All posts in Guest Post

Mariam Koné is a writer for Farm Radio Weekly. Recently, she met three farmers in Mali and captured their stories of how radio is helping them overcome a major challenge that has threatened their crops. The following is one interview.


Noé Diarra harvested nothing from his sorghum field last year. The reason was striga. He has vowed “revenge” against striga for all the evil that the weed has done to him. How? Let’s hear his story to find out:
My name is Noé Diarra. I am a millet and sorghum producer in the village of Dobwo, which is in the rural community of Bénena, in Tomianian circle [eastern Mali]. In recent years, I’ve grown concerned. By some phenomenon, my harvests have dwindled more and more. Last year, I did not harvest anything. I searched every corner of my field for millet or sorghum.


Noé Diarra a millet and sorghum producer in the village of Dobwo, in eastern Mali.

“Upon the very first rain, my son plowed the field. I advised him to wait for another rain for the soil to become moist, and, as God would have it, it rained two weeks later. It was the beginning of last June and my son and his family planted sorghum. The millet was sprouting extraordinarily well. I was truly happy. Our sorghum field had the best leaves in the village.

“Then suddenly the rains started to slow. Our joy was very short lived as, to our great surprise; we found that the millet plants were starting to yellow. In 15 days, all the millet plants had turned yellow, leaving us with a field that was empty and devastated. I couldn’t understand it. Was this because the rain was scarce in a month that is normally very rainy (that is to say August)? I thought that a bad spell had been cast upon my field. The field had never floundered like this before.

“Some of my neighbours told me that it was striga. I didn’t really believe it because this plant has always been my companion. I blamed my son, because he didn’t keep track of the field after planting (even though that task usually falls to me).

One fine morning in October 2011, I heard over the airwaves of Radio Moutian that there was a way to get rid of striga. Really, I thought I was dreaming. The guest was Pierre Théra, my nephew who I know very well through the l’Union des Agriculteurs du Cercle de Tomianian [local farmers’ union], and he convinced me. I know this boy will never lie.

“How is it that I didn’t learn about this in time? If we had applied the new farming techniques that Pierre described, I’m sure I wouldn’t be here telling you about my misadventure. What I mean to say is, all the efforts that my family put forward this year failed. I am certainly not the only one to complain about the evils of this cursed weed. Maybe my field was hit worse than others. If not, this plant has taken over everything. For me, striga is a fatal disease. For me, the only remedy is to rip it out. On top of that, I’m going to burn my field this year.

At the farmers’ union, I was told to prepare myself for next year, as the seeds will be available in February. I swear that I, Noé Diarra, will sow my field with [good quality seeds] and intercrop legumes. Yes, I will avenge my field with the weapons that Radio Moutian has given us. Indeed, if it weren’t for the insistence of the radio, I wouldn’t believe that striga is the problem.

 To read a story based on Mariam Koné’s other two interviews, click here.

A women's listening club

Small-scale farmers in Nigeria, particularly female farmers, are highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. In 2007, a project was initiated by the African Radio Drama Association (ARDA) in partnership with Farm Radio International and the University of Guelph with support from the Climate Change Adaptation in Africa Program supported by IDRC and the Department for International Development (U.K.). The project developed a special radio drama aimed at raising awareness and providing information to small-scale farmers in northern Nigeria about climate change adaptation. The 26-episode drama started airing weekly on several radio stations in April 2010 and broadcast to an estimated 20 million listeners in four northern Nigerian states targeted by the project – Borno, Kano, Kaduna, and Katsina.

Using the “edutainment” approach of combining entertainment with educational messages about climate change adaptation, the radio drama features Ribadu, a Fulani herdsman who weaves an intriguing storyline based on the lives of ordinary women and men who seek to balance life with livelihood amidst unpredictable weather patterns. The program was produced in two languages, Hausa and Fulfulde, and aired by nine radio stations with two additional stations expressing their interest in carrying the program for free. The storyline features numerous farming improvements such as rainwater harvesting, preventing soil erosion and managing crop pests and diseases. Each episode highlights the ways in which northern Nigerian farmers develop coping strategies to adapt to and mitigate the impact of climate change on their livelihoods.

