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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.

Farm Radio Weekly (FRW) is Farm Radio International’s weekly electronic news bulletin. It prides itself on making the farmer’s voice and perspective heard. To mark Work AIDS Day, Farm Radio Weekly brings three inspiring new stories, written especially for Farm Radio Weekly. The common theme is living healthily.

From Kenya, we hear how Robert Amakobe started up a pioneering men’s support group. Find out how, through growing vegetables, they have overcome stigma and become well-known for assisting others in their community.  Read more.

James Ndlovu from Zimbabwe was diagnosed HIV positive five years ago. After counseling, he decided that one way to improve his situation was through hard work on his farm. Read how his life has changed since his diagnosis. Read more.

In Malawi, John Chaoneka decided to learn more about herbal medicines and the nutritional benefits of fruit and vegetables. He tested positive for HIV in 2010 and now runs a clinic from his house, supplying hundreds of people with treatments to help boost immunity. Read more.

FRW will feature three more original stories to mark World AIDS Day on December 13, 2011.

Subscribe to FRW for free: click here.

Farm Radio International would like to especially thank the Canadian Auto Workers – Social Justice Fund for their support of Farm Radio Weekly’s African Service Bureaus that allow us to feature original and unique stories from the perspective of the African smallholder farmer.Radio Rurales Internationales présentons trois nouvelles histoires inspirantes, écrites spécialement pour Agro Radio Hebdo. Il y a une édition spéciale pour la Journée mondiale du sida.  Le thème commun est « vivre sainement ».

Dans une histoire provenant du Kenya, nous apprenons comment Robert Amakobe a joué un rôle de pionnier en lançant un groupe de soutien pour hommes. Vous découvrirez comment, en faisant pousser des légumes, ils ont vaincu le stigma et sont désormais bien connus pour l’assistance qu’ils apportent aux autres, dans leur communauté. Cliquez ici.

James Ndlovu, du Zimbabwe, a été diagnostiqué VIH-positif il y a cinq ans. Après avoir reçu du counselling, il a décidé qu’une façon d’améliorer sa situation était de travailler dur sur sa ferme. Lisez comment sa vie a changé depuis son diagnostic. Cliquez ici.

Au Malawi, John Chaoneka a décidé d’en apprendre davantage sur la phytothérapie (médecine par les plantes) et les avantages nutritionnels des fruits et des légumes. Il a été testé positif pour le VIH en 2010 et dirige maintenant une clinique à son domicile, fournissant à des centaines de gens des traitements pour aider à stimuler leur immunité.  Cliquez ici.

Inscrivez-vous maintenant à ARH. C’est Gratuit!!!

Radio Rurales Internationales tient à remercier le Fonds de justice sociale de Travailleurs canadiens de l’automobile (TCA) pour avoir donné son appui à l’ouverture des bureaux d’ARH et pour être devenue un partenaire dans la production d’Agro Radio Hebdo.

The fall edition of Farm Radio International’s supporter newsletter, Network News is now available online.  To read it, click here.

AFRRI radio broadcasters-in-training conduct an interview with a villager from Wolodo, Mali, on their new MP3 Sansa recording devices

In late 2010, Farm Radio International wrapped up the African Farm Radio Research Initiative (AFRRI), a 42-month program that was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. AFRRI was a great success, allowing us to work with 25 radio stations in five countries to produce and broadcast a total of 49 Participatory Radio Campaigns (PRCs) on a variety of sustainable agriculture practices, from composting to beekeeping. We also developed new radio-based market information programs and identified exciting ways of linking radio with other communication technologies such as cellphones and the internet. Through AFRRI, we gathered, for the first time, clear evidence that good farm radio programs (our PRCs) are regularly listened to by the majority of farmers living in range of the broadcasts. We also found that they significantly increase listeners’ knowledge. In fact, farmers are five times more likely to introduce a new farming practice than if they couldn’t hear the broadcasts.

