Host 1: Welcome to the program. Today, we will tell you about a project conducted by Nkhotakota Community Radio in Malawi, in collaboration with Farm Radio International’s African Farm Radio Research Initiative, or AFRRI. Nkhotakota Community Radio broadcast a Participatory Radio Campaign, or PRC, on the topic of 1-1 maize planting.
Host 2: In today’s program, we report on that successful PRC. Stay tuned to hear more about how this unique project not only helped bring greater food security to the District of Nkhotakota, but how it involved farmers closely in the production and broadcast of the programs and put farmers’ voices on the air!
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Host 2: Welcome back. Farm Radio International is a Canadian NGO that conducted a project called the African Farm Radio Research Initiative or AFRRI from 2007 to 2010. The project took place in five African countries – Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi, Ghana and Mali.
Host 1: One of AFRRI’s unique creations was the Participatory Radio Campaigns or PRCs. These PRCs were broadcast by local radio stations and involved local farmers. In each campaign, farmers were asked to choose an agricultural practice that would help them increase their food security. This practice then became the focus of the campaign.
Host 2: Not only farmers, but extension workers and other agricultural experts helped make the decision on which farming practice to choose. Once the practice was chosen, farmers and others helped shape the actual content of the program.
The farmers interacted with the radio station throughout the campaign. As well as listening to the radio programs, they used their mobile phones to talk to hosts and producers. They also received information about 1-1 maize planting on their mobile phones. That information helped farmers make a choice whether or not to adopt 1-1 maize planting.
Host 1: Maize is the second most important staple in the radio’s broadcast area. Local farmers had heard a lot of things about 1-1 planting. They had heard that it boosts yields, cuts down on weeding requirements, and reduces soil erosion. But there were many misconceptions about 1-1 maize planting. Farmers had heard that 1-1 planting required more fertilizer, and that it was very labour-intensive to grow. One of the goals of the campaign was to correct these misconceptions.
Host 1: The farmers and other agricultural experts who decided to focus on 1-1 maize planting in the campaign were confident that it would bring greater food security to farmers in the area. So, in September 2009, AFRRI and Nkhotakota Community Radio launched a PRC on 1-1 maize planting.
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Host 2: On September 29, 2009, Nkhotakota Community Radio broadcast the first segment of a weekly program called Phindu muulimi, which means “Productive farming.” The program was broadcast on Wednesday evenings for the next six months. Victor Asumani produced the program and Ganizani Njanje was the usual host.
The program mixed studio and field interviews, poems, vox pops, and debates with more interactive formats like phone-outs, phone-ins, responding to listeners’ letters, and panel discussions.
It broadcast information and advice on 1-1 planting techniques and discussed its benefits and challenges. It encouraged farmers to freely interact with broadcasters and agricultural experts.
Host 1: After six months, it was clear that the program had succeeded in encouraging farmers to adopt 1-1 maize planting. Researchers found that 30% of farmers in communities that could listen to the program and interact with broadcasters and agricultural experts had adopted 1-1 maize planting. In communities that listened to the program but did not have that kind of interaction, 33% of farmers adopted the practice. In communities who could not listen to the program and had no contact with broadcasters or agricultural experts, only 13% of farmers adopted 1-1 maize planting.
Host 2: But did this success persist? In September 2011, eighteen months after the completion of the campaign, Clare Likagwa from Farm Radio Malawi interviewed two local farmers and an extension worker on their experience with 1-1 planting before, during and after the campaign. In July 2011, Farm Radio International interviewed Victor Asumani, from Nkhotakota Community Radio. We will hear the interviews Clare Likagwa conducted with the farmers after a short break.
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Clare Likagwa: Can you please introduce yourself, sir?
Abasi Abibo: I am Abasi Abibo. I live in Chikombe village, in Traditional Authority Mphonde. I am 52 years old and I am a farmer. I grow cassava, maize and rice, but mostly maize.
Clare Likagwa: How long have you been growing maize?
Abasi Abibo: I have been practicing 1-1 maize production for three years now, but have been growing maize for eight years.
Clare Likagwa: How did you hear about 1-1 maize planting?
Abasi Abibo: From extension workers. We had just a few extension workers, but we are lucky enough to have a radio station we rely on here in Nkhotakota, which we call Radio Nkhotakota. Whatever extension workers do not manage to inform us about directly, we hear on the radio from them. Also, Nkhotakota ran a radio campaign on 1-1 maize planting.
Clare Likagwa: When you listened to the campaign, what did you do?
Abasi Abibo: I followed all the recommendations. For example, I realigned the ridges to 75 centimetres spacing, I prepared planting stations at 25 centimetres spacing, and I applied two handfuls of manure per planting station. I also followed the recommendations on fertilizer use, and made tied ridges to keep moisture in the field. After that, we weeded on time and kept visiting the field to look for pest invasions.
Clare Likagwa: How big was your 1-1 maize planting plot during the campaign, and what was your yield?
Abasi Abibo: I farmed about one acre, and I harvested 60 bags. I used two 50-kilograms bags of fertilizer.
