Practice Paper: Building an ecosystem around data: using interactive radio for accountability to farmers in Tanzania

In 2015, Farm Radio International applied to Making All Voices Count for a practitioner research and learning grant. Farm Radio International (FRI) is a Canadian-based not-for-profit organisation working in direct partnership with approximately 600 radio broadcasters in 38 African countries to fight poverty and food insecurity. The research studied the impact of one of FRI’s projects, the Listening Post, initially developed as a pilot project funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to help agricultural development actors ensure their initiatives are responsive and accountable to farmers.

The Listening Post is an interactive radio series aimed at an audience of farmers. It combines specialised interactive radio broadcasts with Uliza, a tool created by FRI for gathering and analysing feedback and questions from audience members. Uliza is built on an interactive voice response (IVR) system which enables listeners to vote on poll questions, leave messages and request the delivery of specific information. The research aimed to assess the effectiveness of the Listening Post, and to examine its potential as a tool for the adaptive management of agricultural programmes. This practice paper describes the research, and reflects more broadly on the challenges and opportunities provided by feedback models such as the Listening Post for improving inclusive and participatory agricultural development, and for advancing adaptive programme implementation based on feedback. It also discusses the potential of building on a tech-enabled feedback model to enable collective civic action for extension services that are responsive to the priorities of smallholder farmers. If the information generated by multi-stakeholder platforms like the Listening Post is to lead to adaptation and change in service provision, it is necessary to develop common understandings of the roles and responsibilities of different stakeholders from the outset of programme design and implementation.

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Ian Pringle
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