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My Children radio drama returns to the airwaves for season 2

The story of love, strife, money and orange-fleshed sweet potatoes captivated Ugandans when it first aired in 2013. It also encouraged listeners to grow the nutritious crop, and demand for vines (planting materials) soon outstripped supply. Farm Radio International is bringing the My Children story back to the airwaves for season 2 to continue to promote nutrient-rich orange-fleshed sweet potato.
 
KAMPALA, UGANDA– January 21, 2016 – Florence and her family will be back on the airwaves in Uganda to educate farmers on the value of nutritious, orange-fleshed sweet potatoes. Ugandans were first introduced to Florence and her husband Rolland, as well as their neighbour Nora, in the radio drama My Children, which aired in 2013.
 
The success of the first season of My Children encouraged Farm Radio International, in partnership with HarvestPlus, to return to this story of love, domestic strife, money, power and, of course, orange-fleshed sweet potatoes. The second season of My Children begins January 21, 2016. Twenty-seven episodes will air on 13 radio stations across Uganda in seven local languages.
 
“The success of My Children radio drama has been tremendous in Uganda. Awareness for orange-fleshed sweet potato has risen dramatically, and we have observed high demand from farmers planting material and roots to consume. The impact on family health and livelihoods is significant. HarvestPlus is excited to partner with Farm Radio and TRAC FM for a second season and look forward to further supporting Ugandan farmers growing biofortified crops,” said Sylvia Magezi, Country Manager, HarvestPlus Uganda.
 
More than 75% of Ugandans listen to the radio for information and entertainment, making the radio the ideal medium to promote nutrition and the production and consumption of orange-fleshed sweet potatoes. Nearly one in every three preschoolers in Uganda lacks vitamin A, and a quarter of mothers do as well. This can result in impaired immunity and eye damage leading to blindness and even death.
 
All of this can be minimized with a small change in the food that mothers and their children eat. Orange-fleshed sweet potatoes are rich in beta-carotene, an important source of vitamin A. And in Uganda, farmers already grow sweet potatoes.
 
During the first season of My Children, listeners learned about the nutritional benefits of orange-fleshed sweet potato alongside the main character, Florence. By the final episode, Florence owned her own plot of land, paid for in part by selling part of her crop of orange-fleshed sweet potato. Her children are sick less frequently and won’t eat any potato that is not orange. Florence’s relationship with Rolland has even improved, as he is impressed with her business skills.
 
“We were excited by the interest of the farmers we spoke to. They connected with the characters and the messages around nutrition and agricultural practices,” said Askebir Gebru, Uganda Country Director, Farm Radio International.
 
Listeners were encouraged by Florence’s story to try planting orange-fleshed sweet potatoes, and demand for vines outstripped supply after the radio drama aired. Thanks to a polling system developed by FRI’s partner TRAC FM (https://tracfm.org/), listeners also engaged with the storyline by participating in polls via SMS text messaging. More than 40,000 listeners sent more than 100,000 text messages as part of these polls during season 1.
 
“Radio drama can be an excellent way to share information with hundreds of thousands or even millions of small-scale farmers. The listener can be entertained and learn alongside the characters in the story,” says Kevin Perkins, Executive Director of Farm Radio International. “And the mobile phone revolution has only made radio better by allowing interaction between broadcaster and listeners.”
 
The second season will introduce new characters and new conflict, but will continue to promote the benefits of growing and consuming orange-fleshed sweet potato. A participatory radio show will accompany each episode, allowing listeners to share their thoughts on the story and take part in a discussion around the nutritious orange crop.
 
View the press release.
 
Learn more about the impact of season 1.

Janette McDonald has served as a FRI Board member for 9 years.

Farm Radio International benefits from the dedication of Board members who bring expertise in management, agriculture, radio broadcasting, development communications, finance, legal counsel, and fundraising. This fall, some of our Board members will step down, making room for new faces and points of view.

Janette McDonald of Alberta offers a wealth of experience communicating with farmers, demonstrating a commitment to sustainable agriculture and appropriate technology. She works with soil conservation groups in Alberta, has served as Executive Director of Alberta Pulse Growers, and has worked as a District Agriculturalist with the Alberta Department of Agriculture. With Farm Radio International, she served on the Board for nine years, with terms as Vice-President of the Board and as Chair of the Nominations Committee.

