Listening to the communities and individuals we serve is an essential part of the work of Farm Radio International.
Through our Uliza Interactive suite of services, we make it possible for listeners to connect with broadcasters. They can respond to polls, ask questions and leave comments for broadcasters about what they want to hear more about.
One major example of this is from our work in Ethiopia in 2015. With a broadcaster at the Dimtsi Weyane Tigray station, we had originally collaborated on a radio program on agricultural topics like growing vegetables, animal husbandry and nutrition.
But that plan soon changed. The region was experiencing heavy drought, and farmers started calling in.
“For farmers without rain, the programs we planned were kind of senseless,” said Gebrehiwot Tesfay, a broadcaster at the station. Based on what we heard from listeners and what the station was telling us about their needs, we worked with Dimtsi Weyane to completely redesign the programs. The redesigned 10-week drought response radio series focussed on topics like weather forecasts, coping mechanisms, and how to manage failed crops and care for livestock.
Listening is an ethos that we build into our current-day programs as well. In our recent Scaling Her Voice on Air programs we asked women across Senegal, Burkina Faso and Mali to tell us what they wanted their programs to be about – before we even started the design process.
In Sare Demba Diéo, in southern Senegal, women are primarily responsible for childcare. Women told us a key struggle in their lives was keeping themselves and their children healthy. Too many children were getting sick, they said, and they blamed poor hygiene and nutrition.
So, Radio Djimara worked with Farm Radio to put together a program on just that. It included topics like hand washing and proper hygiene, but also how to grow kitchen gardens to supply healthy foods for their families.
When we checked back in with them after the initial radio series, they told us that rates of childhood illness were already lower than before.
As a colleague recently put it, “A good broadcaster is someone who people listen to. A great broadcaster is someone who listens to the people.”