“We knew the technique of composting, but it is by the strength of radio that we have the courage to do so.”
These words from a farmer in a small village in rural Mali tell a story that we have seen repeated many, many times over the past three years. It is the story of how radio, by far the most widely available mass communication medium for most of the developing world, has provided life changing agricultural information for farmer after farmer across sub-Saharan Africa. Since 2007 Farm Radio International in partnership with World University Service of Canada (WUSC) and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has been undertaking an action research project called the African Farm Radio Research Initiative (AFRRI). The major aim of the project is to design and implement a participatory, multi-stakeholder action research program to discover, document and disseminate best practices for using radio-based communications to enhance food security in Africa. In short, we are trying to learn and share how radio can be used most effectively to ensure that farmers are able to provide food for their families and earn income on the market.
AFRRI represents one of the first attempts ever undertaken to systematically measure the effects of farm radio programs on the practices and knowledge of farmers, extension workers and others involved in helping smallholder farmers achieve greater food security. In the past, there was some evidence that radio is an effective means of communicating with smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa but the truth is that much of it was anecdotal. Thanks to AFRRI, we started getting hard data to back up these stories.
So after three years what are we learning? We are now in the last year of the AFRRI project and we are starting to see some very exciting results. Using a participatory method of program production, including extensive community dialogue, we have seen that radio is most effective whenit is voices of fellow farmers that are on the air talking about their triumphs and challenges. Of course there is room for agriculture experts such as extension staff, but it is truly the voice of farmers that makes the difference. We are also learning how men and women have different experiences in implementing new techniques learned on the radio. Above all else we are learning just how effective radio can be when it reflects the concerns and hopes of the local farming population. We are learning how important radio is to rural development across sub-Saharan Africa.
To read more about the research results that are coming in from the field please click here.
The video above (or here) shows Enock Kyambaddee, a supporter of AFRRI who believes radio is the best tool to inform and educate millions of farmers in Africa. Enock works as a Farm Manager for Uganda Rural Development Training Center (URDT) in Kagadi Kibaale. He also volunteers as an extension support officer for AFRRI. In 2008, he attended the radio broadcaster’s capacity building program. Since then he has supported the Kigadi Kibaale radio station in producing and broadcasting radio campaigns on agriculture topics that are important to local farmers. Enock says that radio “Gives voice to the voiceless.” We can’t agree more, and we will continue to support small-scale agriculture in Africa to make sure farmers are able to have a voice in their own development.
If you want to learn more about AFRRI please visit our website.