Clare Likagwa: Many people believed that 1-1 maize planting was labour-intensive and fertilizer-intensive. What was your experience?
Abasi Abibo: When I tried the practice, I realized that this was mere talk, just rumours. I did not face any challenges.
Clare Likagwa: Did you change your maize production in the season following the radio campaign?
Abasi Abibo: Last year, I added half an acre, making one and half acres.
Clare Likagwa: Why did you increase your plot size?
Abasi Abibo: To investigate whether the practice was profitable. I did find it to be profitable, because my yields increased. Even though there was inadequate rainfall, I managed to get 66 bags.
Clare Likagwa: Did you face any challenges during the post-campaign growing season?
Abasi Abibo: The major challenge was inadequate rainfall. The rainfall was so little that I had lower yields. We did our land preparation on time and planted with the first rains, but there was a long dry spell in between that affected the yield.
Clare Likagwa: What support services are available to encourage you to continue with 1-1 maize planting?
Abasi Abibo: Total LandCare organization supports farmers to practice new farming technologies like conservation agriculture in maize. The organization’s main job is to help farmers get maximum profits from their farming. So it teaches farmers practices such as laying maize stalks as mulch in conservation agriculture. They also assist with credit on inputs, though most of the resources come from the farmers themselves.
Also, lead farmers are trained by government agriculture extension officers. They simply extend that training to us. We have one male lead farmer in our community who helps out when the assigned extension officer is busy.
Clare Likagwa: How would you describe your relationship with broadcasters during the campaign?
Abasi Abibo: We had quite a good relationship. The broadcasters reminded us of issues we might have forgotten and informed us of new activities and practices. They still do that service.
Host 1: We’ll return after a short break to speak with a female farmer.
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Clare Likagwa: Hello, madam, can you introduce yourself?
Magret Kamanga: I am Magret Kamanga of Traditional Authority Mphonde. I am a farmer practicing 1-1 maize planting. I am 28 years old, married with four kids.
Clare Likagwa: How did you start practicing 1-1 maize planting?
Magret Kamanga: When I arrived here in 2005, I joined a group of people who were practicing 1-1 maize planting. The group taught me the practice. They told me that their agriculture extension officer taught them.
Clare Likagwa: What was your experience like in the beginning?
Magret Kamanga: I practiced on a quarter-acre field. At first, I followed the traditional custom of using widely spaced ridges. But as I learned from the group, I realigned the ridges to 75 centimetre spacing and the plant spacing to 25 centimetres. After planting, I was told to apply fertilizer at the right timing. When the plant had three leaves, I added fertilizer at the base of the stem. Three weeks after that, I applied fertilizer on the surface of the ground.
Clare Likagwa: How were your yields compared to previous seasons?
Magret Kamanga: Previously, my yields were very low. I planted three seeds per station, from which I got one good cob, and the other two were underdeveloped. But with the 1-1 planting, every plant had a well-developed cob. From a quarter acre, I got 15 50-kilogram bags.
Clare Likagwa: Do you know about the 1-1 maize planting radio campaign?
Magret Kamanga: Yes, I listened to it on the radio and interacted with some of the broadcasters who came to the community.
Clare Likagwa: By the time of the radio campaign, you were already knowledgeable about 1-1 maize planting. Did you gain any added advantage by listening to the campaign?
Magret Kamanga: The radio campaign gave me more knowledge and skills on issues with which I was not familiar.
Clare Likagwa: Can you give me some examples?
Magret Kamanga: The radio campaign reminded me of the timeliness of farming activities. For example, when the radio said it was time for weeding, I rushed to the hoes and weeded my field. When they said it was time for fertilizer application, I took heed of that advice. Previously, I would do these activities, but not on time.
Clare Likagwa: Is there anything else you are doing differently since the radio campaign?
Magret Kamanga: Yes, currently I am practicing 1-1 maize planting along with conservation agriculture practices such as laying maize stalks in the field. That practice was also highlighted in the radio campaign.
Clare Likagwa: What are your plans concerning maize production?
Magret Kamanga: I want to continue with 1-1 maize planting and conservation agriculture. The practice is most beneficial to me. It is not labour-intensive. I am able to finish all I need to do in the maize field quickly. That gives me time to concentrate on my rice and cassava fields.
Host 2: We’ll return after a short break to speak with Victor Asumani, the producer of the 1-1 maize planting programs at Nkhotakota Community Radio.
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Interviewer: Good morning. We know that quite a few farmers adopted 1-1 maize planting after the campaign. Has the acreage in 1-1 maize planting risen, stayed the same or dropped since the end of the Participatory Radio Campaign?
Victor Asumani: It is increasing. Some people in neighbouring districts such as Salima are also adopting it. The government of Malawi is promoting 1-1 planting.
Interviewer: Are other organizations still promoting it?
Victor Asumani: Yes. The Ministry of Agriculture itself is promoting it. As a radio station, we are working hand-in-hand with the Ministry of Agriculture. And some other organizations are still promoting it. These organizations and the radio station are working with the Ministry of Agriculture. From those organizations, we get information and broadcast it on the radio.
Interviewer: Do you think the campaign was successful?
