Helping small-scale farmers withstand climate change through radio

Climate change and radio

Ramatu Djan is a 49 year old farmer. She lives in Chinchana, a farming community in the Sissala East Municipality of the Upper West Region of Ghana. The Upper West region is in north-western Ghana, where the majority of the population are farmers.

In recent years, climate change has made farming a challenge for many. But thanks to new methods delivered over the radio, some farmers are adapting to the changing weather.

“Some of my colleagues who refused to use the new method of farming are now jealous seeing how well my crops are doing. I am very grateful for the knowledge given to me,” says Ramatu.

The radio programs, broadcast on Radford FM, are part of the Climate Information Made Available to Entrepreneurial Farmers – or CLIMATE – project. The project aims to improve the resilience of farmers in northern Ghana in the face of climate change.

Farming incomes threatened by climate change

According to Ramatu, farming is her main source of income. She uses proceeds earned from selling her produce to cater for her household. Prior to the CLIMATE project, Ramatu employed the typical traditional method of farming: she planted old seeds, practised bush burning to prepare her farmland, did not plant in rows and did not have any knowledge about water harvesting.

“I clearly now understand the impact of climate change on farming activities and our lives as human beings. I have therefore adopted controlled bush burning instead of indiscriminate bush burning as a method of preparing my land for farming. I have also been able to harvest water both at home and on my farm for domestic and dry season farming activities,” she said

Radio teaches farmers new methods

She said listening to the radio program on Radford FM has been beneficial and that the programs motivated her to attempt something new. She learned that indiscriminate bush burning destroys the texture and fertility of the landt, now, she said she practices controlled bush burning or looks for alternative means of disposing of waste on her farm. She added that she never leaves fire on her farm without supervision. Ramatu also says that harvesting water for both domestic and farm activities has saved her a lot of money.

Ramatu is married with six children. Her husband is also a farmer. She has three acres of land where she grows maize, pepper and groundnut. This year, she hopes to see harvests better than in the past.

Traditionally, farmers were able to predict the weather through various indigenous means. They could tell the weather simply by the presence of certain birds, the appearance of clouds, the change in wind patterns or simply by the germination of some plants. Over the years, due to the rising irregular weather conditions and human activities, farmers cannot rely entirely on the traditional strategies as a means of forecasting the weather. The CLIMATE project is looking to change that.

Tackling climate uncertainty

The CLIMATE project is a three-year initiative funded by the African Development Bank through Canadian Feed the Children that seeks to deepen existing adaptation practices to enhance access to and integrate climate information into the practices of small-scale women and men farmers in 23 communities in three regions of northern Ghana using radio and ICTs.

Climate uncertainty exposes farmers to many risks. Farmers need climate information so as to make informed decisions. The unavailability of accurate weather and climate information deters small-scale farmers from making major farming decisions — decisions such as when to prepare their land, irrigate, plant and harvest. Though weather information is made available on a daily basis by the Ghana Meteorological Agency and are disseminated through the various media in the country, farmers are in need of information specific to their communities, broadcast in their own language, and tailored to the agricultural sector, letting them know what to do and when to do it.

To improve farmers’ resilience to climate change, Farm Radio International is producing gender sensitive quality climate radio content that makes that content accessible to farmers, and provides advice as farmers adjust to the changing climate. The radio programs have been designed to adequately provide information tailored to the needs of small-scale farmers. The programs give farmers the opportunity to ask questions on-air and, through Farm Radio International’s Uliza system, provide small-holder farmers with seasonal weather advisories.

All this so that farmers like Ramatu can improve their harvests, and adapt to changing weather.

About the author
Sefakor Humade is a communications volunteer based in Farm Radio International’s Ghana office.

About the project
Climate Information Made Available to Entrepreneurial Farmers – or CLIMATE – is a three year initiative that seeks to improve the resilience to the risks of climate change of farming households in northern Ghana. As part of the project, Farm Radio International works with three partner radio stations to design and develop interactive radio programs on gender-sensitive weather and climate information, and climate resilient adaptation practices. This is made possible thanks to funding from the African Development Bank through Canadian Feed The Children.

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