For over a century, radio has played a vital role in our lives. From bringing us up-to-the-minute news to providing us with the latest musical hits, it has connected us to what’s going on in the world. Today, radio is still changing lives.
Farm Radio International is a Canadian charity that fights poverty and food insecurity by helping educate small-scale farmers throughout Africa via radio. While getting relevant farming information out to the public is a challenge, more than 75% of rural Africans have access to a radio, and many have access to a cell phone with an FM receiver.
Farm Radio International works alongside more than 600 radio partners in 39 African countries to provide engaging, informative, participatory radio programming to farming communities. This knowledge is transforming lives by empowering farmers and rural communities to tackle a variety of development challenges.
As always, farmers are the experts. Often it’s the farmer down the road in a neighbouring village or nearby country that can offer valuable advice for enriching the soil, managing pests or preventing post-harvest loss. Using interactive and participatory radio programs, Farm Radio International is enabling a knowledge-exchange between farmers, and between farmers and agricultural researchers.
By changing attitudes and answering farmer’s questions, these radio programs can boost listeners’ knowledge about new farming practices by 25%. In addition farmers who tune in to a participatory radio program about a more productive agricultural practice are five times more likely to try it out on their farms.
Take for example the story of Masiye Mwale, a small-scale farmer in her thirties. She is a mother of six who lives in the Chipata District of Zambia’s Eastern Province. Before 2011, Masiye found it difficult to meet the needs of her family, especially when it came to sending her children to school.
In 2011, Masiye did some casual work to pay for her children’s school uniforms. Instead of being paid in cash, Masiye was given a used radio as payment because the person she worked for did not have money for her. She initially complained about this payment method, not knowing that this radio would soon change her life.
Using the radio she was given, Masiye started to listen to music and programs on Breeze FM, a local radio station. She became interested in one particular radio broadcast called Ulimi ndi Malonda (which means Farming is a business). This program is produced with the support of Farm Radio International. She was soon listening to it every week to learn about practices such as conservation farming, agricultural diversification and much more. She then started putting into practice what she was learning through the radio.
Masiye now uses good farming techniques, reducing the amount of weeding she has to do, and keeps goats and chickens as a source of income. The money she has earned through farming has enabled her to buy additional farming tools as well as a motorbike to make it easier to get around. Masiye and her family now eat better food, and she no longer worries about school fees and other household expenses.
In the end, she says that she is happy to have been given a radio instead of money.