Victor Asumani: That’s a very big question (laughter). But yes, the campaign was successful. I say that because, sixteen months after the campaign, people are still practising what they were taught during the campaign. For broadcasters, it was successful because we are using the knowledge we gained in the campaign in other programming.
Interviewer: I would like to ask you a few questions about how the campaign affected your role as a broadcaster. First, did the campaign change the way you interact with your audience?
Victor Asumani: Yes, it changed in a few ways. First, the radio team and some of the AFRRI team visited farmers in their fields and conducted a focus group. We did not do this kind of thing before the campaign. But because of the campaign, we had the chance to meet face to face with the farmers. Secondly, the farmers participated by making suggestions and questions through letters, and through phone-ins and phone-outs.
Interviewer: Is that kind of interaction with your audience still going on?
Victor Asumani: Yeah, but it is on and off. The station doesn’t have any means of transport, except for one or two bicycles which we use only for nearby areas. Whenever transport is available, we go to the farmers. We are still doing call-ins and call-outs, but not frequently. Many times we use letter writing. We sometimes go to the fields to interview farmers, and sometimes they come to the station, when they have a problem or have a suggestion for something to be put on the program.
Interviewer: As a broadcaster, what did you learn by conducting the campaign?
Victor Asumani: My lesson from the campaign is that people in communities learn a lot when you go straight to them. They learn and they change easily when you involve them in the programming. At the same time, we should be demonstrating what they heard on the radio, so that they can come and see a field of 1-1 maize. That way, they see what I was talking about on the radio. So, involving the farmers is a good tool for changing farmers’ practices.
Host 1: After a short break, Clare Ligawka will interview an extension worker who worked on the radio campaign. Stay tuned.
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Clare Likagwa: Can you introduce yourself, Madam?
Florence Magomero: I am Florence Magomero, the Agriculture Extension Development Coordinator for Mphonde Extension Planning Area.
Clare Likagwa: How is 1-1 maize planting progressing in your area?
Florence Magomero: It is increasing. If I compare the two growing seasons since the radio campaign to earlier, many more farmers are adopting the practice.
Clare Likagwa: In your view, why are more farmers turning to 1-1 planting?
Florence Magomero: There are three reasons. In the first place, things are changing because of the radio campaign. Farmers no longer believe that 1-1 planting requires a lot of fertilizer. Also, they understand that “supplying” is not overly labour-intensive. By supplying, I mean replacing seedlings in stations where seeds did not germinate. It looks like the campaign helped to correct these kinds of misconceptions.
Secondly, when there is an increased amount of fertilizer in an area, more people want to grow maize. The government of Malawi’s fertilizer subsidy program has increased the amount of fertilizer. There has been an increase in 1-1 maize planting following farmers’ stories of high yields from 1-1 planting.
Thirdly, the government has intensified its efforts to identify and train lead farmers. These farmers become models for the community. Their practices are trusted by the community and their households are food secure. They help train fellow community members. Here in Mphonde, we have 42 lead farmers. And there were lots of demonstration plots for 1-1 maize planting in various communities.
Clare Likagwa: How would you compare the 1-1 maize planting practice between the campaign and post-campaign seasons?
Florence Magomero: We saw the biggest difference during the last growing season. Out of 10 fields we visited, we found seven or eight doing the 1-1 planting and only two following the traditional practice of three plants per station. During the 2009-10 season, we had more than 2500 farm families practicing 1-1 maize planting on more than 260 hectares. But last season, the number of farming families more than doubled, and the number of hectares rose to more than 2000 hectares!
Farmers’ attitudes are changing, too. They used to say they couldn’t practice 1-1 maize planting because it is fertilizer-intensive. But now the majority of them have changed their minds. They say that if you don’t have enough fertilizer to do your entire field with 1-1 planting, it is better to plant part of your field with 1-1 planting than to plant your entire field in the traditional way. Farmers are paying attention simply to what works in their fields rather than listening to rumours about the fertilizer-intensity of 1-1 planting.
Clare Likagwa: What supports are available to assist in the promotion of 1-1 maize planting in this area?
Florence Magomero: There are quite a number of support services. We have a 1-1 maize planting variety trial that involves a lot of farmers. In addition, there are lead farmers who are assisting in promoting 1-1 maize planting. In the extension planning area, each subdivision now has an extension worker, so all farmers will be reached or will be able to access the extension officer regarding their farming. All this suggests that this growing season we can expect a further increase in adoption of 1-1 maize planting as compared to last season.
Also, the Total LandCare organization that works with us has registered more farmers to practice conservation farming. This incorporates 1-1 maize planting.
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Host 1: Today, you have heard about Nkhotakota Community Radio’s Participatory Radio Campaign on 1-1 maize planting. We have heard from the producer of the program, and we have heard from local farmers and an extension officer.
Host 2: The campaign was successful in getting local farmers to adopt 1-1 maize planting. More and more farmers in the area are adopting 1-1 maize planting, thanks to the PRC broadcast by the radio station, and the support of other organizations.
Host 1: Thanks for listening to our program today. Bye for now.
Host 2: Bye.