Radio 2.0: Using SMS to Enhance Radio

“Beep Beep” the sound of an SMS (short message service) arriving in your phone’s inbox rings and vibrates from your pocket.  You pause for a moment from preparing your compost pit to read what has come:

Dear listener –  Heka heka vijijini starts in 30 minutes on 93.3 Sibuka FM. This week’s program talks about marketing local chicken – tell your neighbours!

The above 160 characters compose a typical SMS which a farmer could receive alerting her or him about an upcoming program from the local radio station.  The SMS alert service is being tested as part of the African Farm Radio Research Initiative (AFRRI’s) research strategy to explore how information communication technologies (ICTs) can improve radio for farmers.

Over ten of the 25 radio stations Farm Radio is partnering with in the AFRRI project have learnt how to use software to make the management and sending of sms alerts to their listening communities easier.

Feedback so far has been outstanding – Esther Chambo from Benadi village in Malawi, has been receiving SMS alerts from MBC (Malawi Broadcast Corporation) for eight weeks on their campaign about use of manure as a fertilizer.  Esther said

This is the best! I forgot about the program because I was busy working in the field, but with the alerts I was reminded.

The SMS alert experiment is just one of seven ICT packages the AFRRI project is exploring and will continue into 2010.

Post written by Bart Sullivan,  AFFRI ICT Officer

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  1. Emmanuel Asamoah on June 28, 2010 at 6:56 pm

    I want to fine out about your next Competition.
    Thank you.

  2. Farm Radio International on June 28, 2010 at 7:17 pm

    Hi Emmanuel,

    Thanks for the question. We are accepting sign ups for the next radio scriptwriting competition, this time around healthy communities. Please visit this site: and click the large sign up now button. Alongside this opportunity we are offering a free online training course too! Please let us know if you need any assistance getting signed up.

  3. Emmanuel Asamoah on July 6, 2010 at 7:02 pm

    I discuss a story with Ben. Tell he to read it below and get the community some responds.
    Rite 90.1 FM is a commercial radio station located in Somanya in the Yilo Krobo District of the Eastern Region of Ghana. The station runs twenty four hour radio services. Rite 90.1 Fm is focused on agricultural and rural development.
    As part of the operations and efforts to promote the development of agriculture in Ghana and improve the lives of rural farmers, the station runs various programs organized around the major aspects of agriculture in Ghana. Also, as a means to involve listeners in the planning and development of programs, the station encourages its listeners to forward their concerns and problems in their work as farmers to the station for follow up and advocacy.
    During one of the programs on the station, a farmer from Akotoklogua , a farming community in the Upper Manya Krobo District, phoned in and requested the Agric Desk of the station to pay a visit to the village and experience at first hand the myriad of problems that the community faces.
    The Agric Team of the station on 29th June, 2010 paid a visit to the village to acquaint themselves with the problems of the farmers in the village.
    As typical of most rural farming communities in Ghana, the roads leading to the village are in the poorest of conditions. As a result, the short journey from Somanya took over an hour and thirty minutes. The bad nature of the road also means that vehicles ply the village once a week-on Tuesdays, the market day. The few vehicles that ply the route to the village charge exorbitant fares for the relatively short distance. The drivers explain that the nature of the road damages their vehicles and thus the need to charge such fares to recoup their repair and maintenance costs. The team had the hallowing of disembarking from their vehicle at a point to push it as the vehicle got stuck
    The community apart from the bad road and the resulting lack of market for their produce, the only existing basic school in the village is in a deplorable state. The building that serves as classrooms for pupils is a temporary structure provided by the inhabitants. The school has no library, office for staff and toilet facilities. There are only two teachers in the school who share teaching responsibilities for the six primary classes. These teachers who are also farmers are remunerated in the form of communal service on their farms.
    Aside the infrastructural difficulties the school faces and the lack of teaching staff, school attendance is very low on market days. The reason is, pupils find it lucrative to cart goods from farms on these days than to be in school. The team happened to be in the village on a market day. From the observations of the team, the community seems left out of the numerous state interventions towards achieving the Millennium Development Goal of universal primary education.
    Health and sanitation is another area that the community needs immediate intervention. Although the village lies close to the Volta Lake, it has no access to portable water. The inhabitants allege that during the construction of pipelines to supply water to some surrounding towns, their farms were destroyed and have still not been paid their compensation packages. There is no healthcare facility in the community and the nature of the road to the nearest health centre means in times of emergency, the chance of arriving at a facility in time is minimal.
    The farmers also complain about the absence of agricultural extension agents in their community. They stated that throughout their years of farming, not a single extension agent has been to the village to educate them of appropriate farming methods and technologies. The farmers claim they were organized into groups to be assisted by some nongovernmental organizations. They added that, the district agricultural development unit at the time did not assist them to sustain the associations. They have since not heard from the supposed organizations.
    The farmers expressed concern about their inability to access the government subsidized fertilizers. They also cannot offer the services of the agricultural mechanization centre in the district because of the prices charged for these services. Aside the charges, these farm machineries will not be able to ply the route to their farms. The farmers also complained about their inability to access credit and other forms of financial assistance to enable them expand their farms.
    As part of our efforts to seek solutions to the concerns raised by the inhabitants, Rite FM Agric team made some enquiries from relevant individuals and organizations. These persons and organizations were the District Chief Executive for Upper Manya Krobo, the Member of Parliament dor Upper Manya Krobo, the Eastern Regional Director of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Zain Foundation Ghana, ADPL Farming Scheme and a microfinance organization operating in the area.
    The Member of Parliament for the area was off the view that he has done enough to alleviate the plights of the community, though he concedes the situation is still not the best. When asked about what he is doing currently to improve the situation, his answers were the least convincing. He stated that such community development activities do not form part of his responsibilities as a Member of Parliament and there these questions should be directed to the district assembly, the body mandated for community development.
    The District Chief Executive expressed the commitment of the district assembly to ensuring continuous and sustainable community development. However, the DCE didn’t seem to know of the said community and as such could provide any concrete answers to questions asked him. He however promised to visit the village and assess the situation himself and work towards improving condition of inhabitants. Touching on why the district cannot assist all deprived communities like this one, he said the district is a newly created one and lacks the resources to embark on a widespread development initiative that requires a lot of capital.
    Asking to Farm Radio Ghana, an agency dedicated to agricultural development using radio as the medium, they explained that as an organization, they are not resourced to assist deprived farming communities, but they can collaborate with other agencies to find solutions to the concerns raised by the farmers. Farm Radio added that they will through Rite FM train and build the capacity of the farmers to increase their productivity.
    Speaking with the Regional director for Food and Agriculture, he expressed his willingness to collaborate with the district Agricultural Development Unit to find answers to the problems that confront these farmers. He promised to find ways to enable these farmers access the government subsidized fertilizers. He also added that because the district agricultural directorate is relatively new, it has not been resourced enough to reach out to such remote communities. He further stated that the directorate is under resourced when it comes to extension agents and logistics for the effective dissemination of agriculture technology and farming methods.
    Team for the Project
    •Owuraku Asamoah
    •Derek Asuman
    •Kofi Baah
    •Yaw Manu


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