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The right wave length: 70,000 radio interactions in Tanzania

28 February 2017: Japhet Emmanuel reviews the progress of Farm Radio International and its partners in disseminating messages to farmers in Tanzania:

The common bean and soybean radio campaigns are now in full swing. So far, nearly 90 radio programs have been broadcast, each with a weekly repeat. We have clocked up over 67,750 interactions with listeners. This means on average, every broadcast has generated over 750 interactions.

We have identified 14,760 people who have been in contact with us on a regular basis. That means that the average number of time people contact us during a campaign is around 4 times. This feedback from listeners directly influences how the next upcoming radio programmes are refined.

So far, the partner radio stations have been:

  • Radio 5 – 21 broadcasts on common beans targeting the Northern regions
  • Habari Njema FM – 20 broadcasts on common beans targeting North-western regions
  • Radio Maria – 15 broadcasts on soybean targeting Ruvuma · Abood – 15 broadcasts on soybean targeting Morogoro
  • Kings FM– 21 broadcasts on soybean targeting Njombe

We have been working in partnership the Catholic Relief Service –  Soya ni Pesa project team to produce the programs on soybean. For the first four radio stations have radio stations we have mapped the coverage, and will estimate potential audience. Additional research over the coming months will help us to identify the share of that potential audience we reached.

Radio forms the backbone of the SILT campaign strategy. Around the areas that the radio stations will reach, our partners design other interventions such as demo plots, training days, extension activity, print including posters for agro-dealers or leaflets for farmers.

One of the features of Farm Radio’s approach is the recruitment of community radio listening groups. These are groups of neighbours who sit together to listen to the weekly radio program. This works in two ways – first it stimulates debate which helps farmer to engage more with the programs. Secondly the moderators of the groups feedback on any areas of confusions – these are then addressed in subsequent broadcasts.

The listening groups in the current soybean campaign are moderated by the FIPS-Africa village-based advisors. These are trusted local farmers offering a service which is a hybrid of agro-dealing and extension. These advisors are also working to address the chronic seed shortage by developing a scaling up operation for Quality Declared Seed, also as a result of a series of the SILT project partner’s interventions. FRI and AFAP have been working with the Agricultural Seed Agency and CABI has put in place the arrangement on the ground with FIPS-Africa. This shows how the planning and co-ordination of the project has developed to allow for more synergies to be achieved between the partners.

More structured planning, more regular communication and better understanding of what partners can deliver, have all helped to improve delivery of integrated extension services to farmers. All materials in the campaigns, including the radio scripts, are based on a shared technical brief. This is the way that the project achieves a consistent message.

One of the challenges that has had to be addressed is the need to retime radio content to fit with the planting season. This year the rains were very late – about 6 weeks later than usual. This meant that we had to revise the broadcast schedules so that our programs mirrored the planting season. Broadcast media, like radio and television, and SMS and voice telephony, offer this level of flexibility and mean that dynamic information like weather or market prices can be disseminated in a timely way.

A second challenge has been consistency of message and the inclusion of local experts in the program. Whilst they have been giving information broadly consistent with the technical brief – some local experts have deviated from the core message. Farm Radio now have in place an expert who scrutinizes the contributions from farmers and extension staff and ensure the consistency of the message is maintained.

Another innovation in these campaigns has been the introduction of Agri-Tips sent to farmers. 15 different tips on soybean have been disseminated to farmer.

An example of an Agri-Tip is: “Things to consider when planting soybeans: check the spacings according to the type of soybean you are planting. Most soybean spacings are 15cm along the row and 45cm between the rows.”

This approach was not originally part of the campaign design but have been successfully introduced and appears to be useful to farmers.

There is one other innovation that is currently under development. This involves creating a radio show on common bean with a very different sound and feel. The decisions about radio listenership can be complex.

Radios are often seen as the property of the men in the house and so they have a lot of influence over what is heard. We want to create some radio content that will especially appeal to women – this may use more songs, drama sketches and a more entertaining format but still with the same attention to the technical brief. Thembi Mutch, a media and gender specialist has been contracted to provide technical support for this project.

Radio Habari Njema has been selected as the partner radio station. This is a delicate balancing item – if this is marketed a program for women – they may find it harder to access the station – because the men might reject it.  So, we are looking a gendered content but delivering it by stealth to the whole family. It will be really interesting to see the feedback and to find out if the whole family appreciates an approach designed for women. We will keep you informed.