Press Release: Made-in-Uganda technology launches radio soap opera into interactive radio space


Listen, vote, and eat better
Farm Radio International (FRI) is working with Uganda’s TRAC FM and HarvestPlus to give farmers a powerful voice in their futures. Listeners of a recently launched radio drama series can now engage with broadcasters in real time, bringing interactive radio and listener participation to a whole new level.

Kampala, Uganda – June 26, 2013My Children, Farm Radio International’s new drama series about how orange-fleshed sweet potatoes can help reduce vitamin A deficiency in Uganda, raises the bar for listener involvement. During each five-minute episode, radio listeners are asked to participate through free text messaging (SMS) in an interactive radio poll. This technology lets listeners voice their opinions on the radio drama in real time, while making it easier to measure changes in their knowledge, attitudes, and behaviour.

“We have been using SMS technology to make radio more interactive for years,” says FRI Executive Director, Kevin Perkins. “We now have a way to engage with the small-scale farmers who tune into our programs while they are on the air.”

The system does not require complex equipment, just a computer with a web browser and internet connection at the station. The only thing listeners need is a basic mobile phone. Software developed in Uganda by TRAC FM powers the system, which is easy for radio station staff members to learn and employ.

Broadcasters can ask the audience questions such as, “Which of the following foods do you think provides the most nutrition for your children?” and provide a set of options to choose from. Listeners can then text their selection to a short telephone number, while the TRAC FM software graphs their answers in real time and plots them on a map.

“This is a real advance for us,” Perkins continues. “Now we know whether listeners understand the programs, and broadcasters can make adjustments and corrections quickly.”

TRAC FM has secured special short codes so that listeners don’t have to write down or remember long telephone numbers. And HarvestPlus has pre-purchased airtime so that listeners do not have to pay to participate.

In a preliminary trial at Radio Wa in northern Uganda, more than 500 listeners voted on which crop one of the My Children characters should grow. The results of this poll can be seen below and online at



About Farm Radio International

Farm Radio International is a Canadian charity working with more than 460 radio broadcasters in 38 African countries to fight poverty and food insecurity. We help African broadcasters meet the needs of local small-scale farmers and their families in rural communities by providing broadcaster resources such as information and resource packages, broadcaster training to help develop a higher standard of farm services, and impact programming to plan and deliver special radio campaigns and programs that address specific development challenges such as soil erosion and banana bacterial wilt. For more information, please visit


To learn more about this and other FRI projects, or to arrange an interview with individuals involved in the project, please contact:

Kevin Perkins, Executive Director, Farm Radio International

1404 Scott Street

Ottawa, Ontario, K1Y 4M8

Tel: 1-613-203-4443, 1-613-761-3658, or 1-800-267-8699 x3658


TRAC FM is a new software platform that uses radio and SMS to engage African citizens in meaningful public debate. It enables citizens to amplify their voices by sending a free SMS. Incoming SMS reports are visualized in smart graphic designs and all data can be instantly shared by radio presenters with their listeners. TRAC FM’s mission is to provide citizens with a platform to engage in an informed debate, promoting transparency and accountability. For more information, please visit

About HarvestPlus

HarvestPlus leads a global effort to improve nutrition and public health by developing and disseminating staple food crops that are rich in vitamins and minerals. It is part of the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health. CGIAR is a global agriculture research partnership for a food-secure future. The HarvestPlus program is coordinated by two of CGIAR’s centers: the International Center for Tropical Agriculture and the International Food Policy Research Institute. For more information, please visit



– In the first episode in the series, we meet the drama’s heroine, Florence, as she digs in her garden. Her husband, Roland, enters the scene, trying to close a “business opportunity” to sell part of the family plot. Florence worries about how she will provide enough food for her children as she already struggles to feed them through her small plot. The English version of this episode’s script, and a recording of it in Luganda, can be found here.

– Project photos and related captions are available here

Fact box


Why radio?
Many small-scale farmers don’t have access to the internet, electricity, or computers.
–  Radio is accessible in rural communities, and reaches those who can’t read or write.
–  There are an estimated 800 million radios in sub-Saharan Africa.


Why vitamin A?

–  Approximately 43 million children under the age of five in sub-Saharan Africa suffer from vitamin A deficiency (VAD).
–  Six per cent of deaths among children under five are due to VAD, which diminishes the body’s ability to fight common infections such as diarrhea and measles.

–  Between 250,000 and 500,000 malnourished children in the developing world go blind each year due to VAD, making it the leading cause of preventable blindness.

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  1. Terry Clayton on June 30, 2013 at 1:29 am

    Fantastic! And fun. What a great example of effective communications.

  2. Moses Browne on February 18, 2014 at 11:45 am

    Farm Radio International has become a resource center for all my radio activities with the project I work in Liberia. I have utilized this great initiative for research to conduct trainings for community radio journalists in agriculture radio production and live talk shows.
    Thanks to Bart and the Team!


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