Inside the studio at Royals FM in Wenchi, in the Brong Ahafo region of Ghana, radio presenters Regina Gyabea and Mary Ajyapong are in full control. Their producer, Owoahene Acheampong, sits across the table with his headphones on, calmly turning the dials and offering occasional directions. Owoahene has been hosting a special farmer radio program for the past several weeks, but this time has decided to put the show in the capable hands of his female counterparts.
It’s a Saturday evening and the team has been working all week to put together “Green Leaf” – a twice-weekly series about maize post-harvest management and market linkages. The program is sponsored by Farm Radio International and the World Food Programme as part of the Enhanced Nutrition and Value Chain (ENVAC) project.
Earlier in the week, the Royals FM production team visited the local market to interview farmers and inquire about market prices — which they announce on the program. The team strives for gender-balanced and unbiased coverage, but Mary says gender inequality remains an important issue in farming today.
“The core work of agriculture is done by women. But women are not given a chance to speak and it is not fair. We give them an opportunity to speak,” she says.
Royals FM is one of six radio stations across the Brong Ahafo and Ashanti regions of Ghana that is implementing this new sustainability-focused farmer program. Other stations include: ADARS FM in Kintampo, Asta FM in Techiman, Akyeaa FM in Nkoranza, GBC Radio in Mampong and Today’s Radio in Ejura.
The Green Leaf program is an innovative series that incorporates seven segments that are tailored to meet farmers’ specific needs. That includes everything from local news and events, to weather and market information, and includes details about best farming practices and new technologies. Of course, all of this incorporates a high level of entertainment and interactivity, while maintaining a gender balance that encourages women to speak out on air.
Matilda Amoah co-hosts the program at Today’s Radio. She says it can be difficult to encourage women farmers to speak out.
“At first when they saw us holding the phones and recorders they would back away,” she says.
All of the ENVAC production teams underwent intensive in-station training where they were presented with gender resources including a how-to guide on serving women farmers and incorporating gender in farm radio programs. Key resource persons from the Ministry of Food and Agriculture are often part of the production teams and also attended Farm Radio training for the Green Leaf program.
Matilda says interacting with women farmers in communities and in the marketplace has become her favourite part about producing the program, particularly in the segment dubbed ‘Your Weather Your Markets.’
“I tell them they are my mothers and I am here for them. We have built a good relationship,” she says, adding that she encourages the farmers she meets in person to also call in to the program and participate in the discussion. “We have a whole lot of people calling. It is really beautiful.”
Amplifying all voices
Farmers can participate in the Green Leaf program in a number of ways. First, they can voice parts in a mini drama for the “Let’s Get Farming” segment, which teaches farmers about fundamentals and best practices. Broadcaster Gideon Sarkodie at Adars FM visited a community recently where he worked with local farmers to act out a scene from a Farm Radio drama script that raises awareness about Aflatoxin contamination and post-harvest management strategies.
In the “Have Your Say” segment, farmers can call Uliza – FRI’s innovative ICT platform – to respond to poll questions and record messages about their challenges and successes on the farm and in the marketplace. Broadcasters will listen to these recordings and play back their favourites in subsequent episodes.
At ADARS FM, one caller left a message asking about storage practices to preserve harvested maize. Another was curious about measuring moisture content in the dried maize. Resource persons and agricultural extension officers are then invited to discuss these and other issues as part of the ‘Digging Deep’ segment, which educates farmers about a subject in depth and encourages them to take up a recommended practice.
Throughout the week, the production teams are busy preparing news segments, gathering market and weather information, recording vox pops and collaborating with their colleagues across the region. The program airs twice a week – once live and once repeat – on different days at each station.
Back at Royals FM, Regina and Mary are getting ready to host another gender-balanced episode. Producer Owoahene is proud of his team and says he hopes the radio program will set a standard both in terms of content and practice.
He says: “We hope that other stations will learn from us and the women’s voices we are putting on air.”