Audio postcard: Radio program helped farmers access vines to grow nutritious orange-fleshed sweet potato

Victoria Dansoa Abankwa, an agricultural extension officer and host of the orange-fleshed sweet potato program at Central Radio in Cape Coast, Ghana. 

In 2013, Farm Radio International developed and launched a 22-week radio program to fight vitamin A deficiency by helping to scale-up the production and consumption of orange-fleshed sweet potato (OFSP) in Ghana. Farmers had difficulty cultivating OFSP due to lack of funding, access to vines and knowledge. As well as reaching Cape Coast in the Central Region, the OFSP radio program reached parts of the Ashanti Region, Western Region and Eastern Region.

As a result of the program, over 22,800 cuttings of OFSP vines were supplied and distributed by the International Potato Center to farmers in the Central and Western Regions of Ghana. Several farmers received 600 vines each, while others received 300 or 100 vines based on the size of their land. An agricultural extension officer also distributed 1,500 vines to farmers in the Western Region.

Victoria Dansoa Abankwa, an agricultural extension officer and host of the OFSP radio program at Radio Central in Cape Coast said, “We had a farmer who told us of a skin problem he had fought with for a long time, but after eating the potato he said that the skin issue is over.” She added that, “We are making the necessary arrangements for farmers who have yet to receive vines. We hope to see the vines sent to places that need them and help to increase food security.”

Before the OFSP program was developed, the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Radio Central personnel and FRI did research with farmers in several communities through focus groups and key informant interviews. Generally, discussions were easy and farmers were willing to share their knowledge about OFSP. This research indicated that interviewees wished to get information such as soil requirements, planting techniques, marketing and general production. Farmers also wanted more information on consumption, including cooking methods, storage and whether OFSP could be eaten raw.

Farmers liked the idea of education through radio, because everyone had access to a radio and would get to know about OFSP benefits, even non-farmers. Farmers indicated that they listen to Radio Central once or twice a week and would listen to the OFSP program, “(especially) if it informs us about news and the presenter’s voice is good,” as one farmer said.

The OFSP program’s content included news, weather forecast, general education from resource staff and extension officers, radio dramas, field interviews with farmers and phone-in discussions. It also included important growing information, such as how to plant the vines.

To learn more about this project, made possible with the support and partnership of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Helen Keller International, The International Potato Centre and The Sweetpotato Action for Security and Health in Africa, please visit the project page.

About the author
An audio engineer from Melbourne, Australia, Janelle Meager volunteered her expertise through an internship with Farm Radio International in Accra, Ghana, where she worked as a radio technical development officer.

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