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Improved Market Information Services programs increase farmers’ income and knowledge, part two

Host 1: 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.

Host 2: 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.

Host 1: 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.

Host 2: 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.

Host 1: 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.

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.

Host 1: 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.

Nasur Odur: 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.

Host 1: 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.

Nasur Odur: 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.

Host 2: 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.

Host 1: Let’s take a short break, then move on to Tanzania.

Short musical break

Host 1: 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 called Heka 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.

Host 2: 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.

Host 1: 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.

Host 2: 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).

Host 1: 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.

Host 2: 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 Sukoni is an MIS program which is currently broadcast on Radio Maria, which reports from various markets across the country.

Host 1: 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

Host 1: 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?

Host 2: 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.

Host 1: 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.

Host 2: External funding or carefully planned revenue! That is the second important lesson. Here’s the third 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.

Host 1: 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. 

Host 2: 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. 

Host 1: 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.

Host 2: That concludes our report on AFRRI’s four Marketing Information Services programs. Thanks for listening and goodbye for today.

Host 1: Goodbye.

Improved Market Information Services programs increase farmers’ income and knowledge, part one

Host 1: Hello, listeners. Today is the first part of a two-part program on Market Information Services broadcast on the radio. Market Information Services, or MIS, gather, distribute and sometimes analyze information on market prices and other market information. This kind of information is very valuable to crop farmers and livestock keepers, and also to traders, processors and everyone else involved in handling farm products. With new technologies such as mobile phones now widely available, MIS programs can even more effectively help farmers to increase their income and improve their food security.

Host 2: That’s right. (Pause) Farm Radio International is a Canadian NGO that works with African rural broadcasters. Between 2007 and 2010, the organization conducted a project called the African Farm Radio Research Initiative, or AFRRI for short. Early research for the project found that farmers wanted to know about farming practices that would increase their food security. But they were also thirsty for knowledge on how to market their farm products more effectively. So AFRRI helped radio stations to operate MIS radio campaigns in four AFRRI countries. In these four countries, five radio stations broadcast MIS programs targeted at small-scale farmers.

This program reports on MIS campaigns broadcast by stations in Mali, Ghana, Uganda and Tanzania. In part one of the program, we’ll talk about campaigns in Mali and Ghana. In part two, we’ll talk about Uganda and Tanzania.

Host 1: Let’s start with Mali. Research in Mali showed that farmers were interested in learning how to earn a better income from selling their livestock in markets. This income would help them expand their production of livestock and grains.

Host 2: Radio Fanaka broadcasts from the town of Fana in southern Mali. The station broadcast an MIS program entitled Aw Ni Sugu, which means “Thank you for being at the market.” The program was aired from March to June 2010, and was produced and hosted by broadcaster Fatogoma Sanogo.

Host 1: Mr. Sanogo visited nearby markets on Wednesdays and Sundays. He interviewed traders and farmers about the prices of the products they were selling, and the benefits and challenges of marketing. He recorded these interviews for broadcast, using market sounds as background to convey the energy and atmosphere of the market. Besides these live interviews, the program used a variety of radio formats to engage farmers, including call-outs, call-ins, and in-studio interviews.

Prices were given for a wide variety of crops and animals, but the program concentrated on cereals, poultry and other small livestock. After the broadcast, the host took phone calls and SMS messages from listeners with specific questions, such as prices or the specific market stalls he visited.

Host 2: Before the MIS campaign, there was very little discussion of markets and prices on the radio in Mali. Now, says Mr. Sanogo, farmers discuss prices and market challenges with other farmers on-air.

The host recalls a highlight of the program: he travelled to the nearby village of Dien to interview Tarafa Fomba, a local farmer and vaccinator of chickens. Fomba explained that he helps farmers get more money for their chickens by vaccinating them. He told the audience that farmers can increase the market price of their chickens by having them vaccinated. After his service was advertised on the program, Tarafa Fomba became very busy and, as a result, expanded his business.

