“If you visit most of the communities in the Northern Region, they know of me,” says Malik, smiling. “I’m the farmer’s friend.”
The “farmer’s friend,” or “Pukparibi Yilikperilana” as he is known in the local Dagbani language, has been hosting Pykparibisaha (“Time with farmers”) for nearly a decade. The 90-minute program features live interviews with agricultural experts and a segment for farmers to phone in to the studio and ask questions.
But after hosting the program for some time, Malik realized the phone-in segment was too short for the number of callers trying to get through.
“Before you end, you have a number of people still calling, even though the program is off. Even [just] before you leave the studio, you are picking calls,” he says. “So I thought: why not give them an extra line, [so that] after the program they can communicate with you.”
The solution was simple, but it changed the way farmers receive important information about things like farming practices, climate change, and government policies. Malik uses his personal number, which he calls “The farmer’s friend line,” so that farmers can call or send messages via WhatsApp. He announces the number throughout the program, reminding listeners that they can call any time with their questions.
“Even sometimes you will be sleeping and they will call you,” he laughs.
At the beginning of the farming season, Malik often receives more than 20 calls a week. Farmers have questions about subjects like buying seed and tractor services. Midway through the season, when farmers are busy in their fields all day, he receives fewer calls—but his phone line is always open.
“Most of the questions they ask, I can easily answer them because I’ve been farming since my childhood,” says Malik. “I’ve been doing this program since 2009 and I’ve been learning along. It’s like I’m in school.”
Of late, Malik has been a Farm Radio partner broadcaster, running a 12-week program on guinea fowl. He’s used resources on guinea fowl and gender available online to broadcasters through our site for broadcasters: https://farmradio.fm/.
For more technical questions, Malik gives farmers the contact information of one of his many sources at the Ministry of Food and Agriculture or other research institutions and NGOs.
One of Malik’s devoted listeners is a man named Sulimana Baba, a farmer in Bini village, in Yendi district. Sulimana has been listening to “Time with farmers” on Radio Savannah for three years. He has even memorized the farmers’ friend line number.
“When the number is busy, I can also text him,” says Sulimana. “We have become personal friends.”
Building relationships with farmers and visiting their fields is an important part of Malik’s work. There is a severe shortage of extension services. This means that many farmers do not have anyone in their district who can visit their farms or offer advice and expertise. Malik visits his farmer friends at least once or twice in a season, but wishes he could go more often.
“Radio Savannah goes far and it really helps them. When you visit them, they feel happy. But I must be frank; it is difficult visiting them,” he says.
Malik’s farm program and occasional field trips are vitally important in Sulimana’s village.
“I can’t remember the last time the extension officer visited my community,” says Sulimana. “If you come to my area right now and ask who our extension officer is—do you know their name—nobody can tell you. The radio program is what I’ve been depending on. Mr. Amadu is doing marvelous work.”
While the Ministry of Agriculture employs extension workers to work directly with farmers in the field, they can’t be everywhere at once.
In the meantime, it’s thanks to dedicated and innovative radio broadcasters like Malik that Ghanaian farmers can obtain the information they need to support themselves and their families.
This story originally appeared in Barza Wire. Barza Wire is our online agricultural news service that shares farmer stories and resources for use by radio broadcasters. Radio Savannah is a Farm Radio International broadcasting partner, currently working on the Bridging Rural Information Dissemination through Dialogue and Engagement project in partnership with Uniterra.