This is the focus of “In Tanzania, Farmers Reap the Benefits of Radio”, an article by Sarika Bansal published by The New York Times’ Blog “Opinionator” . As a matter of fact, even if more and more people have access to mobile telephony and other ICTs, radio remains the most widespread and trusted means of communication amongst those in rural communities: farmers rely on agricultural information delivered by radio shows to the point that they may decide to grow new types of vegetables if the “radio says so”.
This type of tailored information is the key reason behind the success of Farm Radio International (FRI), a Canadian nonprofit that runs radio programs in 38 radio stations across seven African countries. “Farmers want information they can use now – if they’re planting, they don’t want information about harvesting” stated Mercy Karanja, advisor for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on agricultural development in East Africa.
In order to best suit the needs of farmers, FRI developed the concept of an interactive radio: through the use of interactive software, radio stations such as the Tanzanian ‘Radio5’ allow farmers to take part in the live shows via their mobile phones; “for instance, farmers can call the station during a broadcast, text the station to answer a survey, and record their conversations to play on the air”.
Interactive radio, though, faces a number of difficulties: although the shows are quite efficient in terms of running cost, “they require considerable care and expertise to produce well”. Indeed, the specific interests of farmers in the same rural community may vary significantly: in the same village, people have different levels of education and engage in a wide variety of activities.
Though radio is not the ‘magic wand’ to solve all issues that farmers have to face, it certainly “can be an effective and inexpensive first step to introducing new ideas”.
Read the full article on The New York Times’ Opinionator now!