If one of every five people who were reached by an advertising campaign on the radio actually bought the product being advertised, the marketing world would be astonished. But that is exactly what has happened in a Farm Radio International project just completed in sub-Saharan Africa.
International development work faces two extremely tough and closely related problems. The first is to actually make a difference in the lives of the poor and the second is to measure that difference.
Farm Radio International has addressed both problems. We have made a significant difference to farmers and their families, and we have measured it. We have hard data, repeatable across sub-Saharan Africa, which shows the power of farm radio programs when they respect the voices of famers themselves.
Thanks to more than 30 years of support from our small army of donors, we were able to gain the knowledge and reputation which led to this research. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation realized that we were the only organization in the world with the knowledge and background to measure whether a well-designed radio program could bring knowledge to the rural poor that they would actually use.
With their funding we designed and executed a development and research project. It lasted more than three years and covered five countries. We worked alongside 25 radio station partners to produce a new kind of rural radio program. One in five farm families who lived in villages reached only by the radio signal, and with no other intervention from the project team, made the decision to try out the practices they heard about in these new radio programs.
“This is impressive,” says Dr. Marianne Banziger, the Deputy Director General of the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, on seeing our preliminary results.