The Gates Foundation was so pleased with what we accomplished through AFRRI that they provided a second 3.5-year grant to enable us to continue our work in Africa! With this support we are able to maintain our offices and staff in Africa (originally set up for AFRRI) and partner with other organizations to deliver highly effective farm radio programs and to offer exceptional training services to radio stations. Already, we have started working with the International Livestock Research Institute in Ethiopia to develop programs about beekeeping in the northern region of Tigrae and about mango and avocado production in the south. In Mali, we have started working with the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics to plan and produce PRCs on drought-resistant crops like sorghum and millet. Soon, we will begin work in Tanzania on PRCs about intercropping maize and beans: Reviving an effective traditional approach to improving soil fertility and increasing food production. Beans bring nitrogen into the soil through micro-organisms that live on their roots; and, beans are a great source of protein and a valuable cash crop.

Farm Radio International demonstrated its capacity to lead a multi-country research for development project and achieve extraordinary results, Mercy Karanja, the Senior Program Officer for Agricultural Development with the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation.

Solar panels being installed at office in Arusha.

Our work in Africa is now coordinated from a new regional office in Arusha, Tanzania — we’re proud to report that this office is solar powered! Gizaw Shibru, Farm Radio International’s Director of Operations, works with our team of African staff to plan and implement radio and training activities with our partners in Tanzania, Malawi, Ghana, Mali, Ethiopia, and Uganda.

Many thanks to thousands of Canadian donors for your continued support, which allows us to implement our programs in Africa.

For more information on AFFRI reseach and our Participatory Radio Campaigns, click here for our research brief.

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

Kevin Perkins, right, meets with Alasso Rose, the leader of a women's farming co-operative in the village of Omotol in the Soroti District of Uganda.

On Saturday, September 3, 2011, The Ottawa Citizen published the article: “Taking to the African airwaves: An Ottawa aid group is using radio broadcasts to spread the word of efficient farming practices” by Alex Webber.  The following is the article:

As drought and famine plagues several parts of eastern Africa, an Ottawa-based NGO is using radio to connect small-scale farmers across the continent in a project designed to improve agricultural techniques and reduce poverty.

 Each week for the past three years, Farm Radio International has helped 25 radio stations in five African countries produce interactive radio shows designed to help farmers overcome agricultural obstacles in their communities. Called Participatory Radio Campaigns, or PRCs, the shows focus on promoting solutions to common agricultural problems and have been successful in getting small-scale farmers to improve their practices.

 About 70 per cent of Africans are involved in small-scale agriculture … and they grow most of the food that’s eaten in Africa, and yet the farmers who produce this food are among the most likely to be hungry, malnourished and living in poverty,  said Kevin Perkins, Farm Radio International’s executive director.

 He said the show’s success is due to its interactive nature. Instead of just having a broadcaster read information, PRC’s feature interviews with local farmers, on-air debates between groups and talks with experts. Perkins said listeners play a key role not only during the campaign, but also in identifying the agricultural issues they want solved.

For example, Perkins said when Farm Radio International staff arrived in Ghana they quickly learned there was a deep rivalry going on between livestock and vegetable farmers. The livestock farmers, who could not afford to fence in their animals, were allowing their goats to eat the vegetable farmers’ crops. To ward off the animals, vegetable farmers began putting poison on their crops and the tension between the two groups became a major issue in the community.

For six months, Farm Radio International helped local broadcasters produce shows focusing on the livestock fencing issue. Each episode was 30 minutes long and featured input from several members of the community representing both sides of the debate. Some of the episodes focused on the challenges of specific local farmers, other episodes explored the benefits of fencing in animals, and others explained how farmers could make their own fences from local recyclable materials instead of buying costly supplies.

When the six months were finished, Perkins said more than 80 per cent of the livestock farmers in the participating community had fenced in their livestock and several other farmers in communities nearby who could hear the radio show began fencing livestock as well.

“They were able, on air, to have debates between these different factions and resolve their conflicts on air, so people could all participate in that peace-building process,” said Perkins. “Different technologies and different solutions were presented and farmers could say, ‘hey, here’s how I did it’, and other farmers could learn from them.”

