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.
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.