Notes to broadcasters
Farmers work hard to produce a good crop. But after all that work, buyers come to their farms, or meet farmers at markets, only to have the buyers pay farmers far less than they need to survive. Farmers are often underpaid by market intermediaries – middlemen or middle-women.
So what can farmers do? Do they have any options? Well, there are a few good answers to that question. One is: listen to Marketing Information Services (MIS) on a local radio station. MIS programs tell farmers the current prices in the markets, so that they can start the bargaining process equipped with up-to-date knowledge on prices and market conditions. Thus equipped, they may decide to take their produce to the local market. Or they may go to a nearby market that offers better prices. But these options are only possible if the local radio station offers an MIS program. And unfortunately, that’s a big “if.”
From 2007 to 2010, Farm Radio International implemented a project called the African Farm Radio Research Initiative, or AFRRI for short. This project was strongly participatory, in part because it asked farmers to identify those issues which were most important to them. These farming issues then became the focus of a Participatory Radio Campaign, or PRC. As well as farming topics, farmers indicated that they were very interested in marketing information services. In response, AFRRI worked with five radio stations in four countries to broadcast enhanced marketing information services. This script is a report on those programs.
This script talks about the creative and effective MIS programs that were broadcast as part of AFRRI. These programs go far beyond simply reading out market prices on air. They educate farmers on how to plan for the coming year; they alert farmers to price trends for different crops, and they tell farmers which commodities are “hot” and which are not. On some programs, farmers can phone in and talk on-air to the broadcasters, and ask questions and get more information. On other programs, broadcasters help connect buyers and sellers.
This is the second part of a two-part series on MIS. This script talks about MIS programs in Uganda and Tanzania and makes some observations about the best ways to broadcast MIS programs. Part one reports on MIS in Mali and Ghana.
Welcome to part two of our program on Marketing Information Services. Yesterday, we talked about MIS programs broadcast in Mali and Ghana. Today we will talk about MIS campaigns in Uganda and Tanzania. Then we will talk about some of the lessons learned by conducting these campaigns. (Short pause
) Let’s start with Uganda.
There were many MIS programs on the radio in Uganda at the time the AFRRI radio campaign started. But Ugandan farmers wanted more interactive, informative and timely services. They wanted programs that would help them understand the market more broadly and provide a wider range of prices. Stations wanted to provide these services, but found it challenging to provide and fund effective, long-term MIS programming.
To address farmers’ wishes,
Mega FM designed and broadcast an MIS campaign from Gulu, in northern Uganda. Grace Amito was the host of the program. The program gathered prices from local markets and from organizations that collect market information across the country.
Mega FM broadcast a 45-minute MIS program every Monday. The program broadcast prices of the main crops from local and national markets, but also talked about group marketing, adding value to crops, and how to understand and use market information.
Farmers were strongly involved in the MIS program. When hosts visited markets, they interviewed farmers and broadcast their discussions. Farmers also called the station to discuss marketing issues on-air with the host and with agricultural experts.
The MIS program became one of the most popular shows on Mega FM. This success was partly due to the program’s regular and frequent interactions with farmers – on their farms, in the markets and at agricultural shows. Mega FM staff believe that these interactions created bonds of trust and confidence that were stronger than those possible only by providing market prices. Incorporating listener feedback was a big improvement over simply broadcasting prices with little audience interaction. Here’s host Grace Amito.
We previously broadcasted issues that were “assumed” to be the challenges of farmers, and we did not give thought to research. But through AFRRI … our radio has gained a lot of learning.
Here’s a farmer success story. Nasur Odur grows beans, maize,simsim
and groundnuts in Oyam District. His key marketing challenge is the poor road system, which results in very high transport costs. The lack of useful marketing information is also a worry, as are changing market prices.
Mr. Odur’s main challenge of low prices was addressed by regularly listening to MIS programs that broadcast prices at district and national markets. He recalls that Mega FM’s earlier MIS program did broadcast prices, but that he was not keen to follow because he did not know the meaning of the prices.
When Mega FM explained the use of the price announcements and the benefit that farmers could receive from using these prices, I started following. And when I discovered that they could match with some prices in the markets, I began using the radio price announcements to help me know the selling price.
With his new knowledge of prices, Mr. Odur faced some challenges with middle-men. They complained that his price was always high. But Mr. Odur felt that having a price in mind made him comfortable with negotiations.
Sometimes they want you to mention a very low price. Then they mention the lowest price. But if you are aware of the current price, you bargain accordingly, because you know where you will stop and you have determined the price below which you cannot sell.
Mega FM and the AFRRI team conducted a listener survey after the campaign. The survey showed that 94% of listeners in communities that could hear the program and that received extension support were aware of the program. In communities which could hear the program but received no extension support, 90% of listeners were aware of the program. Almost two-thirds of survey respondents in both types of communities said that Mega FM’s program was “always useful.” And more than 80% of survey respondents said that Mega FM’s MIS program was always relevant to the products they bought and sold.
Host 1:The evaluation concluded that a key to Mega FM’s success with the MIS program was the strong involvement of station staff. Grace Amito’s commitment to her work shows how radio stations can play an effective role in helping farmers achieve success in the market.
Mega FM’s popularity and its decision to work with agricultural businesses attracted sponsors who are now supporting a continuation of the MIS program. The station’s approach provides a successful model for other radio stations who want to create ongoing MIS programming.
Let’s take a short break, then move on to Tanzania.
