Ideally, international development efforts are driven by the needs and circumstances of the people they intend to serve. But when international development organizations develop expertise in certain areas, their projects tend to be driven more by what they know how to do rather than the needs of the people they serve. The expression “If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail” neatly captures this quandary.
Farm Radio International (FRI) is no exception. Over three-plus decades, FRI has developed expertise in delivering written content to radio stations in the form of radio scripts and other resources.
We want to ensure that these resources are relevant and responsive to the everyday reality of radio broadcasters — rather than simply continuing to provide “tried and true” but inadequately examined services.
So in 2011, FRI decided to take the pulse of African rural radio stations. The project was called ARRPA, the African Rural Radio Program Analysis. We conducted in-depth discussions with 22 radio stations in five African countries. ARRPA deepened our understanding of the state of farm radio programming in sub-Saharan Africa. Equipped with new knowledge, we can better tune our services to the current needs and realities of African rural radio stations.
— Farmers listen to the radio to get information from both experts and other farmers.
— Including the voices of farmers is crucial to any farmer program.
— Stations need training to deliver effective farmer programming.
— The biggest challenges to producing effective farmer programs are finances, technical issues, and transportation to the field.
— Farmer programs are more effective when stations use formats that encourage discussion and interaction.
— A station’s financial resources do not necessarily correlate with the quality of its farmer programs.
— Rural radio broadcasters need more content on regional rather than continent-wide issues.
— Rural radio broadcasters need more practical “how-to” resources that respond to their professional needs.
Currently, we are expanding this research to better understand the state of radio broadcasting in francophone West Africa so we can better serve our francophone radio partners.