Audio postcard: The important role of community radio in Malawi

This photo shows a rural farmer, Agnes Chitseko sitting beside a radio. Every week on a Wednesday and Friday afternoon she tunes into 109.5 FM to listen to agricultural programs. Through listening to the advice given on the programs Agnes stopped using traditional farming practices and instead adopted new agricultural techniques that have helped her become a successful rural farmer.

“We have brought revolution in terms of the way extension services are being provided to the smaller farmers in Malawi. Though radio has been here for ages, we have brought in new radio that is more interactive, impactful and that gives voice to the end user  the farmer,” said Rex Chapota, executive director of Farm Radio Trust, a strategic partner of Farm Radio International. The station Agnes listens to is Nkhotakota Community Radio Station, a volunteer-run station that has over 500,000 listeners.

“The community radio stations are special to the design and philosophy of Farm Radio Trust, because we believe in participatory radio programming, whereby you need to involve people at every stage of the process. It is the community radio station that is the closest to the farmers. Then you are able to get ownership in terms of programming but also develop participation of the local people in that area,” said Rex.

His words ring true for Agnes. She is a follower of the station and since she acquired a mobile phone Agnes has been an active participant in the radio programs. She has been interviewed twice and has, on several occasions, called in to comment on the live programs.

“It is no use to have a good radio program with good content and a good broadcaster on a wrong station. Every moment we decide to work with a radio station it is because farmers have confirmed with us that that radio station is a good carrier for that message because they listen to that radio station, they listen to that radio program and they like that radio station,” said Rex.

About the author  
Noreen Fagan is a freelance journalist based in Ottawa. She is also a Master’s student in Journalism at Carleton University. Noreen has spent her summer working with Farm Radio Trust in Malawi documenting the organisation’s agricultural and youth and mental health projects.

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