Wednesday January 27 2016

Getting to the farmers via radio drama, mobile phone

In Uganda, radio is an ideal medium to reach

In Uganda, radio is an ideal medium to reach farmers. File photo 

By Lominda Afedraru

Extension workers are an important resource for farmers. They provide information on pests and diseases, advice on agronomy and post-harvest practices as well as the necessary support a farmer needs for better yields.
However, farmers in remote areas may not interact that much with the extension officers. But information communication technologies (ICTs) can help bridge the gap.

It is against this backdrop that Farm Radio International (FRI) has introduced a radio drama series through which extension service can get to farmers.
Askebir Geburu, the country director, FRI, says it will focus on encouraging farmers to grow the Vitamins-enhanced orange fleshed sweet potato varieties.
The programmes will air on 13 radio stations covering 23 districts in all the regions. These include Mega FM in Gulu, Radio Waa in Lira, Kamuli Broadcasting, CBS, Hunter FM, Radio Kiira and Voice of Kigezi.

FRI sourced actors to perform the drama which covers agronomy practices for orange fleshed sweet potatoes, market access and clean planting material.
The series will be produced on the selected radio stations at a given time where farmers will be allowed to call in using a beep-in mechanism. They will also send text messages to make the programme interactive. A number of radio producers were trained. They will manage the programme which will run for six months.

Reach out
Gebru says about four million listeners are expected to participate. About 1.5 million of them are farmers in the target districts which include Kamuli, Gulu, Oyam, Lira, Kole, Jinja, Namutumba, Masindi, Mukono, Bushenyi, Mbarara, Kanungu, Kabarole, Kamwenge and Kisoro.

Radio series
Sylvia Magezi, the country manager Harvest Plus, explains that it is important to educate farmers on the value of orange fleshed sweet potatoes because the variety was developed to curb vitamin deficiency in especially pregnant mothers and children.
The first radio drama series, known as My Children I, was aired last year. The second season, My Children II, began on January 21.

Scored success
Twenty-seven episodes will air across Uganda in seven languages. Each runs for 30 minutes followed by a call-in session in which the listeners to share their thoughts on the story.
“More than 75 per cent of Ugandans listen to the radio for information and entertainment, making it the ideal medium to promote orange-fleshed sweet potatoes,” Magezi notes.
The radio drama has scored success because awareness of orange-fleshed sweet potato has risen. There is high demand from farmers for planting material and tubers.
Okasai Opolot, the director crop protection at Ministry of Agriculture, who launched the project said it is important to use various methods of extension service to reach farmers and radio drama series is one of them.

How it works

The radio programme is combined with mobile phone technology where farmers are encouraged beep the radio station using a provided mobile phone number.
It allows them to participate because the ICT-packaged model enables the farmer to be called back for an interaction.
This innovative approach will combine radio and video to reach listening groups in districts where the selected radio stations are.