Radio for trees: Bridging the gap between knowledge and practice in Uganda

Information can be powerful. But it isn’t always enough to bring about change.

Indeed, it isn’t difficult to come up with examples of people not doing what they know they should. Take the issue of forest landscape preservation and restoration, as an example.

For years, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has worked with rural communities in the Mount Elgon region of Uganda to inform people about practices that can help save the remaining forest and restore some of what has been lost.

This hard work resulted in improved knowledge, but it wasn’t enough to change people’s everyday habits. And so deforestation and land use issues persisted in the region — until recently.

In 2014, we teamed up with IUCN to see if interactive, farmer-focused radio could help make a difference. After airing 23 radio broadcasts in two districts, we surveyed a representative sample of residents  — about a third of whom were out of reach of the program.


The survey found that nearly everyone — listeners and non-listeners — had very good knowledge about forest landscape restoration practices. But only those who listened to the radio broadcasts were likely to try out one or more of the practices discussed over the airwaves.

And the more programs people listened to, the more likely they were to try a new practice. In fact, the survey showed that 98 per cent of those who said they listened to most or all of the broadcasts had also tried something new as a result.

The results of our collaboration with IUCN are explored in a recent article in the international, peer-reviewed journal Society and Natural Resources. “There is No Program Without Farmers: Interactive Radio for Forest Landscape Restoration in Mount Elgon Region, Uganda” shows that quality radio programs that are tailored to farmers’ needs and share farmers’ voices are key to helping people change their ways.

In the words of the study’s lead author, Farm Radio’s Karen Hampson, “When farmers interact with other farmers through the radio programs, it really seems to tip the balance into practice.”

Read the full article online here and learn more about this collaboration with IUCN by watching “Equipping Uganda for restoration: Radio and apps for reforesting landscapes” or visiting the project page

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