Audio postcard: Radio helps bean farmers get more from their crops
Extension officer Comfort Mlegwa (left) and farmer Augustino Hoza (centre) demonstrate a bean harvesting method in which beans are beaten out of their shells with a stick.
A group of farmers, family and friends beat a pile of dried bean vines with a stick, releasing beans from their protective shells. The pile is much smaller than farmer Augustino Hoza had hoped for.
The 48-year-old farmer from the mountainous Lushoto district in northeast Tanzania had to support his wife and three children this year with the modest income from his sweet pepper crop following last season’s poor bean harvest.
“My first challenge was untimely planting,” Augustino explained, through a translator. The season commenced in October, but he planted in mid-November. This untimely planting resulted in a poor harvest.
The small-scale farmer attended a workshop over the summer held by Farm Radio International. The goal was to design a radio program centred around bean cultivation. In October — the start of bean season — Augustino put the knowledge he gained from the workshop to use, by using improved seed varieties and intercropping techniques, amongst others.
He has learned about a lot of things about beans, including the characteristics of quality seeds, how to plant in rows . . . and he has learned about using fertilizers in cultivating beans. “What I learned from [the design workshop] I will apply on the farm. So that will help me very much,” Augustino explained.
This radio program is part of Farm Radio’s Bean Thinking project, implemented in partnership with CABI (Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International) and with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The project aims to encourage farmer participation, while entertaining listeners and keeping them up to date with the latest bean cultivation techniques.
Comfort Mlegwa, the agricultural extension officer for the village, says farmers are excited for the program. She says a major challenge to farmers is an unfavourable market, and thinks the radio show will empower farmers at the market by keeping them up to date with current prices and helping them bargain with middlemen.
“Farmers are eager to know when the programs are and to learn different things. There is a great need from the farmers. . . . They are now selling to middlemen who are not favourable to the farmers since they decide the price themselves,” Comfort explained.
Like the other farmers, Augustino looks forward to listening to the program this season.
Farmer Augustino Hoza stands in his freshly cultivated land, soon to become a bean field.