Please describe your most rewarding experience as a Board member of Farm Radio International.

Most rewarding: being part of an organization that chose to collaborate with another NGO (World University Service of Canada) to the benefit of both organizations and their global partners. Second most rewarding: being part of an organization that chose to strengthen its Board of Directors by bringing a resident of Africa onto the Board in 2012.

Based on your experience as a board member, how would you describe Farm Radio International’s work and potential to affect long-term food security in Africa?

In my experience, Canadian farm families have seen their autonomy slip away over the last two decades. Canadian farmers are producing huge volumes of material, but at a serious cost to our communities and local economies. Canadian agriculture started out “feeding the world” but increasingly we are serving the “well-fed.”

Farm Radio International’s commitment to small-holder, independent farmers gives me confidence that African farmers will have the information they need to feed their world and their communities in the future.

The staff and fellow Board members of Farm Radio International wish to thank Janette for many dedicated years of service.

August 8 is Farmer’s Day in Tanzania, and is celebrated with week-long agricultural fairs up and down the country. This year, Farm Radio International mounted an exhibition at the fair in Arusha. The fair is called Nane Nane because it is celebrated on the eighth day of the eighth month – “nane” means eight in Swahili.

The fair takes place in a large showground, and attracts a range of exhibitors, from NGOs to farmers’ groups, and from mobile phone companies to companies selling agricultural equipment.

Farm Radio International shared a stand with The Organic Farmer (http://www.organicfarmermagazine.org/) and our broadcasting partner Radio Maria (one of Tanzania’s national radio stations). We showed videos of our work in action, provided printed materials, gave out food samples and displayed the Lifeplayer solar-powered radio and MP3 player.

FRI volunteer, Paddy Roberts, handing out orange-fleshed sweet potato samples

By the end of the week FRI volunteer, Paddy Roberts, had cooked 30 kgs of orange-fleshed sweet potato which was given out to the visitors at our stand!  We wanted to raise awareness for this nutritious food among local farmers and consumers.   This potato, full of vitamin A, is not grown in the Arusha area –  so it was brought in from the Lake zone.  Some people had not seen it before, but a lot asked where they could get planting material.

Japhet Emmanuel, Assistant Field Manager for the Farm Radio International Tanzania office translates for Paddy Roberts, FRI volunteer, as he is interviewed live on Radio Maria.

Paddy Roberts was also interviewed live via mobile phone on Radio Maria with the translation help of Japhet Emmanuel, Assistant Field Manager for the FRI Tanzania office.  Those at the FRI stand could hear the interview on the Lifeplayer solar-powered/windup recordable radio/MP3 player.  The Lifeplayer ran on solar power for the duration of the exhibition, airing Radio Maria programs.

Here are some more pictures from a great week:

FRI staff member, Japhet Emmanuel, showcasing the Lifeplayer with some visitors.

Emanuel and Paddy (with Radio Maria staff member) doing a live interview that is being aired on the solar-powered Lifeplayer

This summer, four students of the Carleton University Journalism Program interned with Farm Radio International and their partners across three different sub-Saharan African countries (Malawi, Tanzania and Ghana). They are working with government and Ministries, radio stations or with Farm Radio International directly.

Alex Butler, FRI intern, stands beside Farm Radio International office sign in Arusha, Tanzania

One student, Alex Butler, is working with Farm Radio International’s office in Arusha, Tanzania. She has been helping with the production of Farm Radio Weekly (FRW), our electronic news service which reaches over 2,000 African subscribers. Her work consists of conducting research for the publication as well as interviewing farmers and writing stories. Her first article was published in the June 25, 2012 issue of FRW.

In this first FRW story, Alex wrote about a farmer, Elisa Pallangyo, whom she met in the village of Maweni, 30 kilometres outside Arusha. Alex found out that Mr. Pallangyo has achieved great success on his small farm by intercropping maize with beans or peas. He has been able to achieve large yields all without using expensive fertilizers or pesticides. Mr. Pallangyo told Alex that he is very thankful for his farm’s success, because it has allowed him to put his children through school. To find out why intercropping the key to his success and how is he is now helping his community, read more:

“Tanzania: Farmer attributes his farm’s success to intercropping”

Farmer, Elisa Pallangyo and his wife in their field in the village of Maweni (30 kilometres outside Arusha), found success with intercropping.

