If you’ve been following our work closely for the past few years, you may already be familiar with the story of Masiye Mwale, whose life was forever changed when she was given a radio in payment for work.
Initially disappointed not to have received cash, Masiye soon learned that the radio was worth its weight in gold.
The knowledge that she gained from the radio helped her become a successful farmer, and she no longer struggles to provide for her six children because of what she is able to do with her small plot of land in rural Zambia.
You may not, however, be familiar with Martin Chisinka Mwape, the broadcaster who captured Masiye’s moving story.
Martin didn’t always work on air. He attended engineering school and worked as a primary school teacher, computer data clerk, and lecturer. In 2006, he broke into radio, starting as a technician. Martin remembers his early days in radio.
“There were times when all machines were working well and I had nothing to do — but those in journalism had lots of work to do! So instead of doing nothing, I decided to help them. I started helping by doing what is called continuity presentation, news translating and casting, and program production and presentation.”
Ten years later, Martin works as a producer, presenter, and production trainer at Breeze FM, in the Chipata District of eastern Zambia. Breeze FM is a private station that broadcasts to the Eastern Province of Zambia and into parts of the Northern, Central, and Muchinga Provinces. The station’s signal can also be picked up in parts of Malawi and Mozambique. Listenership is approximately one million. Martin thinks that Breeze FM stands out because of its commitment to its listeners.
“It puts the community first. It uses community voices in its programming and covers community issues. It gets their concerns and provides them with feedback from authorities … [O]ur station gives the community a platform for information-sharing.”
Breeze FM also visits communities and records topical programs in the field.
When Martin started producing programs, he was told that he’d have to generate his own ideas. He wasn’t sure where to start. He was told to simply focus on helping someone live a better life. His thoughts immediately turned to farmers. He recalls, “I decided to help a farmer, and because I was also a farmer, I started doing that, and it was making me happy.”
Currently, Martin is involved in many farmer programs at Breeze FM, including Tiganizile (Let’s Ponder), The Plant, Sustainable Living, and Ulimi ndi Malonda (Farming is a Business). He says the audience enjoys the programs — they call or write the station, or they visit the station to give feedback. Audience members suggest topics, ask for clarification, and demand that more voices from the community get on air, especially in places where people have not spoken on the radio before.
Martin says the farmer programs are popular because “they offer practical, useful, relevant, and up-to-date information.” He says his favourite part of broadcasting is “producing and presenting a program in which a problem is identified by a community member and solutions are provided by a community member, with authorities supporting the solution.”