To reach Hidya Muhidini Kipila’s soya bean field, we had to wade through a puddle knee deep and 10 metres long. A toddler could learn to swim in this lukewarm water.
Fortunately, I’m not too bothered by this dip (despite not being dressed for it) because I’ve already walked an hour — in the other direction — barefoot through the mud to reach Elikuna Emanuel Kuamjama’s soybean field.
This is the reality of visiting farmers in their fields. You must come armed with good rain boots – and a bicycle or motorbike (or “piki piki”) probably helps as well. Considering the three-hour drive it took us to get here from town, it’s easy to see why it’s difficult for extension workers to visit farmers to share knowledge about plant diseases, pests, and other problems.
Enter radio. Both Hidya and Elikuna are listeners of Kilimo Bora (Farming Better) on Abood FM, which had been discussing soybean production for the past few months. This included identifying and treating pests and plant diseases – knowledge which Elikuna said helped him to save many of his plants after they were hit with rust.
This visit to the farms of Lungo, in the Muvmero district of Morogoro Region, was an opportunity to capture the experiences of soybean farmers for a Barza Wire news story on contract farming, including the benefits to these farmers and to the soybean processor.
Capturing stories like this one wasn’t generally part of my work as Barza Wire advisor, but it was fun when I was able to do it. More typically I would read these stories after they were written by a local freelance journalist and edited by one of our bureau chiefs — several steps removed from the farmers and the muddy tracks to their fields.
So despite the burning hot sun, mud-caked feet, and wet pants, I was happy to be in the field to interview farmers myself for a change.
Farm radio broadcasters need content, whether it’s stories for their news section or inspiration for an upcoming show. Farm Radio International’s news service for radio broadcasters, Barza Wire, fills this need by ensuring that they can access news stories about small-scale farmers – their challenges and successes. It also shares other resources, related to agriculture or broadcaster training.
But I didn’t make the 11-hour trip from Arusha to Morogoro just to write a story about soybean farming. My colleagues and I were there to spread the word about Barza Wire – and Farm Radio’s other broadcaster resources.
We did this at a one-day training with 12 broadcasters, who gathered to discuss their research practices, how Farm Radio’s resources may be useful to their production, and how Farm Radio’s training resources can help them improve their skills as broadcasters.
The broadcasters are eager to learn and – not surprisingly – enthusiastic to share their ideas. However, this isn’t without challenges. The broadcasters are clearly much less comfortable in English. This made it difficult for me to participate, but also difficult for them to access many resources. This is why Farm Radio aspires to translate many resources into local languages in addition to English and French.
Fortunately, Farm Radio does have many resources in Swahili, including a handful of new stories and scripts relating to beans. And so we directed the broadcasters to these resources.
We hope that with these resources, broadcasters at Abood FM and other stations will be able to continue to assemble informative and interesting farmer programs even after their projects with Farm Radio end.
And I’m confident they will. These broadcasters are hard workers. For example, the broadcasters at Abood FM travel to villages like Lungo each week to collect farmers’ voices, opinions, questions, and experiences for their radio programs — travelling over bumpy roads, walking under the hot sun, and getting their car stuck in the mud. That dedication does not fade easily.
This is an adaptation of a blog by the same name originally published on volunteer-blog.ca.