Alex has recently earned her Bachelor of Journalism from Carleton University. While at Carleton, she specialized in reporting social issues and has a strong interest in international reporting which is why she applied to be an intern with Farm Radio International.

In a recent email exchange with Farm Radio staff in Ottawa, Alex wrote:

My experience at Farm Radio Tanzania has been fantastic. The FRI team in Tanzania has been so welcoming and the sense of community we have at the office is like nowhere I’ve ever worked before.

“In the short time I’ve been here, I have been able to learn a lot. The internship has given me the opportunity to use the skills I learned in journalism school and to really see the important role that media can play in development. It’s given me a stronger sense of the importance of what journalists do and how important it is for NGO’s like Farm Radio to exist. I’ve been able to see the results that come from promoting agricultural best-practices, and how necessary this is to ensure food security in Africa. Interviewing farmers about what they do and how they live has been some of the most rewarding work in my journalistic experience”.

I am also so impressed that Farm Radio puts such an emphasis on promoting women’s rights, maternal and child health, nutrition and environmental sustainability. At Farm Radio, I can feel that the stories we are writing really matter and I hope that I can continue to do this type of work when I get back to Canada. I’m very excited to take what I’ve learned here tell people back home about the work that FRI does.

Thank you for your dedication to your work Alex and we hope to see you around the Farm Radio offices in the future!

In June of this year, Farm Radio International’s Regional Field Manager in Mali – Modibo Coulibaly – entered an idea to the Rockefeller Foundation’s 2012 Innovation Challenges Competition. The idea, called FarmQuest, was developed by the Farm Radio International team. On June 25, we received the exciting news that this idea was one of 15 winners of the Competition! As a winner, we now have an opportunity to apply for a $100,000 grant from the Rockefeller Foundation to produce FarmQuest. Over 2,000 ideas were submitted to the Rockefeller Innovation Challenges Competition this year, so we were thrilled that FarmQuest was selected. To see the announcement, click here.

Here are some key elements of this innovative and very interesting proposal:

FarmQuest:

A reality radio program series featuring an exciting, competitive quest by 6-8 young people to create the “best new farm.” Contestants are coached along the way by a variety of experts and wise people.

This radio-based interactive farming competition will be run through the Farm Radio International regional office in Mali. But the idea will work in any region or country which has a competent radio station, covering the same language area.

Summary:

FarmQuest will feature 6-8 young people competing for the prize of “best new farm” over a 9-12 month period. An engaging cast of diverse contestants each takes a small plot of land and tries to create a vibrant farming business over this period. They are offered coaching from a range of characters – elderly farmers, young extensionists, researchers, and business people. They face tough decisions, weigh their options, watch the skies, worry about their plants and animals, and negotiate with buyers. The climax: the selection of two “best new farms.” The process will be presented in episodic radio documentaries over 12 weeks. Each episode will be dissected and analyzed through lively follow-up discussions, debates, call-in shows, audience polling.

Purpose:

The purpose of FarmQuest is to prove to young people, the selected farmers and the audience alike, that farming as a business can provide a good – and exciting – livelihood. FarmQuest will reveal that farming, while hard work, can be a viable, rewarding livelihood for a young person. The contestants will act as role models that a youth audience can relate to. Participating farmers will receive expert advice at every step to tackle technical, social or economic barriers, thus showing, rather than telling, what is possible. Key elements to attracting a youth audience are: radio program style and quality, competition, and audience participation. These elements aim to change negative perceptions and show young people that farming need not be dreary.

It is our belief that most of the contestants will continue to run viable farms after the program ends, and can give inspiration and advice to other young farmers in the area who were encouraged to follow their example.

Young farmers will understand what is possible, and will learn new information and farming techniques from the radio programs. They will know the steps they need to take and where to get relevant advice. The potential audience is huge, as one station can reach millions.

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.

Farm Radio International’s Annual Report 2010/2011 is now available online. The following is the Executive Director’s Report.

The name Farm Radio International seems to capture the imagination. When people first hear about Farm Radio International, they often ask: “where can we find you on the radio dial?” or “how many listeners do you have?” Some wonder “do you distribute radios?” or even “do you set up new radio stations?”

