It’s the start of the growing season in Ethiopia and farmers are preparing their fields.
As they ready the soil for tillage, and are thinking about the procurement of seeds, another sort of preparation is happening. Broadcasters from four radio stations are planning their episodes, picking up their microphones, and heading to the studio to launch a new radio series about wheat and faba beans—all through a lens of gender equality.
“I want to be a voice for farmer women,” says Aynelem Debelle, a farmer from Arise in Oromia, who listens and contributes to the programs. “We women work on everything but we aren’t recognized as farmers.”
The programs are part of Farm Radio International’s RECOVER project, funded by the Green Innovation Centres, a global project implemented by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) under the special initiative “ONE World − No Hunger” of Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). Taking place in seven countries (Ethiopia, Côte d’Ivoire, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Togo and Zambia), the project is designed to encourage and improve agriculture and economic recovery in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Interactive and gender-sensitive radio programs are now running in seven countries across sub-Saharan Africa. In Ethiopia they are focused on wheat and faba beans, walking farmers through the steps it takes to plant, grow, market, and process their produce, all in line with the growing season. They also challenge gender norms in agriculture, posing questions about stereotypes, and ensuring they consider the challenges of women when designing programs.
“We women work on everything but we aren’t recognized as farmers.”Aynelem Debelle, Farmer
“This program helps to spread the seasonal work of agriculture, especially on faba beans, wheat and honey. The farmer gets firsthand information on agronomy practice. It is good for our region. We are happy it will address many more farmers,” says Arebu Weshe, a development agent in Assella, Oromia.
The programs aim to reach farmers in two regions of Ethiopia: Amhara and Oromia, with individual broadcasts on Amhara Media Corporation (Formerly AMMA), Dessie Fana FM, Oromia Broadcast Media (OBM) and Assela Fana 90.0. Each station runs an evening program during the week, with a rerun later.
Each program features a variety of segments: radio dramas, farmer interviews, agricultural expert interviews, and interactive call-in segments focused on the topic of the week. They’re put together in a way that enables farmers to explore the topic, learn more, ask questions, and discover ways they can improve both the crops they produce, and the profit they make from those crops.
As a partner broadcaster put it: “It will give information and messages to farmers from planning to market. The program incorporates a different approach… It is very participatory and easy to understand for farmers. So it will give a lot of information to farmers.
Each program also takes a look at the COVID-19 safety protocols of the day, ensuring advice they give is in line with safety recommendations, and that rural farmers can stay up to date on the latest information about the disease. In fact, the whole project is designed to be run at distance, ensuring recovery can happen while everyone can stay healthy in the face of the disease.
“This program helps me to convey the message that women are equally contributing to farms.”Aynelem Debelle, Farmer
While the project’s ultimate goal is to increase income and participation in value chains, it also aims to change opinion and spark conversation in communities about what farming is, and who can farm.
Says Aynelem: “This program helps me to convey the message that women are equally contributing to farms. I plough the land as man and my mom does it too. It is a cultural taboo to plough the land by women. I want to break the norm by being that voice.”
The RECOVER (RELANCE in French) project is a 15-month, €2.9 million ($4.3 million CAD) project designed to encourage and improve agriculture and economic recovery, safely, in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic—especially as countries and economies begin to re-open. It is funded by the German Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) Green Innovation Centres for the Agriculture and Food Sector, on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).