On a recent holiday to Kenya, I had the enjoyable opportunity to visit one of our Partners (Trans World Radio Kenya) and hear first-hand how important Farm Radio International is.
David Angango wears a broad smile when he talks about Farm Radio International. His sentences are often punctuated with laughter. Within a few minutes of meeting him, I am convinced that I have met Farm Radio International’s biggest fan. But I soon learn that Mr. Angango’s enthusiasm spreads to all of his work with Trans World Radio-Kenya.
Mr. Angango began working with Trans World Radio in 1989. His task was to produce a program called Africa Challenge for shortwave broadcast in Swaziland and South Africa. His problem was lack of information on the program’s themes – agriculture, health, and the environment. The solution came from a somewhat surprising place: Canada. Mr. Angango explains that practical agricultural information was all but impossible to come by in Kenya, except for script packages that arrived regularly from the Developing Countries Farm Radio Network (now Farm Radio International). The scripts became an integral part of Africa Challenge for years to come.
By 2005, Mr. Angango had something to be even more excited about. Trans World Radio had been granted FM licenses for seven communities throughout Kenya and began broadcasting in six. With the expansion came a renewed focus for Trans World Radio-Kenya. Health became their top priority, followed by agriculture and family matters. Mr. Angango was now Programs Manager for Trans World Radio-Kenya. Unfortunately, he had lost touch with Developing Countries Farm Radio Network. But, since his office now had Internet access, he easily found Farm Radio online.
“Now we are able to get the scripts as soon as we want them – as soon as they are posted online,” Mr. Angango says. Improved access to materials is important, since his team now provides content for six stations that broadcast up to six hours of original content each day. He takes advantage of Farm Radio’s online materials, including scripts and Farm Radio Weekly, as they arrive. Mr. Angango downloads interesting materials, and then meets with producers to discuss how they can be incorporated into the station’s various programs.
I visited the Trans World Radio office on a Friday afternoon, but there’s no sign of work winding down. In the recording studio, broadcasters are training to read scripts on the air. In the editing suite, hours of programming are being pieced together. In an office near Mr. Angango’s, CDs of recorded programs are being stuffed into courier envelopes to be sent to community stations.
I ask Mr. Angango how he knows it’s worthwhile, how he knows the programs are relevant to his listeners. His smile widens as he talks about some of the farmers who have responded to Trans World Radio’s agricultural programs. “We do get somebody [who] tells us, ‘what you said here was true, I did this, let me tell you about my experience,’” he says. He recalls a farmer who was losing his stored maize to weevils, and learned how to manage the pest through Farm Radio information broadcast on a Trans World Radio station. He flips through a number of letters, finding one from a farmer in a nearby village who learned that he could intercrop sweet potatoes and beans to improve his yields. Many of Farm Radio’s scripts address the problems and interests of farmers, he assures me.
Almost twenty years after he first started using Farm Radio’s resources, Mr. Angango has just one suggestion for others who work in radio: “If I talked to producers, I would say this is a resource you must [have]. If you have not subscribed, it would be good – you will learn something there, like I have done.”