In Banikoara, in northern Benin, women work with men in the field, doing much of the work of sowing, weeding and harvesting crops. Women are traditionally responsible for marketing agricultural products and they supplement their household food supply and their own incomes by cultivating their own plots of land.
However, these same women often face difficulty in accessing good land to grow their own crops.
A local radio station, Radio Rurale Locale de Banikoara, decided they wanted to tackle that issue as part of their weekly farm radio program: Agriculture et Développement.
Serge Fanou is the editor in chief of the station. He says that because Radio Rurale Locale is located in a rural area, it’s important to rural communities.
“In that context women are really marginalized,” he says.
Agriculture et Développement addresses how women can access good farmland, supports women in accessing the cotton industry, and tries to convince men in the area of the benefits of allowing women access to land.
“Men and women can support each other. [With] agriculture we can prosper,” says Serge.
As the show points out, around 70 per cent of women in Benin live in rural areas. Yet, those same women are often denied the same rights to land ownership as men. Even when they are able to access land, it’s infertile, or not ideal for growing crops.
Farm Radio International has named Agriculture et Developpement a runner up for the 2021 Liz Hughes Award for her Farm Radio. This award recognizes radio programs that address gender equality and create opportunities to share the voices of rural women.
The show uses vox pops and in-studio interviews to highlight the voices of women as experts. Alongside talking about agriculture, programs highlight women leaders and their contribution to the health, nutrition and education of children and speak with women heads of household who share experiences through radio to better impact society. There are also interactive elements that allow farmers to call in and share their views.
They also try to showcase how men and women can work together to improve agriculture, and to improve their profits.
Serge explains: “Thanks to these programs we make our listeners understand that we don’t have to be rich or have a high capacity to do agriculture. We try to help them understand how, with the little they have, how they can develop. How they can feed their families.”
Their show on land ownership spoke with a mother of five, and discussed how she had accessed the land she now grows lucrative cotton on. It also spoke with a local official that gave advice on the methods the region had put in place to allow women to flourish—despite pushback from men.
Serge says he plans to continue his work at the station with the Agriculture et Développement team (made up of two women and two men) to act as ambassadors for rural women, and for rural Banikoara in general. They plan to find more ways at being better at supporting women.
It’s an important topic and one the station will continue to address.
“I believe as an ambassador, I aspire to hold this torch to change the world.”
Radio Rurale Locale de Banikoara was a runner-up for the 2021 Liz Hughes Award for Her Farm Radio. The She Show from Ahomka FM in Ghana, was also a runner-up. This year’s Grand Prize winner was Tupiganishe Show from Radio Communautaire Salama, DRC. Two programs were also awarded honourable mentions.