The project was a complex undertaking with dramatic events behind the production scene itself. Tragically, over the course of the project, ARDA faced the deaths of a wonderful scriptwriter and a supportive broadcaster. There were delays caused by painstaking adjustments of the technical content to fit local farming conditions and to ensure that the uncertainty of climatic variability in northern Nigeria was taken into account. As well, the project involved an iterative process of data collection and analysis to inform pre-broadcast (baseline) and ex-poste (end-line) surveys of 3,000 farmers.

As the Hausa proverb, “In Kidi ya Chanza”, that gave this radio drama its name suggests:  “when the drumbeats change, the dancers have to change their steps.”

Just how effective can a radio drama be in educating farmers to help them adapt to climate change?

• The evaluation work of the radio drama found that:

• 78% of respondents were familiar with the radio drama

• 84% of female and 68% of male listeners stated the program increased their awareness of climate change adaptation

• The vast majority (92.8%!) of respondents who gained awareness from the program reported that they took action

Radio Listening Clubs reinforced listener engagement with the storylines, ensuring that each episode was eagerly awaited. The evaluation found that the groups also encouraged individual farmers to take action on their farms to mitigate the effects of climate change.

TO READ the full script of the drama, click here.

By Dr. Helen Hambly Odame, University of Guelph

Farm Radio International Board member

Farm Radio International wishes to express its sincere thanks to ARDA and its partners for the opportunity to work together on such an innovative project.

To mark the International Day of Rural Women on October 15th, Farm Radio Weekly (FRW) featured an article from one of our two FRW Service Bureau stringers, Pius Sawa from Kenya. Farm Radio Weekly is our free electronic newsletter that reaches over 2,000 subscribers.

Florence Nzambuli from the village of Mutomo, Eastern Kenya (photo credit Pius Sawa)

Florence Nzambuli is an inspiration to many women in her home village of Mutomo, in Kitui South Constituency, eastern Kenya. It is difficult to make a living through farming in this dry region. But with Ms. Nzambuli’s guidance, a women’s group has found a way to cope with drought and rising food prices.

It last rained in Mutomo in 2009. Ms. Nzambuli had a good harvest of millet and cassava that year. But many others did not. So Ms. Nzambuli shared the harvest with her community. She says,

Imagine a mother comes to me crying, asking for some food to take to her starving children. I would rather fast and give [food] to the children.

Ms. Nzambuli says that mothers bear the burden of feeding their children and husbands in hard times. With relief food contaminated, no livestock to rely on, and no paying jobs available, mothers in Mutomo put their heads together to work on a solution.

In 2010, with guidance from Ms. Nzambuli, the women formed a village savings scheme. The group has 20 members, and each member contributes 100 Kenyan shillings, about one dollar. The group raises around 2000 shillings, and then lends the money to one member. Ms. Nzambuli explains, “When you get the money, you travel to the nearest town and buy vegetables like tomatoes, onions and cabbage. You come [back] and start selling them.”

The women meet once a month. Each month, the borrower repays one hundred shillings plus five per cent interest, until her loan is repaid. According to Ms. Nzambuli, this is how the women cope with the drought and with rising food prices.

The group is not registered. They are simply helping one another as neighbours. Ms. Nzambuli encourages women in other villages to form similar groups and raise money to be used as capital for each member’s income-generating activity. She says, “This is the best way for us, because we are friends and we cannot punish mothers who fail to pay.” If a member fails to make her payment, she is asked to do some work for the group.

Ms. Nzambuli says that, as individuals, the women cannot borrow money from banks or micro-finance institutions because of the conditions they impose. In fact, the women fear these institutions. They worry what the banks might do if the women defaulted on their loans. She notes,

As women, we don’t have land titles, so paying back such loans is a danger. Imagine if someone came to your home and took away your donkey. What would you use to fetch water from miles away?

