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Farm Radio International benefits from the dedication of Board members who bring expertise in management, agriculture, radio broadcasting, development communications, finance, legal counsel, and fundraising. This fall, some of our Board members will step down, making room for new faces and points of view.

Janette McDonald of Alberta offers a wealth of experience communicating with farmers, demonstrating a commitment to sustainable agriculture and appropriate technology. She works with soil conservation groups in Alberta, has served as Executive Director of Alberta Pulse Growers, and has worked as a District Agriculturalist with the Alberta Department of Agriculture. With Farm Radio International, she served on the Board for nine years, with terms as Vice-President of the Board and as Chair of the Nominations Committee.

Please describe your most rewarding experience as a Board member of Farm Radio International.

Most rewarding: being part of an organization that chose to collaborate with another NGO (World University Service of Canada) to the benefit of both organizations and their global partners. Second most rewarding: being part of an organization that chose to strengthen its Board of Directors by bringing a resident of Africa onto the Board in 2012.

Based on your experience as a board member, how would you describe Farm Radio International’s work and potential to affect long-term food security in Africa?

In my experience, Canadian farm families have seen their autonomy slip away over the last two decades. Canadian farmers are producing huge volumes of material, but at a serious cost to our communities and local economies. Canadian agriculture started out “feeding the world” but increasingly we are serving the “well-fed.”

Farm Radio International’s commitment to small-holder, independent farmers gives me confidence that African farmers will have the information they need to feed their world and their communities in the future.

The staff and fellow Board members of Farm Radio International wish to thank Janette for many dedicated years of service

Jefferson Massah calls himself part of the Farm Radio International Family. As a rural radio journalist in Liberia, he uses skills that he learned from Farm Radio International training on a regular basis.

In fact, Jefferson recently wrote to tell us that he was named Development Journalist of the Year by the Press Union of Liberia. He won this award for a story about women in agricultural development in Liberia. As he explains:

I employed all the skills acquired from Farm Radio to produce a very good report from a rice processing center managed by group of rural women in central Liberia.

“I am very pleased to imprint my contribution to the ‘achievement column’ of Farm Radio International as one who has immensely benefited [from] its training program”,  he adds.

Jefferson participated in two Farm Radio International script-writing courses, in 2009 and 2010. And he is about to embark on our latest web-based course. While previous online courses have helped broadcasters obtain basic research and story-telling skills, the Farmer Program eCourse will serve a broader purpose. It will provide participating African broadcasters with the tools to design a more effective and engaging regular farming program.

This course is designed for broadcasters who want to start a regular, weekly or daily farmer program, or for those who want to hone their skills to improve their station’s regular farmer program.

We know that African broadcasters are dedicated to serving their listening audiences (mostly small-scale farmers) but many have never had the opportunity to learn the basics of researching the needs of their audience or structuring a program.

The upcoming Farmer Program eCourse will help African radio broadcasters do just that.

Key Topics for the Farmer’s eCourse include:

• Identifying your audience and addressing the needs of small-scale farmers (both men and women) in your area.

• Telling stories and structuring your program to present different kinds of information and use multiple formats.

• Identifying and finding the resources needed to sustain your regular farmer program.

• Gathering audience feedback.

To graduate from the training course, participants will be expected to submit a complete design for a regular radio program for farmers. The best designs will be eligible for one-time seed funding to help them produce the program designed during the eCourse.

The Farmer Program eCourse is being run with the financial and technical support of the Commonwealth of Learning. If you’d like to read more about the eCourse, or view some of the training modules that broadcasters will learn from, please visit: http://ecourse.farmradio.org/.

The fall issue of Network News, the newsletter we produce three times a year to keep our supporters informed about our work, has been published. Learn about some of the things Farm Radio International has been up to in the past few months.

Some highlights include the launch of the Farmer Program e-Course, a new initiative called the Radio for Farmer Value Chain Development, the Rockefeller Foundation winning entry – FarmQuest, and donors who used the occasion of their 50th wedding anniversary to make a special gift to Farm Radio International.

To read the issue, click here.

A women's listening club

Small-scale farmers in Nigeria, particularly female farmers, are highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. In 2007, a project was initiated by the African Radio Drama Association (ARDA) in partnership with Farm Radio International and the University of Guelph with support from the Climate Change Adaptation in Africa Program supported by IDRC and the Department for International Development (U.K.). The project developed a special radio drama aimed at raising awareness and providing information to small-scale farmers in northern Nigeria about climate change adaptation. The 26-episode drama started airing weekly on several radio stations in April 2010 and broadcast to an estimated 20 million listeners in four northern Nigerian states targeted by the project – Borno, Kano, Kaduna, and Katsina.

