Small-scale farmers are naturally risk averse, as a successful harvest is essential for their food security and income. What can encourage farmers to take the bold step to try a new agricultural practice?
Hearing the success farmers like them are having. This is why each of our participatory radio campaigns (PRCs) features the voices of farmers who can discuss their experiences with a new agricultural technique.
Worku Mengstu is one such farmer who called his local radio station to participate in a discussion on teff planting practices. The radio program was discussing the differences between row planting and scattering, or broadcasting, seed. Worku found success with planting teff in rows. “The difference is not only in yield, but also the one planted in rows was thicker and taller than the broadcasted [field]. And it is easy for weeding,” Worku told the broadcasters at Amhara Radio. “I am planning to plant teff in rows in my entire teff farm.”
Row planting was one of the techniques promoted by our “Enhancing staple crop production in Ethiopia” project. In Ethiopia, teff is one of the most important cereal crops, but in recent years average yields have been low due to droughts and floods. Row planting is a simple technique that can vastly improve the yield of teff, although farmers traditionally scatter, or broadcast, seeds.
Four radio stations covering the Tigray, Oromiya, Amhara and SSNPR regions of Ethiopia have aired two PRCs discussing teff planting practices, with impressive results. Listeners gained knowledge of land preparation, use of fertilizer and improved seed varieties — and many have put this knowledge into practice. An estimated 750,000 households have adopted at least one of the improved teff practices discussed on air.
More than 75 per cent of farmers in communities exposed to the PRC tried planting seeds directly into rows, compared to 32 per cent communities outside the reach of the radio program.
The extraordinarily high adoption rate of row-planting by farmers in communities exposed to the two PRCs makes the case for long-term radio projects. A PRC allows farmers to learn about, discuss, and make a decision whether or not to adopt a new agricultural technique, before providing farmers with the information necessary to put the technique into practice. The two years of PRCs convinced both early adopters and more cautious farmers to try these new planting techniques.
Some farmers, like Worku, experimented — trying one of the new planting techniques on a portion of their land so they could see the results themselves. Others watched their neighbours’ success before trying the technique.
Thomas Wedibu, a farmer living in SNNPR region of Ethiopia, also row planted teff on a small portion of his land. “The result was encouraging,” he said. “I harvested a better yield from the row planting. When my neighbours saw it, they wanted to try it. They promised to plant in rows next farming season.”