Florence Nzambuli singing about climate change.

The drought continues in Mutomo. The women don’t know when the rains will come, so they pray. But Ms. Nzambuli and her women’s group have started digging shallow wells. If they find water, they will start kitchen gardens, planting vegetables in sacks and other containers. She offers some strong parting words of advice:

People should go back to the old food crops like millet and cassava. These crops a are drought-resistant and they can mature fast.

Subscribe to Farm Radio Weekly for free.Agro Radio Hebdo: Cette semaine, nous vous présentons des articles pour marquer une journée special – la Journée internationale de la femme rurale. Inscription – Agro Radio Hebdo.

Florence Nzambuli de Kenya

Florence Nzambuli est une source d’inspiration pour beaucoup de femmes de son village natal de Mutomo, dans le sud du district de Kitui, dans l’est du Kenya. Il est difficile de gagner sa vie grâce à l’agriculture, dans cette région sèche. Mais, sous le leadership de Mme Nzambuli, un groupe de femmes a trouvé un moyen de faire face à la sécheresse et à la hausse des prix des denrées alimentaires.

La dernière fois qu’il a plu à Mutomo, c’était en 2009. Mme Nzambuli a eu une bonne récolte de mil et de manioc, cette année-là. Mais beaucoup d’autres n’ont pas eu de bonnes récoltes. Alors, Mme Nzambuli a partagé sa récolte avec sa communauté. Elle dit: « Imaginez une mère qui vient me voir en pleurant, demandant un peu de nourriture pour nourrir ses enfants affamés. Je préfère jeûner et donner [la nourriture] aux enfants. »

Mme Nzambuli dit que les mères portent la charge de nourrir leurs enfants et leurs maris durant les moments difficiles. Alors que les denrées provenant de l’aide alimentaire sont contaminées, que le bétail manque pour faire de l’élevage, et qu’il n’y a pas d’emplois bien rémunérés, les mères de Mutomo ont joint leurs efforts pour trouver une solution.

En 2010, suivant les conseils de Mme Nzambuli, les femmes ont monté un programme d’épargne villageois. Chaque groupe a 20 membres et chaque membre contribue 100 shillings kenyans, soit environ un dollar. Le groupe épargne approximativement 2000 shillings, qu’il prête à une des membres. Mme Nzambuli explique: « Quand on a l’argent, on peut se rendre à la ville la plus proche et acheter des légumes tels que des tomates, des oignons et du chou. Ensuite, on retourne [au village] et on les vend. »

Les femmes se réunissent une fois par semaine. Chaque semaine, la femme qui a emprunté l’argent rembourse cent shillings plus cinq pour cent d’intérêt, jusqu’à ce que son prêt soit remboursé. Selon Mme Nzambuli, c’est ainsi que les femmes font face à la sécheresse et à la hausse des prix des denrées alimentaires.

Le groupe n’a pas de statut officiel. Les membres s’entraident tout simplement les unes les autres, en tant que voisines. Mme Nzambuli encourage les femmes des autres villages à former des groupes similaires et à amasser des fonds qui peuvent être utilisés comme capital pour les activités génératrices de revenus de chaque membre. Elle dit: « C’est la meilleure façon pour nous, parce que nous sommes amies et que nous ne pouvons pas punir les mères qui omettent de payer. » Si une des membres ne fait pas le paiement de 100 shillings qu’elle doit rembourser chaque semaine, elle est invitée à faire du travail pour le groupe.

Mme Nzambuli dit qu’individuellement les femmes ne peuvent pas emprunter d’argent auprès des banques ou des institutions de micro-finance en raison des conditions que celles-ci imposent. En fait, les femmes ont peur de ces institutions. Elle note: « En tant que femmes, nous n’avons pas de titres fonciers, alors il existe un risque quant au remboursement de ces prêts. Imaginez que quelqu’un vienne chez vous et prenne votre âne.

