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Script 95.2

Notes to broadcasters

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This broadcaster info doc is a companion piece to Item 1 on conducting audience research. It features an interview with Philip Chinkhokwe, a radio producer at Nkhotakota Community Radio Station in Malawi. In the interview, Philip explains how his station conducts audience research, and gives an example of research conducted for programs on conservation agriculture. The second part of this document is a transcript from a radio program on conservation agriculture, based on the audience research described in the interview.

Read through this piece and see if there are any similarities between how your station conducts audience research and how Nkhotakota conducts audience research. Are there any lessons you can learn from Nkhotakota’s practices? Note how prominently the voices of farmers feature in Nkhotakota’s programming, and how the station makes the best use of scarce resources by taking advantage of other programs’ budgets and other organizations’ programs.

As mentioned in Item 1, to effectively create farm programming that is relevant to your listeners’ needs, you must know your audience, and know what kind of farming information is important to them. Some of the research activities that Philip describes below are good ways to know your audience and find out about their needs.

Script

Introduction:
When radio stations talk to their listeners about what they want to hear on the radio, station programming can better meet listeners’ needs. Listeners can participate in programming by telling you what they need to hear and when they want to hear it, and by making their voices heard on-air.

The following broadcaster info docis divided into two sections. The first section is an interview with Philip Chinkhokwe, a producer at Nkhotakota Community Radio Station in Malawi. In the interview, Philip describes how his station conducts research to create farmer programs with partners such as the Ministry of Agriculture and non-profit organizations. The second section is a transcript of part of a program that Philip produced, based on research he and his colleagues conducted.

Part I:
Interview with radio producer

Interviewer:
Can you please tell us who you are and what your role is here at Nkhotakota Community Radio Station?

Philip Chinkhokwe:
My name is Phillip Chinkhokwe and I’m a radio producer and ICTOfficer. Much of my work involves collecting material for programs by making field recordings, documenting success stories, and gathering feedback from listeners.

Interviewer:
How do you conduct research here at Nkhotakota Community Radio Station?

Philip Chinkhokwe:
Many of our programs – for example, agriculture, health or education programs – are done together with an organization in our district. For farming programs, the Department of Agriculture conducts a needs assessment of a certain farming sector and then identifies best practices that farmers should adopt. Then they guide us to areas where farmers are actively growing the crops we will address in our radio program.

Over the course of programs on, for example, maize, we visit farmers in these areas regularly. We record their voices and feature them in our programs, and we document success stories. The farmers also receive direct extension services. These farmers are called “active” listeners.

The agriculture department directs us to other areas where farmers are also growing these crops but have not adopted best practices as widely as the “active” farmers. These farmers simply listen to the program and give us feedback. We visit them sometimes to record success stories and to assess the impact of our programs on people who are just listening. These we call the “passive” listeners.

Interviewer:
What do you do when you first visit these farmers?

Philip Chinkhokwe:
We ask farmers about their strengths and weaknesses, and theiropportunities and challenges. [Editor’s note: for guidelines on how to get this information, see Item 1 in this Resource Pack]. Then we form listening clubs in communities which are interested and where people feel the program might address their need for information. We form the clubs with the help of extension workers and chiefs. The chiefs call a meeting in the village and we attend the meeting along with the extension workers. Clubs usually have about 10 members. We brief the listeners on the coming programs.

Interviewer:
After the listening clubs have been formed, what happens next?

Philip Chinkhokwe:
Then we produce program promos to raise awareness about the upcoming programs. Besides active and passive areas, there are other listeners who hear about the program through our promos and call the station to express interest in participating. These listeners form clubs, and, like the active and passive listeners, we track their activities and improvements over the course of the program and after the project has phased out. We are very interested in how farming practices are sustained after programs are completed. The promos give phone numbers that listeners can call if they have formed a listening club.

Interviewer:
What is your aim in giving out these phone numbers?

Philip Chinkhokwe:
Every program area has a specific phone number where people can give feedback. For example, we have one phone number for health, one for education, and one for agriculture.

Some listeners also write letters. We have mailboxes in the centre of the village. A villager collects the letters once or twice a month and our marketing staff goes round the villages to receive them.

Interviewer:
Could you share with us an example of a program that was based on audience research findings?

Philip Chinkhokwe:
I’m involved in agricultural programming. As a producer, I make sure that the information I give to farmers is precise, balanced and reliable. One of my programs focuses on climate change, which is requiring farmers to change some of their farming practices.

I discovered that farmers are not getting consistent information from different government and non-governmental organizations.

Sometimes the farmer just ignores the inconsistent messages and does nothing about the practices which are being encouraged. At other times, the farmer discontinues a practice when he receives conflicting messages. The farmer doesn’t know who to believe, so just stops the practice totally.

So I did some research on these inconsistent messages, specifically on conservation agriculture. I went to an area where NASFAM – the National Smallholder Farmers’ Association of Malawi – provides extension services. I also went to an area where the NGO Concern Worldwide provides extension services. I visited a third area where extension is provided by Total Land Care, and a fourth area where government extension workers provide services.