Perkins said PRCs are also being used in other countries, such as Mali, that are prone to droughts and dry spells. There, he said, PRCs focus on teaching small-scale farmers how to grow crops that require little water, such as millet.

Next time there’s a year of very low rainfall they’ll be much more likely to get through and still have a harvest at the end, Kevin said.

Radio, because it’s so accessible, is the easiest way to give information to small-scale farmers. Information packages and pamphlets are often in French or English, but radio shows are often broadcast in the country’s native language and people don’t need to know how to read to understand the message. With the success of the first wave of PRCs, Perkins said Farm Radio International is working on creating more, and it recently received another research grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to continue its work.

Perkins said he hopes with more PRC programs, life for small-scale farmers will continue to improve.

To read the full article online click here.

To celebrate International Youth Day, Farm Radio Weekly featured a story on Grace Amito’s visit to Canada earlier this year and how one talk she did inspired her to further action within her district. While in Ottawa, she visited a local primary school to tell the children about her work as a radio broadcaster with Mega FM in Gulu, northern Uganda. One of the children, 10-year-old Ella Jackson-Cappuccino, said,

It was interesting to hear about how radio in Africa helps farmers grow more food.  I liked hearing about her [Grace’s] radio station that she works at. It was interesting to hear how some small towns have one radio and get into groups and listen together, unlike here where we have thousands of radios.

Grace Amito distributes radio to Sacred Heart High School, Gulu, Uganda

As a result, children and parents from the school Grace visited decided to raise money to provide radios where they were most needed. With the money raised, Grace was able to buy four radios. She gave one radio each to four of the largest schools in Gulu. The radios are large and powerful so that a group of up to 500 can sit and listen comfortably.

But Grace wanted to do even more for these schools. In Gulu, some schools have gardens, but students often view farming as a punishment. With this in mind, and inspired to promote farming amongst young people, Grace wants to produce farm radio programs for the students to listen to on their new radios. She hopes that, in the long term, students will see farming as a viable way to earn a living.

In the short term, students will benefit from a school farming and feeding project that Grace has begun working on. The project aims to improve the quality of school meals and enhance the effectiveness of nutrition and agricultural education.

In an email, Grace explained why the school farming and feeding program is so important:

With rising costs of food, many parents cannot afford school lunches for their children. Yet when primary schools offer lunches, attendance by boys and girls from poor households surges. If a school can produce part of the meal, the costs are lower. Pupils can learn to grow crops, and then have the satisfaction of eating what they grow.

She also mentions the difficulties involved in organizing a school feeding program:

However, a major obstacle to a well-functioning school feeding program, particularly in an urban setting, is a lack of funding. Food usually has to be purchased at the market which is expensive.

Grace distributing high-protein maize to Sacred Heart High School, Uganda

As a first step, Grace obtained Quality Protein Maize from the National Agricultural Research Organization. The maize was distributed among five senior secondary schools. She plans to distribute maize to six primary schools in time for the next planting season, which starts in August.

Grace is now starting to work on the farm radio component of the school program. She thinks a sponsor would help get things started. She hopes that – as well as taking part in growing maize and eating it at school – the children will be able to listen to programs on their school radios and learn the value of farming.Grace Amito était en visite au Canada plus tôt cette année. Cela l’a inspirée à en faire plus pour son district. Pendant qu’elle était à Ottawa, elle a visité une école primaire où elle a parlé à des enfants à propos de son travail de radiodiffuseur à Mega FM, dans le district de Gulu, dans le nord de l’Ouganda. Un des enfants de 10 ans, Ella Jackson-Cappuccino, a déclaré:

« C’était intéressant de comprendre comment la radio aide les agriculteurs d’Afrique à cultiver plus de nourriture. J’ai bien aimé l’écouter [Grace] parler de la station de radio où elle travaille. Il était intéressant d’apprendre comment certaines petits villages ne possèdent qu’une radio et forment des groupes d’écoute pour l’écouter ensemble, contrairement à ici où nous avons des milliers de poste de radios. »

