By Steph Stroud, Farm Radio International
At Farm Radio International, we understand the power of radio. We use radio broadcasts to inform, discuss, exchange ideas, investigate and learn. Radio is cheaper than television to produce and use. And it’s not limited by literacy, as written formats such as newspapers are. Even better, radio can be shared amongst friends and communities.
Listening to radio as a group encourages our audience to get more than just information from our broadcasts. We use listening groups to encourage discussion and participation in our radio programmes. In community listening groups the Lifeplayer is an integral tool to making radio broadcast and conversation easy and accessible. It acts as a media player, radio and recording device. It has the ability to record broadcast for later playback, and record the voices of its listeners. As the Lifeplayer has been specifically designed for use in remote communities – often places Farm Radio is trying to reach through radio programming – locations without electricity or battery access, its solar powered and winding mechanism prove essential as power sources. It is loud, durable and easy to use, and its effectiveness is demonstrated by the many success stories of community listening groups across our targeted regions.
The 25 members of the Kirangira Farmers’ Association community listening group, in Uganda’s Central Region, meet once a week to listen to the radio on their Lifeplayer. Listening to the radio is vital to their farm work, as it provides valuable information. But these farmers don’t just gain knowledge from radio, by coming together to listen, they learn from each other.
By working together and fostering discussions, the group have adopted many new practices. They discuss different pesticides for managing pests, and made changes to how they clear their gardens, handle products post-harvest and have improved the quality control of their beans. “In a group, you become stronger than as individuals.” says member David Sebina.
In Malawi we have helped put to air special programmes such as ‘Cassava Doctor on Air’. Focused on preventing cassava mosaic disease, members of the Chitontho Farmers Club were able to help other farmers combat the disease by sharing their experiences live on-air. The group records discussions on their Lifeplayer and submits them to the radio station. These are then played on air ensuring other listeners benefit in the same way.
For women, listening groups are particularly important. Listening groups are an opportunity for women to come together to listen and discuss what is being broadcast on the radio. By joining together in this way, listening groups offer an opportunity for women to empower each other and themselves through unity and support.
The Mearenet women’s radio listening group, from the Tigray region of Ethiopia, meet regularly to listen to their local radio station. But they do much more than just listen. Each week, the women discuss what they hear on the radio and record questions or comments that are then sent to the station. By playing these recordings on air, women are given a voice, loudly and across the airwaves. It gives them an opportunity to influence what is broadcast. Thanks to the Lifeplayer, the women of Mearenet say they have developed confidence, and feel more valued and valuable to the community now that their contribution to the farming is being recognised.
Once a week, Aster Etuche takes her Lifeplayer (where it is locked away as a prized possession) to her community listening group. Aster and the village women in Awash Bune kebele, in the Oromia Region, tune in to Atota, a farmer program on Oromia Radio. It was on this program that Aster and her group first heard about the Aybar BBM – a broad-bed and furrowmaker that weighed half of what the plough they were using did. They all wanted the Abyar BBM, so they pooled their money and take turns using it before planting wheat.
By joining together as more than just a listening group, the women saved money while improving their farming techniques. Now six farming families share the one plough and have increased their wheat harvests by 25%.
It may seem like a simple piece of equipment, but one Lifeplayer radio set is able to achieve all this. Communities and groups listening to a radio set, learning and participating, is able to set off a chain reaction. A Lifeplayer enables us to teach, learn, empower and influence change that can help and benefit the lives of many.