Qu’allez-vous utiliser pour aller chercher de l’eau? »

La sécheresse continue à Mutomo. Les femmes ne savent pas quand les pluies arriveront, alors elles continuent à prier. Mais Mme Nzambuli et son groupe de femmes ont commencé à creuser des puits peu profonds. Si elles trouvent de l’eau, elles vont aménager des jardins potagers, planter des légumes dans des sacs et d’autres contenants. Mme Nzambuli offre quelques conseils: « Les gens devraient revenir à des cultures vivrières anciennes comme le mil et le manioc. Ces cultures sont résistantes à la sécheresse et peuvent mûrir rapidement. »

One of the keys to achieving food security in Africa is ensuring its millions of smallholder farmers are able to produce enough food for their families plus a surplus to sell in local markets.

To get a better idea of the challenge facing a typical African farm family, we’ve identified one through Farm Radio International, a Canadian organization that delivers information to farmers through 320 radio station partners in sub-Saharan Africa. We’re keeping track of her farm activities through the year.

The articles are written by Jean Paul Ntezimana, who works with Radio Salus, a station which reaches 90 per cent of Rwanda. Currently, he co-ordinates a radio program for farmers about land conflicts with Search for Common Ground in Rwanda, a non-governmental organization (NGO) that aims to help communities deal with conflicts in a constructive way. If you have questions or comments for our African farm family, you can provide them in the Post A Comment section at the end the original article.

She talks slowly with a low voice and does not move quickly as usual. However, she is not sick. She has just given birth to a baby boy, her third son.

Last Wednesday afternoon (Sept. 28) Justine Uwingabire gave birth to a baby boy in Kigali City. Niyonzima Evariste, her husband, smiles every time he picks up a phone call. He talks as he moves around in the hospital, changing phone sets to pick a new call.

He is answering phone calls from his friends and he answers calls from his wife’s phone because she is too tired to talk.

“She is now unable to talk on phone because she has just given birth to a baby boy,” says Evariste, smiling.

Justine Uwingabire says she expects to have to dial back her farming activities until next season following the birth of her new baby boy Sept. 28. (Farm Radio International)

Supported by Imbaraga Farmers’ Union, Justine delivered her third son in Hopital La Croix du Sud in Kigali, two hours’ drive from Kiramuruzi where she lives.

This is where we can find specialists,” Justine says to two women around her bed. I am lucky, I have given birth without complications,” she says. “I think after only one day I will go home.”

Friday afternoon, a car from Imabaraga Farmers’ Union picks up Justine to take her and her new child home.

At home

Following Rwandan customs, Justine moves from her regular bedroom to another room where neighbours can meet her to say hello to “the newcomer.”

There is a steady stream of women coming and going, some accompanied by children. Some women wash clothes, others are working in the kitchen, while others sit with Justine in her new room sharing juice and other soft drinks. People move in and out of the house. Men sit with Evariste, drinking some soft drinks.

One of her sons, Niyotwagira Prince, has come home to look at “a small white boy.” He can look at the baby and wants to touch. He asks many questions to his mum.

According to Rwandan culture, after eight days the newborn will be given his name. Neighbours will come and meet at Justine’s home in the evening. Many of them will be children of the village.

Justine will offer food and drinks. Everyone will have to give a name to the newborn. After, his father Evariste will give him a name which will be the official name of the child.

Farming activities slow down

Justine has suspended activities on the farm because of her pregnancy, and will not return to work for a while. She has had some others help plant her beans.

“I have sent some people to work on farm for me,” she says. “I know they will do as they understand, I have no choice,” she added.

I will wait for the next season. Now I cannot work. Children need care, immunization, et cetera. I will care for my child and reduce very much my activities on farm.”

Now, Justine has three sons. However, for now she does not want to say whether she would also like daughters.

