Radio, more than any other medium, speaks the language of farmers. Farmers count on radio to provide the information they need, when they need it. And farmers want radio to include them in discussions of how best to grow the crops that feed their families, and how to make some money at the market.
Too often, radio lets farmers down. Farmers tune out when the most important information isn’t there or when lectures by professors, politicians and promoters drown out farmers’ voices.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Broadcasters in Africa can produce better programs for farmers. They can meet farmers’ needs, involve farmers, and make the broadcasts more interesting. What is needed is to shine a light on good practice and share it widely across Africa.
In 2010, Farm Radio International gathered information about farmer radio programs from radio stations in Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania and Malawi. We visited twenty stations and two production houses and listened to their farmer programs. We
posed hundreds of questions to the people making the programs and to the people listening to them. Stemming from our findings, we are publishing a list of tips for broadcasters who want to improve their farmer programs starting right now!
Positive change rarely happens overnight – but it does start with one forward step. We have grouped these tips into three categories: quick fixes, middle-sized improvements, and the big stuff. We encourage you to consider implementing the “quick fixes.” If they workout, move on to more complex improvements. Before long, you will have a transformed radio program – more effective and more fun - with more job satisfaction too!
We could not have done our research without the full, open and frank cooperation of the broadcasters, managers, reporters, extension workers and the farmers whom we interviewed. They all openly shared their material and their aspirations. We are grateful for their hospitality and enthusiasm. Our results are dedicated to all of them.
A note about the title: we will be happy when “Seventyfive ways to fix your farmer program” becomes “Ninetynine ways to fix your farmer program”! But that depends on you. Contact us and tell us of your ideas to improve farmer programs, and things to avoid. We will name everyone who provides suggestions that we use in the next edition. Contact us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and put “Seventy-five” in the e-mail message subject line.
And good luck to all of you!
Marvin Hanke (Blantyre, Malawi)
Doug Ward (Ottawa, Canada)