Using the “edutainment” approach of combining entertainment with educational messages about climate change adaptation, the radio drama features Ribadu, a Fulani herdsman who weaves an intriguing storyline based on the lives of ordinary women and men who seek to balance life with livelihood amidst unpredictable weather patterns. The program was produced in two languages, Hausa and Fulfulde, and aired by nine radio stations with two additional stations expressing their interest in carrying the program for free. The storyline features numerous farming improvements such as rainwater harvesting, preventing soil erosion and managing crop pests and diseases. Each episode highlights the ways in which northern Nigerian farmers develop coping strategies to adapt to and mitigate the impact of climate change on their livelihoods.

The project was a complex undertaking with dramatic events behind the production scene itself. Tragically, over the course of the project, ARDA faced the deaths of a wonderful scriptwriter and a supportive broadcaster. There were delays caused by painstaking adjustments of the technical content to fit local farming conditions and to ensure that the uncertainty of climatic variability in northern Nigeria was taken into account. As well, the project involved an iterative process of data collection and analysis to inform pre-broadcast (baseline) and ex-poste (end-line) surveys of 3,000 farmers.

As the Hausa proverb, “In Kidi ya Chanza”, that gave this radio drama its name suggests:  “when the drumbeats change, the dancers have to change their steps.”

Just how effective can a radio drama be in educating farmers to help them adapt to climate change?

• The evaluation work of the radio drama found that:

• 78% of respondents were familiar with the radio drama

• 84% of female and 68% of male listeners stated the program increased their awareness of climate change adaptation

• The vast majority (92.8%!) of respondents who gained awareness from the program reported that they took action

Radio Listening Clubs reinforced listener engagement with the storylines, ensuring that each episode was eagerly awaited. The evaluation found that the groups also encouraged individual farmers to take action on their farms to mitigate the effects of climate change.

TO READ the full script of the drama, click here.

By Dr. Helen Hambly Odame, University of Guelph

Farm Radio International Board member

Farm Radio International wishes to express its sincere thanks to ARDA and its partners for the opportunity to work together on such an innovative project.

Nelly Bassily, Farm Radio International staff, at the launch of Barza, Novemeber 11, 2011.

On November 11, at the World University Service of Canada (WUSC) International Forum, Farm Radio International was proud to launch BARZA, an exciting new social networking site for African radio broadcasters. As more and more African broadcasters are using the Internet, the potential to connect these broadcasters online – to help them share scripts and other radio content with each other, and develop their broadcasting skills – has also grown. That is exactly what Barza does. “Barza” is a Congolese Swahili word that means ‘meeting under a tree’ – an apt name for this new social network.

In addition to sharing radio scripts, broadcasters can share radio programs, access resources for their shows for farmers, participate in discussion groups, and participate in on-line training activities.

As Doug Ward (Chair of the Board for Farm Radio International) put it:

in the 1980’s and 1990’s Farm Radio International provided a one-way ‘top down’ service, sending radio scripts out to broadcasters for them to use in their programs. With the launch of Barza, we now offer opportunities for peer-to-peer sharing across a large network of broadcasters. It’s an exciting new era.

We would like to thank the International Development Research Center as well as the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) for supporting this initiative. We would also like to thank Digital4Good, a web development company based in Cape Town, South Africa, who worked with the Farm Radio International team to develop Barza.

Fatogomo Sanago interviewing a farmer at the market in Fana, Mali.

Wednesday is market day in the town of Fana, Mali. There’s a busy energy in the air as farmers, traders, and other villagers gather to buy, sell and talk. In the middle of it all is Fatogoma Sanago, program director at Radio Fanaka. He uses his digital audio recorder to capture the sounds of people bargaining and chickens clucking. Fatogoma uses these recordings, along with interviews and information about market prices, for his program Aw Ni Sugu, or “Thank you for being at the market.”

Farm Radio International has named Fatogoma the 2011 recipient of the George Atkins Communications Award. The award recognizes rural radio broadcasters for their outstanding contribution to food security and poverty reduction in low-income countries. Fatogoma is responsible for all programming on rural issues at Radio Fanaka. He is also a presenter.

Fatogomo Sanago at Radio Fanaka in Fana, Mali.Fatogoma began producing Aw Ni Sugu as part of Farm Radio International’s African Farm Radio Research Initiative. He says he loves hosting the program, which helps farmers connect to discuss market challenges and solutions. After each broadcast, he takes questions from listeners via phone calls and text messages. He is proud that this program has informed farmers about ways to earn more money at the market, for example, by vaccinating their chickens.

Fatogoma’s career in radio began in 1995, when he came to Fana to visit his grandmother. At the time, Fatogoma’s uncle worked for Radio Fanaka, and Fatogoma decided he wanted to learn everything about radio production. He accompanied radio hosts (and carried their bags) when they visited villages. In the studio, he followed technicians. One day, Fatogoma was hired as a technician’s assistant, and his career took off from there.

On hearing that he was the winner of the George Atkins Communications Award, Fatogoma said:

I am very happy to receive this prize. It gives me more strength to work more with farmers.

An article about Fatogoma Sanago’s George Atkins Communications Award win was featured in the Ontario Farmer: Broadcaster Brings Agricultural News to Rural Africa.