Grâce Amito distribue la radio à l'école secondaire Sacred Heart,Gulu, en Ouganda

Après sa visite, les enfants et les parents de l’école que Grace a visité ont décidé de cotiser des fonds pour offrir des postes de radios à ceux qui en ont le plus besoin. Avec l’argent collecté, Grace a pu acheter quatre radios. Elle a donné une radio à quatre des plus grandes écoles de Gulu. Les radios sont grandes et puissantes, de sorte qu’un groupe de 500 personnes puissent s’asseoir et l’écouter confortablement.

Mais Grace a voulu en faire encore plus pour ces écoles. À Gulu, certaines écoles ont des jardins, mais les étudiants considèrent souvent que l’agriculture est une corvée. Dans cet esprit, et désireuse de promouvoir l’agriculture auprès des jeunes, Grace veut produire des programmes de radio agricole pour que les élèves les écoutent sur leurs nouveaux postes de radios. Elle espère qu’à long terme, les étudiants verront l’agriculture comme un moyen viable de gagner leur vie.

À court terme, les étudiants bénéficieront d’une formation en agriculture et d’un projet d’alimentation sur lequel Grace a commencé à travailler. Le projet vise à améliorer la qualité des repas scolaires et à améliorer l’efficacité de la nutrition et de l’enseignement agricole.

Dans un email, Grace a expliqué pourquoi la formation agricole et le programme d’alimentation sont si importants:

« Avec la hausse du prix des denrées alimentaires, de nombreux parents ne peuvent pas se permettre d’offrir des déjeuners à leurs enfants. Pourtant, lorsque les écoles primaires offrent des déjeuners, la fréquentation par les garçons et les filles des ménages pauvres augmentent. Si une école peut produire une partie du repas, les coûts sont moindres. Les élèves peuvent apprendre à cultiver, et avoir la satisfaction de manger ce qu’ils cultivent.»

Elle mentionne également les difficultés liées à l’organisation d’un programme d’alimentation scolaire:

« Toutefois, un obstacle majeur pour qu’un programme d’alimentation scolaire fonctionne bien, en particulier en milieu urbain, c’est le manque de financement. La nourriture doit généralement être achetée au marché, ce qui est coûteux. »

Grâce distribution du maïs haute en protéines à l'école secondaire Sacred Heart, de l’Ouganda

Dans un premier temps, Grace a obtenu du maïs de l’Organisation nationale de recherche agricole. Le maïs a été distribué dans cinq lycées. Elle prévoit de distribuer du maïs à six écoles primaires à temps pour la prochaine saison de plantation, qui commence en août.

Grace commence désormais à travailler sur le volet radio rurale du programme scolaire. Elle pense qu’avoir un bailleur de fonds les aiderait à débuter. Elle espère qu’en plus de prendre part à la culture du maïs et des aliments pour leur école, les enfants seront en mesure d’écouter les programmes sur les radios de l’école et apprendre la valeur de l’agriculture.

In the midst of drought and famine in eastern Africa some hopeful news. A three-year study by Farm Radio International demonstrates conclusively that when properly used, radio is an effective way to give large numbers of African farm families knowledge needed to improve their food security, nutrition and livelihoods; knowledge that is vital in preventing famine in times of drought.

OTTAWA, 10 August 2011:

More than one in five of all African farm families living within the broadcast range of a carefully executed farm radio program series will adopt the new farming practices they heard about on the radio. That is the key finding of a newly released study by Canadian non-governmental organization, Farm Radio International.

For decades agricultural researchers have struggled to find ways to improve crop production and food security for small-scale farmers, especially those in Africa where drought and famine blight the already difficult lives of millions. Unfortunately, despite many promising findings, few farm families in Africa have taken advantage of any of the improvements. Food insecurity and malnutrition, especially among rural children and their mothers, is still a desperately serious problem. When drought is coupled with political instability a bad situation only gets worse.

