International Development Week: How we broadcast agricultural information to farmers in Ghana and Nigeria

This week is International Development Week, a celebration of Canada's achievements in creating positive change around the world. At Farm Radio International, we’re proud to contribute to Canada’s efforts to build a more peaceful, inclusive and prosperous world by supporting a network of radio stations in sub-Saharan Africa that are advancing positive change in their communities. This International Development Week, we wanted to highlight one of our past projects that shows the impact of our work in rural African communities. 

About the “Dissemination of Agricultural Input Packages through Radio” project

In this seven-month project in Ghana and Nigeria, funded by USAID via IFDC and CORAF, we worked with nine radio stations to increase farmers’ awareness and uptake of Agricultural Input Packages (AIPs). These information packages for farmers promote the use of improved seed varieties, appropriate fertilizer practices and other “Good Agricultural Practices.” The interactive radio programs drew content from and promoted a website called Fersewam that includes AIPs for specific Agro-Ecological Zones and crops. Guests on the programs included government agricultural extension agents.

Here are the stories of farmers and broadcasters that benefited from the project.

Learning techniques for applying fertilizer to maize

Yaa Sarah

Yaa Sarah learned a new technique for applying fertilizer from the radio program on Atoobu FM. She cultivates maize on three acres of her property in the Atebubu-Amantin Municipality in Ghana's central Bono East Region. During a community visit after the radio programs wrapped up, Sarah explained that she learned to do dibbling (placing fertilizer in a small hole beside the crop) rather than apply fertilizer via broadcast (applying it indiscriminately).

Sarah also learned about the importance of wearing protective clothing before spraying fertilizer and of always spraying into the wind. She says women in town have benefited immensely from the program. Although they hadn't yet finished harvesting that season's produce when our team visited, Sarah believed it would be significantly greater than in previous years. She had high hopes of earning enough money to support and feed her family.

Listening to the radio to increase rice yields

Yusuf Aliminani has been farming for the past 18 years. The rice farmer lives in Obi Local Government Area in Nasarawa State in central Nigeria. Farming runs in his family — his father was also a farmer. Yet despite following his father’s instructions, his yields were always small.

“Because of that, I started looking for ways to help increase my yield,” Yusuf said.

Yusuf Aliminani

He had a friend who was always complaining about his farm. To Yusuf’s surprise, this friend stopped grumbling. When Yusuf asked him what had changed, his friend referred him to the radio program Aziki Na Gona (There is wealth in farming) on Nasarawa Broadcasting Service (NBS).

Though that was not the answer Yusuf had been expecting, he gave listening to the program a try. From then on, he was hooked. From the radio program, Yusuf learned when to apply fertilizer, how to apply it, and the required source or rate, as well as how to apply pesticides and herbicides. He is now even teaching some local farmers in Kokona how to apply fertilizer.

“The program has made farming easy and interesting and my yield is already looking very promising,” Yusuf told us.

Boosting farmers’ participation in radio programs

Like in our other projects, the AIP project expanded beyond radio to include mobile phones. Using Farm Radio’s free Uliza Interactive service, listeners can participate in polls, ask questions to experts and more, all using their mobile phone. The radio stations recorded 30,317 mobile phone-based interactions with listeners over the course of the project.

Adu Cosmos, host at Atoobu FM.
Adu Cosmos, host at Atoobu FM.

Adu Cosmos has been a radio host at Atoobu FM in Ghana for more than five years. He sees a clear difference between Farm Radio’s interactive radio programs and the station’s regular farmer programs — including the Fersewam website and the use of Uliza. With the introduction of Uliza, farmers can send their questions and comments at any time, and hosts are not interrupted by calls while broadcasting. Adu says that when farmers hear other farmers on the radio, it motivates them to engage themselves.

Olaitan Adeniyi is a seasoned radio and television presenter, producer and newscaster with the Broadcasting Corporation of Oyo State (BCOS) in Nigeria. He presents an agricultural program called Agbedotun (Renewed farming practice) and has also seen dramatic changes with the use of Uliza.

“Before now, yes, we had callers on the program who called to contribute to topics during our broadcast, but we never had more than eight to 10 people per episode and that will be all till another week,” Olaitan said. “This time, the case was different. I have never had this much traffic of callers since I started broadcasting who kept bombarding my phone saying they learnt so much on a single program and they kept the calls coming sometimes on air and more off air.”

The team at Pyramid FM gives seeds to a winner of the weekly knowledge quiz.
The team at Pyramid FM gives seeds to a winner of the weekly knowledge quiz.

Besides the ongoing use of Uliza for gathering farmers’ questions and feedback, the stations used the platform to run weekly quizzes. The farmers who scored best in the quizzes won prizes from agricultural input companies, like seeds or fertilizer. When the team at BCOS added the quiz into their program, listener participation grew so high that station management contemplated adding extra time to the program.

International Development Week: Influencing positive change in communities

Sarah, Yusuf, Adu and Olaitan are just some of the individuals impacted by the project. The radio programs’ influence extends to listeners and their neighbours, radio broadcasters and station teams, experts who appear as guests on shows, local businesses and more. This project in particular reached approximately 5.3 million farmers with information specific to their crops and Agro-Ecological Zones, to ultimately improve their livelihoods and food security.

International development works, particularly when it amplifies opportunities and complements the work that’s already being done in communities. In Farm Radio’s case, that could mean providing training to broadcasters to enhance their radio programs or connecting them with local subject matter experts or government programs. The sky’s the limit!

This blog post is made possible by the generous support of the American people through Feed the Future, the U.S. Government’s Global Hunger and Food Security Initiative.

The contents are the responsibility of IFDC, CORAF and Farm Radio International and do not necessarily reflect the views of Feed the Future or the United States Government.

About the project
The Dissemination of Agricultural Input Packages through Radio project aimed to use interactive radio programs in Ghana and Nigeria to improve farmers’ livelihoods through the use of “Agricultural Input Packages,” a combination of the use of improved seeds, appropriate fertilizer usage and Good Agricultural Practices. 

The project was supported by IFDC and CORAF, under their respective projects "Enhancing Growth through Regional Agricultural Input Systems” (EnGRAIS) and "Partnership for Agricultural Research, Education and Development” (PAIRED).

About the authors
Fonzy Louis Dela Fek is a communications volunteer at Farm Radio International’s Ghana office.

Okosi Ovai and Rodiat Ogundare are monitoring and evaluation volunteers at Farm Radio International’s Nigeria office.

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