaka

For the past several weeks we have been introducing you to the six candidates that took part in the FarmQuest project in Mali:  six young people have shown their communities that they have what it takes to  start farming businesses that can not only feed their families, but make a living. Now its time to introduce you to the amazing broadcast team at Radio Fanaka in Mali. They poured their hearts into the FarmQuest program and grew as journalists along the way.

Radio Fanaka is emblematic of many radio stations across sub-Saharan Africa. It is staffed by mostly volunteers, their equipment is basic, and most of the staff have not gone to school for broadcasting or journalism. So to bring a new form of radio on air at the station could have been seen as a big gamble. After all, the FRI reality radio model of programming is brand new: it pulls lessons learned from radio drama, but it is also a distinct format in itself.

Farm Radio International is lucky to work with dedicated radio journalists like the team at Radio Fanaka. In fact, that is what sets our work apart from many other media-based development initiatives: We value the trusted place that local broadcasters occupy in society. For many farmers these broadcasters are who they spend their days with in the field by flicking on their radio sets. Radio is not just about sending out or disseminating a message to the audience. It is quite literally about building a relationship between broadcaster and listener, so when there is something important for farmers to hear (new advice, market information, weather information), they listen.

For FarmQuest, Salimata Koné and Vieux Fatagoma Sanogo were recruited at Radio Fanaka to be the show’s hosts. They were chosen because they themselves were young and understood the pressures faced by youth in Mali. Over the life of the project they visited the contestants in the field to record the success and challenges of starting a farming business. It was not uncommon to see Vieux and Salimata zoom by on a motor cycle on their way to interviewing the contestants in the village.

The above video shows some of the amazing transformations seen in the team at Radio Fanaka over the life of this project. FarmQuest was the first time that Radio Fanaka tried its hand at polished, documentary-style reality radio, a far cry from the more improvisational style that was common before the project. In many ways the goal of Farm Radio International is to empower local radio stations to produce their own high-quality programming for their communities. Radio Fanaka’s work on FarmQuest was a true example of how far broadcasters can come with training and some new equipment.

Made possible with the support of the Rockefeller FoundationFarmQuest was a reality radio program broadcast in Mali to encourage youth to consider farming as a legitimate and profitable career choice, and not just a means of subsistence, by following six farmers competing to be named “best young farmer of the year.” Learn more about about the project by checking out the following links:

– FarmQuest videos

– FarmQuest audio (in Bambara with English transcripts)

– “Can a reality show really deliver aid to Africa?” (article in the Toronto Star by Marc Ellison)

– FarmQuest project page

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