Also in this series:

Following a farm family in sub-Saharan Africa, April 29, 2011

Our farmer visits France, Aug. 17, 2011

This year’s sorghum harvest is disappointing, Aug. 17

The following article appeared in the Winnipeg Free Press, October 5, 2011.

We’ve all grown accustomed to the hype around Hockey Night in Canada, a phenomenon that has hockey fans glued to their big-screen TVs and those not-so-crazy about the game leaving the room.

Well back in the mid-1940s, Monday was Farmers’ Night in Canada, when upwards of 1,300 small groups of farmers coast to coast clustered around a radio to listen to national broadcasts discussing current topics of the day and then following up with their own discussion locally.

And it was those forums that became the genesis for a modern non-government organization that connects small-scale farmers in 35 countries.

The National Farm Radio Forum, a joint educational project of the CBC, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture and the Canadian Association for Adult Education, was a valuable and popular extension vehicle for farmers during the postwar era. People living in isolated rural communities were hungry for the latest information and radio was an efficient way of reaching them.

The forums addressed big issues such as farm living standards, new science as it pertained to agriculture, agriculture as a risky business and social security for the farmer.

On Nov. 4, 1946, for example, 32 forums in Manitoba met and discussed farm taxes. “Manitoba forums find it difficult to believe that only about five per cent of Canadian farmers file income tax returns,” a report from the forum said. “The reasons they give for this are many, such as, all farmers do not keep accounts because they haven’t the time to spend on bookkeeping, income tax forms are too hard to understand, failure of the government to force tax returns (and) the average farmer just makes a bare living at best.”

A later forum concluded the reason there was a lack of farm home improvement was also related to a lack of funds and time. Farm home improvement was considered an important issue of the day, as noted by J.E. Brownlee, vice-president of the United Grain Growers, in his annual address to members. “We want to see (in) Western Canada, a land of comfortable homes. We want to see farm homes so equipped that our boys and girls will recognize the real opportunities and pleasures of rural life. They will not stay on the farms until we do.”

Dubbed “the world’s greatest listening group activity,” the forums were a way to reach farmers and generate discussion, but also a means of connecting with small, rural communities.

Fast-forward three decades and CBC farm radio broadcaster George Atkins was travelling on a bus in Zambia talking to locally based colleagues. When he asked what the local broadcast was about that day, he was told it was all about tractor maintenance. His next question was how many farmers in that country had tractors. Only a handful.

Resource-starved radio stations were forced to use extension material supplied to them from elsewhere and much of it had little relevance to what small-scale farmers were doing. That made no sense at all to Atkins, then a 25-year veteran of farm broadcasting.

Atkins returned to Canada and began developing a charity based on a radio forum similar to what had worked so well in Canada, a vehicle that networked local producers and linked them with information they needed, not simply what was available.

Instead of tractor repair, commercial fertilizers and pesticides, the radio scripts discussed how to better raise oxen or fertilize fields with manure. Today, what is now known as Farm Radio International has become a powerful charitable organization that connects more than 250 participating radio partners in 35 African countries sharing practical information and stories based on meeting local needs.

Like the farm forums on the Prairies, these radio broadcasts don’t only deal with farming. They address community and life issues, such as breaking down the myths and taboos of AIDS. In recent years, the agency has become one of the many tools the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is using to empower and improve the lot of the world’s small-scale farmers.

And despite all of the new communications technology sweeping the globe, radio remains one of the most powerful and effective means of, as Farm Radio’s executive director Kevin Perkins puts it, taking good ideas and growing them to scale.

If anything, new technology serves to complement radio. People with cellphones can receive a text reminding them to tune in to an upcoming broadcast.

More than anything, this effort acknowledges the power of indigenous knowledge and of communities working together to solve common problems. It also recognizes that the only way local knowledge can survive is if it is freely shared.

 Laura Rance is editor of the Manitoba Co-operator. She can be reached at 792-4382 or by email:

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 5, 2011 B10

Philip Akafo’s Story

Ben Fiafor is Farm Radio International’s National Research Coordinator in Ghana. He writes about how one farmer, Philip Akafo, changed his life for the better by listening to Farm Radio’s participatory radio programs conducted through the African Farm Radio Research Initiative (AFFRI).