Radio broadcasts designed to convince farmers in Africa to adopt these better technologies seem to have had little impact—until now. Farm Radio International, with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, created a new kind of farm radio program model and tested it for three years. It was a carefully designed experiment run in five African countries in partnership with 25 radio stations.

The program model is called a Participatory Radio Campaign (PRC) and differs in several key respects from traditional farm radio in Africa. The PRC gives farmers (men and women) voice in the programs. Their stories of trial, difficulty, innovation, struggle and success form the core of the broadcasts. Over the course of a 13 week broadcast season these farmers become the opinion leaders, not just for their own communities but for all the communities in the listening area. The shows are lively, entertaining and value farmers. The result has been large audiences and significant adoption of new practices in all regions where the Participatory Radio Campaign methodology was tested.

The way this program was done in terms of presentation and our voices being heard on air have made it to be a favourite program for most people,  said Rhoda Chatama, a farmer in Malawi.

In fact in villages where the only extraordinary intervention was information from the radio campaign about two thirds of the population said they listened to the broadcasts regularly and half could correctly answer a set of questions about what they had learned. Most significant of all, at least a fifth decided to try the improved practice.

Farm Radio International demonstrated its capacity to lead a multi-country research for development project and achieve extraordinary results, says Mercy Karanja, the Senior Program Officer for Agricultural Development with the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation.

The Foundation recently awarded Farm Radio International further funding to implement the methodology with partners all across Africa.


For a one-page brief on the Participatory Radio Campaigns, click here.

Next week, I am heading to Washington DC for the final stage of the Saving Lives at Birth competition! I would really appreciate your vote for World University Service of Canada (WUSC) and Farm Radio International’s project.  Click here to register.  Receive an email with your password.  To vote, look for: Empowering WomenThrough Radio: A Demand Driven Communication Strategy to Transform Maternal and Newborn Health in Tanzania and Uganda.

Farm Radio International has proven that participatory radio campaigns are an excellent way to help African farmers learn about and put into practice new sustainable agriculture methods. We have proposed to Saving Lives at Birth that we use participatory radio strategies combined with voice-based services to; share knowledge and improve access to information, strengthen links between families, service providers and policy makers, contribute to a stronger voice for expectant mothers, and, ultimately, through new practices and behaviors, produce remarkable gains in maternal and newborn survival and health.

Out of over 600 applicants, WUSC and Farm Radio International’s project idea was one of only 70 to reach this stage! Half of the short-listed applicants will receive grants from the Saving Lives at Birth program. If we win this vote, I will get the opportunity to present our project idea to a larger group of decision makers which will in turn boost our chances of being selected for a grant to implement it.

We know that radio can enhance and save lives with vital information that can reach millions of people in Africa! Click here to vote now! The final day for voting is July 27.

Thanks for your help!

Kevin Perkins

Farm Radio International, Executive Director

Left to right: Girma Mulugeta (Ethiopia), Lydia Ajono (Ghana) and Kedija Siraj (Ethiopia)

As part of a new program to build lasting capacity in Africa, Farm Radio International recently conducted the first of what will be a series of training trainers workshops. For two weeks in Addis Ababa eight of the brightest African rural broadcasters worked with Farm Radio International’s new training manager, former CBC radio and television broadcaster, David Mowbray, to hone both broadcast and training skills.

The trainers will each work for a month at a time in partner radio stations doing what FRI is calling “Integrated Station Training”. Their goal is to bring a culture of quality into a station’s rural radio broadcasts but do it with the cooperation and blessing of station management.

All too often trainers come to Africa from the developed world for a week and then leave. Our trainers are African and they will train other Africans. We believe that is a more sustainable approach.                                                    David Mowbray

The first workshop had participants from Ghana, Tanzania, Malawi and Ethiopia. Each participant brought with them skills in broadcasting and had worked as mentors and trainers in the past.

This story was part of Farm Radio’s spring newsletter, Network News. Click here to read more,