In all four areas, I saw how farmers are using conservation agriculture practices. I concentrated on pit planting, which is planting crops in pits and laying stalks on the surface of the soil to conserve moisture.

I wanted to see if there were differences in how the farmers were practicing conservation farming. I also wanted to find out which of the extension providers could give me standard and reliable information on conservation agriculture so that I could air that information on the radio.

I interviewed one farmer in each of the four areas, and asked them about the information they received from the extension workers.

Interviewer:
What did you find out?

Philip Chinkhokwe:
First, I found that the farmers know about the ability of conservation agriculture to reduce the negative effects of climate change. Also, I found that different organizations were recommending different practices on laying stalks and using herbicides. The four farmers I interviewed – and some other farmers – recommended that information on these practices should be standardized.

Interviewer:
Were there any other findings from the research?

Philip Chinkhokwe:
I found that, despite the conflicting messages, farmers still use thepractices. They sit down in the village and discuss amongst themselves what practices to adopt from the messages they hear from different extension workers. Sometimes they combine the messages and try a new method.

In some cases, I found that farmers had done pit planting, but had also laid ground cover. Because the farmers were also told about planting vetiver grass and making marker ridges, they also adopted those practices. They adopted every message they heard. They did not want to abandon the practices they were encouraged to try, so they decided to try them all in one field.

Interviewer:
Were there any research findings you did not expect?

Philip Chinkhokwe:
Yes, I found that the farmers teach each other every new thing they learn. On the negative side, I found that, after farmers learn a new practice, they abandon the old one, thinking that the new one is more effective. For example, a woman was using the stalk laying method. She was thoroughly trained in the method, and had even become a lead farmer who taught her fellow farmers how to do it. But when another organization taught her about pit planting, she totally abandoned laying stalks and concentrated on pit planting.

There are other farmers who, when they learn a practice, they get stuck on it so much that they don’t want to learn anything new. Their attitude is “This is how I do it and this is what I was trained in and it’s the best.” They have trust in the person who trained them and may not easily trust someone who comes with different information.

Interviewer:
How were these research findings incorporated into your programming?

Philip Chinkhokwe:
My main interest was to air standardized information about conservation agriculture. After interviewing the farmers, I interviewed the experts. I wanted to create a consistent message that explained the basic principles of conservation agriculture about pit planting and laying stalks. So I brought together information from the experts and the farmers in order to determine the information that was standard.

Interviewer:
What did you do next?

Philip Chinkhokwe:
I edited the program and took it to the production team – which includes extension workers – so they understood the story behind the research. Then I re-edited the program to be ready for the listening audience.

Interviewer:
Briefly, what program did you come up with based on the findings of your research?

Philip Chinkhokwe:
I produced a 30-minute program on whether pit planting and laying stalks can help farmers in droughts and can increase yields. The people who were interviewed for the program explained how to conduct the practice. They talked about the benefits related to climate change mitigation and productivity, and the requirements for someone to follow the practice.

After the program aired, farmers who had used the practices called to give their testimonies. I edited the testimonies into five minute spots which were aired for other farmers to hear and be encouraged to adopt these practices.

Interviewer:
Were there any dedicated funds for the audience research?

Philip Chinkhokwe:
There was no funding for the audience research. We used the resources of an existing program on environmental issues.

Interviewer:
What is Nkhotakota doing to continue seeking feedback from listeners?

Philip Chinkhokwe:
We ask people to tell us what they like and dislike in our programs.This is done through the research desk where all our feedback systems are managed. We have FrontlineSMS and we have a call-in and call-out system separate from our live call-in and call-out programs. We recently set up an IVR [Editor’s note: Interactive Voice Response] system. Once this is functioning, it will also help us get feedback from listeners via SMS and voice. The community mail box agents are coached on how to probe listeners about our programming and what listeners would like us to be doing. We also have extension workers, especially in the agriculture and health sectors, who bring feedback to us.

The station has a social football team which has been formed for community interaction. We organize matches with communities and these are broadcast live, with community business people sponsoring the event. This helps station staff to travel around the district and meet listeners. When people call in, we ask them to tell us where they are calling from. This gives us an idea of how wide our coverage is. We record feedback from every field program.

We have a toll-free SMS line. Farmers who are Airtel subscribers can send free messages on this line. Farmers who have followed a practice that was recommended on a particular program state what they have done, learned, and how they have benefited, as well as the problems they are facing. We use this feedback to address questions that people ask when calling or sending an SMS. If the questions are more technical, such as a disease outbreak, we consult agricultural specialists. The experts also reinforce some of the messages we receive from farmers.

When NGOs and the Department of Agriculture have events in villages, we are invited to record and report on the event. This is also an opportunity to hear from listeners.

Apart from that, we also conduct community visits to radio listening clubs near Nkhotakota. We use these trips to hear and record peoples’ thoughts about our programming.