Here, Farm Radio programs are improving the living conditions for farmers in Ghana. It is working more effectively than we thought possible!

One smallholder farmer I met was Philip Akafo in the Dangme East district of the Greater Accra region of Ghana…

Philip had struggled as a smallholder farmer and not been able to make much of an income. Now he is faring well raising chickens, pigs and goats. He built his livestock up after learning from local farm radio broadcasts about building housing for his animals to protect them from predators and disease and to allow them to grow more quickly.

Not only does his family now have a reliable source of high-quality protein – which they can now incorporate into their diets more regularly – but as well, his livestock are thriving and he can sell them for a good price at the market. He now has 120 chickens and his livestock have increased from 8 sheep to 15 sheep and 12 goats to 45 goats! With the money that he saves, he is able to send his two daughters to secondary school and ensure that his other children can remain in primary school.

Farmer, Philip Akafo in the Dangme East district of the Greater Accra region of Ghana in his new animal enclosure.

Philip says:

Through the (AFRRI) animal housing program and Radio Ada I learned that if you house an animal they develop faster. Alternatively, if you leave them (to) walk around and you are not around to watch them, they can disturb someone and be killed. Most of my animals would die before I have the chance to sell them. Now I farm fowl, pigs and goats… Since the program I have housed my animals and they are safe, they do not get stolen and are less susceptible to disease. They also make good profit.

Through the radio programming, we are able to tell our neighbours to house their animals therefore having a wave of change in the community since our old ways aren’t working very well. What we would like now to see is investments being done such as being given resources to be able to afford to keep all our animals housed and healthy. Educational programs such as (those on) animal housing should be aired because it is helping us as a community to advance.

The radio station in Ceasarkope (Radio Ada) reaches one million listeners, and 90% of them are small-scale farmers.

Philip’s story is one of thousands of farmers who have improved their quality of life through the support of Farm Radio International. Since our locally adapted scripts were broadcast by Radio Ada, over 90% of the farmers in communities who received the radio programs started building housing for their animals.

Am seeing first-hand the power a simple technology like radio has in helping farmers and their families overcome water and food security and poverty issues. Many farmers have conveyed thanks to Farm Radio and say they feel empowered by our programs.

Ben Fiafor

National Research Coordinator, Ghana

Farm Radio International

In addition to the AFRRI farm radio programs, Farm Radio International has produced scripts on livestock health: click here to read scripts on this topic.

To read more on the amazing results of Farm Radio International’s AFFRI Participatory Radio Campaigns, click here.


I met Kojo Oppong, a producer and presenter of the agriculture program at Radio Peace in the Central Region (Ghana), at the national dissemination workshop hosted by Farm Radio International held on July 20, 2011. Mr. Oppong spoke candidly about having Radio Peace be a part of the African Rural Radio Program Analysis (ARRPA) research. He strongly encourages the idea of allowing others into the studio to witness the radio station’s inner workings as part of a learning process. The ARRPA research included visits to four radio stations in Ghana and went into the community to analyze the production process as well as how the listeners receive the work being done at the stations. Mr. Oppong was fascinated that the work he does within the radio station had been laid bare for others through the ARRPA research in an effort to promote education and information sharing.

Holding a dissemination workshop, he continued,  provided many benefits, paving the way for positive change. Having learned a lot from the information shared, he feels everyone has acquired new skills that will improve the programs being broadcasted. Specifically, he feels the use of music will greatly appeal to the listening audience, adding a bit of colour to the program, and the implementation of new formats to improve programming. Subsequent workshops will help further build the capacity of broadcast journalists as well as others involved in agricultural program production.

