Farm Radio

A Simple But Powerful Tool In The Fight Against Poverty and Hunger

Radio may be old, but it’s still going strong. From sharing up-to-the-minute news to the latest hits, it continues to connect us to what’s going on at home and around the world. Even in today’s high-tech world, radio remains an important and powerful communication tool. One that can change lives for the better.

That’s what radio did for Masiye Mwale. A mother of six living in the Chipata District of Zambia’s Eastern Province, Masiye used to struggle to meet the needs of her family — especially when it came to paying school fees.

Then, one day, Masiye did some work on a neighbour’s farm to earn some extra money. Instead of being paid in cash, she was given a used radio. She was initially disappointed, but not for long.

Masiye started tuning in to a farming program on Breeze FM, a local radio station. She was soon a regular listener, learning how to make her own compost, minimize weeding, and diversify her farm to protect her income. The more she listened, the more successful and profitable her farm became.

The radio program that helped Masiye was made possible with support from Canadian charity Farm Radio International. Established in 1979 by former CBC Radio farm broadcaster George Atkins, it works to fight poverty and food insecurity through participatory radio programs for African farming communities.

Why radio? Up to 90% of households in Africa have access to a functional radio. And, in many remote communities, it is the only reliable source of locally relevant news and information. Radio programs are broadcast in local languages and listeners don’t need to be literate to understand. Crank- and solar- powered units make radio sustainable. And it reaches young and old, women and men, alike.

That’s why Farm Radio International works in partnership with more than 650 existing radio stations in 40 African countries better serve their listeners through high-quality radio programs. In the last week alone, more than 20 million people tuned in to a farming, agriculture, or health program produced with support from Farm Radio International.

These programs are transforming lives by giving farmers access to critical information and opportunities to have their voices heard. Often it’s farmers themselves who are the experts, sharing information and advice that proves useful to countless other listeners. The rise of mobile phones in Africa has opened up a whole new era of interactive radio.

And participatory, farmer-centred radio works! Research shows that a farmer who learns about a new practice through a Farm Radio Internationalsupported radio show is up to five times more likely to adopt it than those who don’t tune in. And that’s just the beginning. Successful farming practices have a way of spreading organically as word catches on.

Masiye feels very fortunate to have tuned in. What she learned over the radio has changed her life for good. With her farming income, she purchased additional farming tools and a motorbike to make it easier get around. Her family now eats more and better food, and she no longer worries about school fees and other household expenses.

And to think that all this change happened because of a radio program. Reflecting back, Masiye says that, in the end, the radio she got was much more valuable than money.

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