We have a good relationship with extension workers, who are free to visit the station. Farmers also tell extension workers that they would like a producer to visit their area to record their experiences with adopted practices. The Department of Agriculture provides a motorcycle to take us to areas where demand for our services is high.

Interviewer:
As a community radio station, are you committed to investing resources on conducting audience research?

Philip Chinkhokwe:
Frankly, it is very difficult for a community radio station to invest its resources in research. I did the research for the program on conservation agriculture from my own interest. I had to use personal resources when funding from the station was not enough. But the station supported me in gathering feedback, especially the research desk. But, all in all, community radio stations do not invest in audience research because they don’t have the finances.

Interviewer:
If you were provided with funding, do you think the station would invest in audience research?

Philip Chinkhokwe:
Yes. As a community radio station, we have so many ideas that we could look into, but we are limited by lack of financial resources. We broadcast programs, but transportation is a challenge, so only listeners close to us benefit from face-to-face visits. When other organizations have projects that target distant areas, we take the initiative to reach out to faraway communities.

Interviewer:
As a radio station, do you seek information about the demographics of Nkhotakota’s audience, for example, age and gender?

Philip Chinkhokwe:
Generally, we consult the District Council, Department of Agriculture and the District Health Office for information on demographics. This information is important because you might make a program, but your target age group might not be present in the area.


Part II:
Transcript of program developed from the research

What follows is a four-minute excerpt from a program on pit farming aired on Nkhotakota Community Radio Station on August 1, 2012 and repeated on August 5, 2012. The excerpt was translated from the Chichewa language. The program was based on research conducted by Philip Chinkhokwe, who interviews a lead farmer involved with pit planting. The excerpt introduces the idea of climate change, and also introduces pit planting as a way to protect maize during droughts. The farmer explains how to conduct pit planting and the benefits of the practice.
Intro tune up and fade in with presenter

Presenter:
As farmers these days, we need to realize that the climate is changing, and this is causing a lot of complications to farming. If we won’t do anything about the issue, our farming will be heavily affected. Don’t forget that farming relies on natural resources. If these resources are being depleted, farming will also be endangered.

What are you, my fellow farmers, doing to counteract climate change? What practices are you following to conserve natural resources?

One problem that is arising because of climate change is drought. It is not strange to hear cases of the rains stopping before crops have matured and been harvested. This results in destruction of crops like maize because of inadequate water.

Today, we are going to learn how we can protect our maize during drought by following drought reduction practices like pit planting. In the program we have an interview with Mrs. Agnes Macheso from Group Village Head Nkhongo in Nkhotakota district.

Agnes Macheso:
Pit planting is a type of farming in which we dig pits and plant maize in them. We plant four maize seeds in a pit, one at each corner. The pit is 25 centimetres deep and 30 centimetres wide. [Editor’s note: for more details on pit planting of maize, see the reference at the end of this broadcaster info doc]

Philip Chinkhokwe:
Where did you learn this type of farming?

Agnes Macheso:
This is a type of farming we have just learned this year. It is being practiced in Zambia, and with the guidance of extension workers, we have decided to try out this type of farming this year in Malawi. If the performance is good, the technology will be rolled out in other areas across the country next year.

Philip Chinkhokwe:
What interested you to embrace this type of farming for the first time after hearing about it from farmers in countries like Zambia?

Agnes Macheso:
What has interested farmers in Malawi, including myself as a lead farmer, is that scientists have said that this type of farming is much more productive compared to using one maize seed per planting station in ridges. When rains come, the water goes directly into the pits, unlike ridges which do not hold water and cause maize to wilt when it’s sunny. Maize grown in pits will not wilt even after the rains have stopped, because the water collected during the rains will remain in the pits and sustain the plants.

Philip Chinkhokwe:
How do you think this will help your farming?

Agnes Macheso:
Even though I have never practiced this type of farming, based on the findings of the research that was done, it seems like this type of farming will benefit Malawians, and that next year a lot of farmers will adopt pit planting. According to those who conducted research on pit planting, maize grows well because all the water from the rains is directed into the pits.

Philip Chinkhokwe:
After you build these pits and the rains come and you plant maize seeds, what else do you have to do to make sure that the pits harvest high yields?

Agnes Macheso:
After the pits have been made, you apply fertilizer to the four maize seedlings in the pit. Two months after you apply fertilizer, all the maize seedlings will have grown at the same pace. At harvest time, you will have high yields.

Acknowledgements

Contributed by: Vijay Cuddeford, Managing Editor, Farm Radio International, based on materials collected by Tendai Banda and Philip Chinkhokwe.

Reviewed by: Doug Ward, Chairman, Farm Radio International

Project undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada provided through the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA)

Information Sources

Interview with Philip Chinkhokwe conducted by Tendai Banda, September 17, 2012.

Excerpt from program aired on Nkhotakota Community Radio Station, August 1, 2012.

For further information on planting maize in pits, see: Karen Sanje, 2011. Malawi farmers digging in to combat drier conditions. Alertnet, June 10, 2011.  http://www.trust.org/alertnet/news/malawi-farmers-digging-in-to-combat-drier-conditions/