Lemma Belachew was the first farmer in Delila kebele to start producing malt barley — at least, that’s what he told us when we met him in Debre Berehan town in Ethiopia.
Lemma had travelled Debre Berehan, alongside many Orthodox church followers, to celebrate the Virgin Mary commemoration day, though he, his wife, and children, are farmers in Delila.
Radio to support public-private partnerships
We were in Debre Berehan to learn how the IFC-Heineken malt barley radio program was enhancing farmers’ knowledge on technical and business skills. The program, supported by Farm Radio International thanks to a partnership with IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, Heineken-Ethiopia and EUCORD, was broadcast for 16 weeks in the Amhara and Oromia regions.
In Amhara, the program was aired on our partner station, Fana Debre Berehan. With an aim of increasing farmers’ knowledge about barley production — ultimately with the goal of enabling farmers to sell that barley to large-scale producers like Heineken, and allowing producers like Heineken to establish secure, sustainable and locally sourced supplies of malt barley in Ethiopia — the radio station broadcast much-needed business and technical information on malt barley production. The programs covered anything from how to grow barley well, how to maintain the quality after it was harvested, and how to market and sell the crop.
Radio programs educate farmers on malt barley
The radio program was called Menda, and was a regular program on Fana Debre Berehan focused on agriculture. The malt barley radio program was aired weekly in the evenings.
Farm Radio worked with Fana Debre Berehan to develop entertaining programming that would encourage farmers to take up the new practices. Using technically accurate content, and amplifying both the voices of experts from in business management capacity as well as also expert farmers who have seen success in the field, the radio programs were designed to encourage farmers to uptake new practices on their own farms.
An expert farmer learns new skills
When we asked Lemma to tell us his story, he responded with a kind and inviting smile.
“Malt barley is an infant business in Delila and the other kebeles of Basson woreda,” he said. Kebeles are the basic administrative unit in Ethiopia, not unsimilar to neighbourhoods, or electoral wards.
“I have gained several benefits from malt barley. The price is better than other crops. The chaff is very good feed for livestock. As food, the crop is very enjoyable. I have experienced all, and I get very much surprised when I hear all this on the radio program.”
Lemma says he learned about site selection, land preparation, planning, record keeping, input utilization, and crop management from the radio program.
Knowledge grows upwards and outwards
Lemma was not alone. Through a series of focus group discussions in communities in the target region we learned that significant numbers of farmers started using improved practices such as agronomy, record keeping, business plans, and post-harvest handling.
“The radio program has enhanced my knowledge. I have used what I learned from the radio program together with my experience to educate farmers in Weshaweshign kebele very recently.”
Lemma narrated with enthusiasm how the radio program was useful, informative and enjoyable.
“I was regularly participating in the radio program. I have called the radio station on several occasions to give comments. The radio program was very good.”
Lemma told us that the program informed him and fellow farmers on a range of highly valuable topics.
“I have long been a farmer and I am still. From what I learned and observed through my age, it will take a long time for many farmers in my area to use machineries for ploughing, harvesting, and winnowing. A radio program like this one is very useful.”
This program was undertaken with the support of IFC, a member of the World Bank Group and Heineken as part of the Heineken Ethiopia Strengthening the Heineken Malt Barley Supply Chain Development project.