Short musical break
Radio Maria broadcasts from Songea, Tanzania. Lilian Manyuka hosted Radio Maria’s twice weekly MIS program, which was a five-minute segment on a program calledHeka Heka Vijijini
(Busy busy in the village). The program was prepared by a reporter at the local market. Information was also collected by reporters at other markets across the country, from a government ministry, and directly from farmers.
Radio Maria’s program broadcast market prices for major crops. It also aired other market information, such as the number of chickens available in villages and the contacts of those who wanted to buy local chickens. There was also a focus on promoting marketing groups.
Farmers were involved in Radio Maria’s MIS program. They were interviewed on-air about their marketing challenges, and there were call-outs before the program to identify farmers with products to sell. Farmers who wished to be linked to buyers sent their contact information to the station.
The program was popular with farmers, particularly the part of the show that announced prices in distant markets. Radio Maria broadcasters felt that the program helped farmers make the link between growing crops or raising livestock and producing for the market. When farmers have accurate and timely information on the location of markets, crop and livestock prices, and how much of a particular crop each market requires, they have more bargaining power with the middle-men who visit their communities.
The program succeeded in helping farmers get higher prices for their chickens. Before the program, farmers typically received 3-5,000 Tanzanian shillings (US$1.75-2.90) per chicken. After the program, the price rose to 6-9,000 Tanzanian shillings (US$3.50-5.20).
Here’s a farmer success story. Happytime Shilingi raises local chickens, grows rice and maize, and sells his produce at the local village market once a week. Before Radio Maria’s MIS campaign, his main marketing challenges were not knowing which markets were best for him, the low prices offered by middle-men, and his inability to sell all 30 of his chickens.
Mr. Shilingi listened to program broadcasts and was interviewed on the program. When he heard prices from different markets, he stopped selling his products at a low price, and felt better equipped to bargain with middle-men. He and his neighbours organized a group and pooled their chickens, inspired by the MIS program. After Radio Maria broadcast the group’s contact information, buyers came from distant cities such as Dar es Salaam, Morogoro and Iringa to buy chickens at very good prices.
Radio Maria and AFRRI distributed a survey to listeners after the campaign was completed. The survey showed that 62% of listeners found the MIS program to be very useful at providing information on the products that the farmers were selling. Two-thirds or 67% of survey respondents found the programs useful for providing information about the produce they were buying.
Radio Maria’s program challenged farmers to produce for the market and helped them re-orient their production towards the market, rather than towards buyers and middle-men. When farmers heard about the high demand for chickens in other markets, they improved the quality of their chickens to meet the demand. The outcome was that farmers earned more income and linked with other farmers to sell higher quantities.
The demand for MIS programming from Radio Maria’s listeners led to the development of a new program.Kutoka Sukoniis an MIS program which is currently broadcast on Radio Maria, which reports from various markets across the country.
That concludes our report on AFRRI Marketing Information Services programs in four countries. They developed a broader approach to farmers’ marketing challenges, an approach that went beyond simply announcing market prices. Using new technologies such as cell phones helped farmers to participate in discussions about changes in prices, how to increase their yields, how to solve transportation challenges, and how to deal with middlemen. The hosts provided additional information to farmers when requested, and linked them to potential buyers.
Radio stations that broadcast improved MIS programming through Farm Radio International reported that their market price programs became more popular. When AFRRI ended, many of the radio stations continued to provide similar programming because of listener demand.
Stay tuned. We will be back in a minute to wrap up and talk about what we learned from these programs.
Short musical break
So, what did we learn from these MIS programs? What lessons should a radio station keep in mind if it wants to create effective MIS programs?
We are going to list six important lessons from the MIS programs. Here’s the first: because existing MIS programming is limited and under-financed and because radio stations cannot manage it alone, partnerships with different kinds of organizations are needed. These partnerships will help stations provide regular, accurate and well-documented information to farmers.
So establishing partnerships is the first important lesson! The second lesson is strongly related to the first. Radio stations are not equipped to broadcast ongoing MIS programs without external funding or carefully planned revenue. Stations must develop creative ways to find funding for their MIS programs.
External funding or carefully planned revenue! That is the second important lesson.
remember that farmers want more from MIS programs than just prices. They want to know all possible ways to increase their income from the crops they grow and the livestock they raise. They want to understand how markets work, and how to decide which crops to grow. The better they understand the market, the more success they will have.
So the third lesson is that farmers want and need more than just market prices. The fourth lesson is related to the third: farmers are always looking for better ways to sell their products. They need information on better marketing strategies, for example how to form farmer groups, how to get better prices at the farm gate, and other successful approaches.
So the fourth lesson is that MIS programs should give farmers information on better marketing strategies.
Here’s a fifth lesson: remember that women will benefit from greater access to market information. But for women to benefit, a station must target MIS programming on issues that affect women specifically, such as the production of shea butter in West Africa, or specific roles that women play in crop production and processing. If MIS programs target men only, women’s marketing opportunities will continue to be limited. This has a negative effect on all families.
So the fifth lesson is: design MIS programming that speaks to women’s specific interests and roles. Now here’s the sixth and final lesson. Interactive technology systems such as Farmer’s Fone are a popular and effective way to share market prices. Farmers used the service regularly, even when they had to pay for the call. But remember that stations will need training and support in order to effectively use these kinds of services.
That concludes our report on AFRRI’s four Marketing Information Services programs. Thanks for listening and goodbye for today.
- Contributed by: Vijay Cuddeford, managing editor, Farm Radio International
- Reviewed by: Sheila Huggins-Rao, Manager, Impact Programming, Farm Radio International
The information in this script is taken from an AFRRI report entitled, Marketing on the Airwaves: Marketing information services (MIS) and radio. The report is available at: http://bit.ly/farmradiomis