These are all reasonable questions. But, in fact, since our foundation in 1979, Farm Radio International’s role has been to help broadcasters at existing radio stations improve the quality and effectiveness of their programs for small-scale farmers.

For most of the years since, we have provided this support in the form of radio scripts about farming and rural development issues and practices. The script service responded to the reality that most rural radio broadcasters in sub-Saharan Africa do not have access to the information they need – in the format they need – to create accurate, relevant, engaging programs for small-scale farmers.

Over the last year, we have made some exciting changes to our services. Our core mission remains the same, but we are working in a variety of new ways to achieve it.

Recognizing that radio stations need more than scripts to serve small-scale farmers and rural communities, we have enhanced our script service to a more comprehensive Resources for Broadcasters strategy. This includes our electronic news service, Farm Radio Weekly, and the development of an online social network. As before, our Resources for Broadcasters are available, free of charge, for any and all radio practitioners to use.

We have also added the new core strategies of Impact Programming and Training and Standards.

Impact Programming involves working directly with a select group of radio stations to plan and implement a radio strategy that aims to have a specific impact in a particular area. For example, Farm Radio International developed the Participatory Radio Campaign (PRC) methodology through the African Farm Radio Research Initiative (AFRRI), an initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Over the past year, we established the capacity to implement PRCs beyond AFRRI, by opening offices in Ethiopia, Ghana, Mali, and Tanzania, and forming strategic partnerships in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Malawi, and Uganda.

We also launched a new Training and Standards service that helps radio station staff gain the skills they need to research, produce, and sustain high-quality rural radio programming. At the same time, Farm Radio International has become a leading expert in the integration of new communication technologies with radio, and is helping broadcasters take advantage of the opportunities offered by these developments.

Our expansion into these new areas would not have been possible without the remarkable support of our donors, volunteers, partners, dedicated and capable staff, and strong Board of Directors. In particular, I am indebted to Doug Ward, the President and Chair of the Board of Farm Radio International, for inspirational leadership grounded in deep and rich experience in radio and social justice.

Kevin Perkins, Executive Director

Read more of the Annual Report.

Yesterday, we sent out our December e-NewsletterClick here to read our latest updates.

Subscribe for free, click here.

Fatogomo Sanago interviewing a farmer at the market in Fana, Mali.

Wednesday is market day in the town of Fana, Mali. There’s a busy energy in the air as farmers, traders, and other villagers gather to buy, sell and talk. In the middle of it all is Fatogoma Sanago, program director at Radio Fanaka. He uses his digital audio recorder to capture the sounds of people bargaining and chickens clucking. Fatogoma uses these recordings, along with interviews and information about market prices, for his program Aw Ni Sugu, or “Thank you for being at the market.”

Farm Radio International has named Fatogoma the 2011 recipient of the George Atkins Communications Award. The award recognizes rural radio broadcasters for their outstanding contribution to food security and poverty reduction in low-income countries. Fatogoma is responsible for all programming on rural issues at Radio Fanaka. He is also a presenter. Read more…

Nelly Bassily, Farm Radio International staff, at the launch of Barza, Novemeber 11, 2011.


On November 11, at the World University Service of Canada (WUSC) International Forum, Farm Radio International was proud to launch BARZA, an exciting new social networking site for African radio broadcasters. As more and more African broadcasters are using the Internet, the potential to connect these broadcasters online – to help them share scripts and other radio content with each other, and develop their broadcasting skills – has also grown. That is exactly what Barza does. “Barza” is a Congolese Swahili word that means ‘meeting under a tree’ – an apt name for this new social network.

In addition to sharing radio scripts, broadcasters can share radio programs, access resources for their shows for farmers, participate in discussion groups, and participate in on-line training activities.

As Doug Ward (Chair of the Board for Farm Radio International) put it:

in the 1980’s and 1990’s Farm Radio International provided a one-way ‘top down’ service, sending radio scripts out to broadcasters for them to use in their programs. With the launch of Barza, we now offer opportunities for peer-to-peer sharing across a large network of broadcasters. It’s an exciting new era.

We would like to thank the International Development Research Center as well as the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) for supporting this initiative. We would also like to thank Digital4Good, a web development company based in Cape Town, South Africa, who worked with the Farm Radio International team to develop Barza.