Notes to broadcasters
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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)
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/