ARRPA was a study conducted by Farm Radio International that aimed to gather and analyze information about the smallholder farmer radio programs in five sub-Saharan African countries – Ghana, Kenya, Cameroon, Malawi, and Tanzania. The analysis identified good practices and highlighted which areas needed improvement. The workshop provided the opportunity for networking between stations country-wide and key stakeholders in farm radio, allowing for information sharing and lessons learned from each other’s practices. The purpose of such a workshop was to identify the services, policies and processes that would result in better farm radio programs serving the needs of farmers.

One activity that was part of encouraging interactivity among the group of participants was conducting interviews between those who participated in the ARRPA research and those who had not, which would facilitate group discussions. Specific to the group interview I facilitated, both sides agreed that farm radio is a learning process and that scripts play a significant role in benefitting the station as well as the listeners. Radio Peace was among the group members, with much to offer the discussion as a participant in the ARRPA research. The study helped bring to light an understanding of how listeners think and highlighted the need to go beyond the studio into the community. Everyone was adamant that farm radio should be community-based, acquiring constant feedback from the farmers to provide relevant programming. It is essential to meet with farmers directly to identify their needs so as to address them effectively.

I feel I contributed a great deal to the content and understanding of the workshop, illustrating the breadth of knowledge I have acquired over the course of my internship with Farm Radio International. It also provided me the chance to improve upon my skills in public speaking. Overall, it was a very successful workshop concluding with suggestions for the way forward.

Amanda Joyce

Intern with Farm Radio International

I interviewed a female participant, Regina Suwie from Radio Progress in Ghana, who brought her baby to a workshop that I was involved in while working as an intern with Farm Radio International. I requested that Ms. Suwie speak about what she enjoyed about the workshop and challenges she faces as a women presenter in radio broadcasting.  She thought that the workshop was extremely beneficial with respect to hearing different opinions and learning from each other. The topic of the workshop – Gender and Agricultural Programming – fuelled heavy discussions on potential challenges women face throughout the agricultural sector, especially in relation to accessing radio broadcasts. The fact that Ms. Suwie was obligated to bring her baby along to the workshop and care for her while actively participating was a challenge in and of itself; however, she does not see it as an obstacle. She is a determined women and she will not let having a baby stand in the way of a career she wishes to pursue. She enjoys working in radio so she will balance a family with what she wants to pursue professionally. Click below to see video:

Regina Suwie of Radio Progress, participant of Gender Mainstreaming Workshop, May 2011, Ghana

Participants Gender Mainstreaming Workshop, Ghana May 2011

The workshop entitled Gender and Agricultural Radio Programming concerned gender sensitivity and gender mainstreaming in farm and agricultural radio. Various radio stations from across Ghana were in attendance to participate in an interactive learning environment to discuss gender issues in current radio programming. Out of twenty radio station representatives – mostly presenters – only four were women. It is thus particularly challenging for the majority of men to adequately provide insight into what specific changes are necessary for radio programming to incorporate and consider women in the broadcasts. Prior to beginning the workshop, expectations were discussed. What would the two-day workshop amount to? A few examples from a lengthy list are improving practices and equal opportunity; cater certain programming to the interest of women; establish networks; get resources to run women-related agric shows; introduce new technologies to farmers; and gain access to information on gender issues.

There was an initial discussion on what exactly gender means and to highlight the respective gender roles defining the issue of gender sensitivity in the agric sector. One of the group activities was expanding on a certain topic concerning gender differences. For example, my group was assigned the discussion question:

How do we address bridging the gap between knowledge and skills of men and women?

This exercise further solidified the roles laid out for both genders and allowed for the recognition of changing times. Gender roles are dynamic; what was traditionally a man’s job can now also be explored by a woman. Radio must then include information to enhance women’s as well as men’s skills and knowledge in certain areas of agricultural development.

