The Listening Post: Raising the voice of farmers

“What if?” is the question that opens the doors of possibility. For years Farm Radio International has used radio to interact with farming families, using their voices and experiences to inform others. We asked “What if we turned the process on its head and used interactive radio to let farmers inform decision-makers, development organizations and governments?”

The result is a series of radio programs called The Listening Post — a way to get farmer knowledge into the development space.

For example, researchers in the Perdue Improved Cowpea Storage bags (PICS) project wanted to know what storage methods farmers already used for their grain so they could target their new storage technology better. Farm Radio International, working with Radio 5 in Tanzania, created an entertaining radio show to engage the audience and interest them in better ways to store their harvests. Beep2vote provided the pathway for farmers to respond to questions for which the PICS project needed answers. Beep2vote multiplies the effectiveness of common phone ‘beeping’ (calling and leaving a missed call ‘beep’), turning it into a significant research tool. Software registers callers’ votes and tabulates them in real-time. And best of all, it does not cost farmers any airtime because missed calls are free.

Does it work? It certainly does. Over the course of three six-week radio series, more than 6,000 listeners participated, providing nearly 50,000 responses to 18 questions.

The Listening Post pilot project was funded by the N2 Africa Initiative of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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