Every Thursday evening, Achako Esther sits down at the microphone in the broadcasting studio at Voice of Teso radio station in eastern Uganda. Tonight, her program is on using kitchen gardens to grow vegetables even when climate change has turned conditions hot and dry.
Growing food is a big deal for Ugandans: 80 per cent of Ugandan households are involved in agriculture. Farming families need access to practical information about weather conditions, which crops to grow, when to plant, and how to manage pests and diseases.
Disseminating this type of information is the role of extension workers — government agents who provide agricultural education and training to farmers. However, only five per cent of Uganda households received advice from an extension worker in 2019. Increasing this percentage is particularly urgent as parts of the country grapple with food insecurity stemming from reduced rainfall, slow economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and rising food prices. And information on circular and regenerative agriculture in the face of climate change can make a big difference for Ugandan farming communities.
Extending the reach of agricultural extension services
It’s this need in Uganda that makes Achako’s program so important. With its wide reach, Voice of Teso is in a strong position to help spread agricultural information to farmers. This community radio station broadcasts from Soroti, a city in Teso sub-region, at 88.4 FM. The station aims to keep its community informed and contribute to social and community development through radio.
Achako has been with Voice of Teso for three years. Every Thursday evening, she broadcasts a farmers’ program called Eporoto Lo Akoriok (Farmers’ Forum in English). The show has touched on a range of topics, from organic agriculture to beekeeping and financial management.
“We have covered how to manage pests and diseases by not using chemicals, naturally managing,” Achako adds. “We were so blessed to have a farmer who was able to help other farmers [with] how to manage pests and diseases.”
The one-hour episodes follow the Green Leaf Radio Magazine format. Green Leaf Radio Magazines are designed to be educational and entertaining and meet the needs of farmers year-round. They contain seven segments, including local and international news, weather and market information, and the core of the program: farming tips.
Since extension officers are unable to travel to every village, radio programs like Eporoto Lo Akoriok fill an important gap, disseminating agricultural information over the airwaves in what’s known as “e-extension.” Eporoto Lo Akoriok is broadcasting through Farm Radio International’s “Sustainable Dialogue and Knowledge Sharing Communication Platforms” (Platform) project, which aims to provide a majority of rural Ugandans with access to digital extension services.
“[The farmers] always say they would like the extension workers to reach out to them,” Achako explains.
Broadcasters like Achako work closely with extension officers when designing their farming programs to ensure that episodes communicate the latest agricultural information — for this programs, this includes information on circular and regenerative agriculture. Achako has regular meetings with extension workers, goes on field visits with them and invites them as guests on her radio program.
During Eporoto Lo Akoriok, listeners have multiple opportunities to share their perspective and questions. Farmers can call in live to the show or use Farm Radio’s Uliza technology to answer poll questions. Achako notes that farmers are extremely active about asking questions and like to hear their voices on air.
Broadcasting climate change radio programs in Uganda
Like their counterparts around the world, Ugandan farmers are already noticing the impacts of climate change. Things like longer droughts, more-intense wildfires and flooding.
Achako has discussed changing weather patterns during the weather segment in Eporoto Lo Akoriok.
“There is a need to generate information on how to manage weather information, and our farmers need to be informed about it,” she says. “When we discussed [the topic], there were very many questions from the farmers. They couldn’t predict when they could start their season or be clearing their beddings or starting to plant because the weather has changed.”
The Jan. 5 episode of Eporoto Lo Akoriok focused on climate change — both its impacts and its solutions (like climate-smart agriculture, which aims to increase productivity and resilience to climate change while reducing greenhouse gas emissions). On her program, Achako shared tips from experts like agronomists and staff from Uganda’s National Semi-Arid Resources Research Institute (NaSARRI).
This episode highlighted kitchen gardens as a climate adaptation solution. Achako also mentioned granaries, a traditional Ugandan solution for storing grains, which have become less popular but could significantly boost food security in the East African country.
Achako has heard positive feedback from listeners about Eporoto Lo Akoriok. “They say it has changed their minds from what they have been doing … They only request for more time to be added especially on the radio program,” she says.
The information on the radio program is helping farmers increase their yields and enjoy better harvests. Local farmers have learned that they need to obtain varieties of cassava that are free from pests and diseases. Amajo Joyce also learned that she needs to weed her cassava field regularly.
Based on the radio program, Mzee Olupot Charles Dickens has been making and selling a natural pesticide to his community, which he calls “KULAMAS.” Its recipe includes, among other ingredients, human urine!
It’s innovative tidbits like these that help farmers adapt to changing seasons.
Help other Ugandan farmers benefit from agricultural programs like Eporoto Lo Akoriok: donate today.
About the Project
The “Sustainable Dialogue and Knowledge Sharing Communication Platforms” project aims to provide a majority of rural people in Uganda with a reliable, continuous and powerful communication service through interactive platforms that share knowledge, facilitate dialogue, give voice, and stimulate positive change toward inclusive, circular, regenerative agriculture. Working with the Ugandan Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, as well as a variety of private and public stakeholders, the project will establish the building blocks for a network of digital extension platforms hosted at 12 radio stations to create dialogue and knowledge-sharing communication hubs aimed at providing farmers with the latest regenerative agriculture practices, as well as marketing and business advice. This project is made possible thanks to the support of the IKEA Foundation.