There was heated debate over what would attract more women listeners and help break down the barrier of near exclusion from agric radio broadcasting. There is a need to develop a balance, addressing the disadvantage toward women and unequal access favouring men. Some individuals suggested that the mere fact of having women presenters would attract more women to tune into the radio shows; others argued that promotion of having women resource persons would entice more female listeners than simply having a woman presenter because it is dependent upon the content not the gender of the presenter. The issue in collecting numbers that adequately reflect the listener demographic is the limited access women have to a radio; if they do have access to a radio, will they listen to certain programming directed at women in agriculture? The challenge lies in creating awareness for the importance of women to own and have access to a radio so as to benefit from women-related agricultural programming.

Amanda Joyce – Intern with Farm Radio International – AFRRI

Brenda Jackson travelling to Terrat, Tanzania

I had the wonderful opportunity with the support of our partner, World University Service of Canada (WUSC), to travel to Tanzania last September 2010. Today, and in future blog posts, I would like to share some of the stories and pictures that I gathered during my travels.

While driving through the beautiful Rhotia Valley in Tanzania, I happened to see a farmer at the side of the road separating seeds. I asked my driver if we could stop to ask the farmer some questions. My driver acted as a translator and through him I found out that the farmer’s name is Fatuma. She agreed to talk to us and allowed us to take her picture. I found out that she is part of Kilimanjaro Native Cooperative Union (KNCU). She told us that the seeds we see her separating are white and black beans. Her bags of seeds get picked up on Mondays and then are sold in Arusha and Dar es Salaam. One bag brings her 75,000 Tanzanian Shillings (TZS) which is about $50 Canadian. She said that she wants to take the money she makes from farming and buy a better house.

Fatuma, a farmer in the Rhotia Valley in Tanzania, separates bean seeds for market

I was curious to find out if radio played a role in her life. When asked, Fatuma told me that on Saturday evenings she listens to an agricultural radio show. She finds that she learns a lot from that program. When it comes to farming, she also takes advice from the local cooperative and then talks to family and friends to decide what to do. All of this information helps her choose what crops should be grown in which month.

My chance meeting with Fatuma, made me realize the importance of the role that radio, together with members of her cooperative and community, plays to help farmers like her do their work and bring their crops to market.

Brenda Jackson

Public Engagement Officer

Farm Radio International

The first time I entered the studios of Radio Ada 13 years ago as a volunteer, my passion was to serve my community, the Dangme-speaking people, through news and programs using the local language and culture. Here I am today as part of a team of Whole Radio Station Trainers, a dream beyond dreams.  These are the words of one of the participants, Kofi Larweh, from Ghana.

The “whole station” training, which took place in the last week of March, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, focuses on building a range of broadcasting skills, including: farm radio programming design, management skills, and using ICTs for agricultural communication. The participants will later conduct similar trainings themselves in radio stations in their own countries. The ultimate goal of the trainings is to improve farm radio programming and the lives of farmers.

Kofi values the experience that his fellow trainees – from Ghana, Malawi, Tanzania and Ethiopia – bring to the table. The variety of ideas on production and management from different socio-political backgrounds broadens his outlook: “When I look at the years ahead, this experience, taking place in an international institution for livestock research, in humility reminds me that a healthy cow dies with grass in its mouth.”

As part of the course, the participants visited Oromiya Radio Station in the Oromiya Region of Ethiopia. The participants spoke highly of the course: Hilda Kileo is Radio Manager of Boma Hai Fun, owned by Hai district council, near Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. She says,

The training is important to me, because the world keeps on changing and there is [a] need for broadcasters to update their knowledge. My radio station will improve … the way we … produce programs for farmers.

Mulu Berhe works for Ethiopia Radio and Television Agency as a program researcher. She says the training is a refresher. But she feels that it was also an eye-opener on how to improve their radio programs, especially by providing a more effective platform for farmers. She wants to be part of the solutions to farmers’ concerns.

Doug Ward, Chair of the board, with the participants of the 'Whole Station Approach training.

The training was organized by Farm Radio International (FRI), and is being facilitated by David Mowbray, FRI’s Manager of Training and Standards, and Doug Ward, Chairperson of the FRI Board.