What is AFRRI?
The African Farm Radio Research Initiative (AFRRI) was launched in April, 2007. It is a new 42-month action research project supported by Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and being implemented by Farm Radio International, in partnership with the World University Services of Canada (WUSC). Its aim is to assess the effectiveness of farm radio on meeting the food security objectives of rural farming households in Africa.
While new technologies, from wireless devices to blue-tooth to high-speed Internet seem to be everywhere these days, radio is highly regarded as one of the best communication tools for reaching the rural poor, particularly in Africa. Radio is popular, reaches a wide audience and is affordable and accessible. Farmers listen to local news, stories, and music in their own language without needing to be able to read English or French. Over the last decade, there has been an explosion in the number of radio stations across Africa – particularly community and commercial FM stations. New techniques such as phone-in shows, live community forums, and radio diaries are making radio an interactive medium, providing farmers with a real voice.
However, the effectiveness of radio in improving food security has not been well studied or documented, and there is a lot to gain by sharing and recognizing best practices.
As we enter a new era of low cost and accessible mobile phones, MP3 players and other widely available communication technologies, we need to learn more about how best to employ radio-based communication strategies to improve farmers’ livelihoods by responding to food security challenges and encouraging self-reliance.