Host 1: Here’s another success story. Mariam Traore is one of 60 local women who grow salad vegetables. Before the MIS campaign, she had found it difficult to earn a decent income. Although her husband and children enjoyed the fruits of her labour, she wanted to earn more by selling her good quality vegetables at the market. But the costs of travelling to the market were high, as were the taxes on selling goods at the market.

Radio Fanaka’s MIS program interviewed Madame Traore on her farm. The host described her produce over the radio. He even sampled her produce on-air, describing the taste, quality and texture. Farmers called into the show, asking where they could buy the produce, and wanting Madame Traore’s contact information. People began travelling to her farm to buy salad vegetables.

Mariam Traore now earns up to 1500 CFA (US$3.20) per week, double her previous income of 500-750 CFA ($1.05-$1.60). She is well-known around Wolodo for the very good quality of her salad vegetables. She now earns enough at her farm gate to travel to the market to sell her produce. She and the other women farmers in her village split the costs of travel and taxes, and travel to the market together. The story of Mariam Traore and her women’s group shows how an MIS program can increase income by using creative ways to connect sellers to buyers.

Host 2: AFRRI and Radio Fana evaluated the MIS program after the completion of the campaign. A survey showed that 68% of the people in communities that could hear the programs and received additional extension advice had listened to the programs. In those communities which could listen to the program but did not receive extension advice, 41% of farmers had listened to the MIS program. So the MIS program was quite well-known in Radio Fanaka’s listening area. It was estimated that the program had 114,000 listeners. Of those that listened, 95% of community members found the information on the MIS program “always useful.” It also appeared that the radio was broadcasting information that farmers wanted to hear. More than four of five survey respondents said that they were most interested in hearing local market prices on the area. A very similar percentage said that they actually heard local prices on the program.

Fatogoma Sanogo continues to produce and broadcast an MIS program on Radio Fana. However, with the end of AFRRI, his capacity to travel to markets outside of Fana has diminished.

Host 1: Let’s take a short break. When we return, we’ll move on to talk about MIS in Ghana.

Short musical break

Host 1: Welcome back. Before the MIS campaign started in Ghana, farmers were struggling with the cost of transporting their goods to market, and with the dominant role of “market queens” and other intermediaries in the marketplace. The new MIS campaign addressed these issues directly.

Host 2: Two stations broadcast MIS campaigns in Ghana: Radio Ada and Volta Star. At Radio Ada, radio staff collected prices and described market conditions at four different markets. Volta Star had two separate programs, one in the Akan language and another in Ewe. The host of the Akan program interviewed traders and farmers at the main market, and used volunteers to collect prices from four other markets. The host of the Ewe version collected information from markets in five communities and interviewed farmers on their marketing challenges.

Host 1: Radio Ada’s program targeted crops and livestock, plus fish and farming inputs. The program broadcast the prices of major local crops. Some segments focused on the conflict between farmers and middle-women or middle-men. Volta Star’s program looked at how to eliminate specific market challenges. These included a measuring system seen as unfair by farmers and a disorganized market arrangement that made it difficult for farmers to sell their produce.

Host 2: Radio Ada’s program provided 30 minutes for phone-ins, and received up to 12 calls per program. There were occasional call-outs, and the host also received mobile calls from farmers off-air, asking questions and seeking clarification. Volta Star’s program recorded the voices of farmers on their farms and in the market, and aired their concerns. The host sent text messages to more than 50 farmers, alerting them to the start of the program. These farmers then relayed the alert to other farmers in their communities.

Host 2: Staff at Radio Ada believe that the AFRRI MIS program improved on earlier MIS programs because it involved farmers and traders. Prices were mentioned in earlier programs, but they were considered not very helpful to farmers. Currently, Radio Ada’s MIS program is off the air, and farmers are pressing for its return.

Volta Star staff also think that involving farmers and letting them choose the topics to be discussed made the biggest improvement to their MIS program. One host says that the MIS program improved farmers’ access to the market by building consensus between farmers and their buyers, and eliminating suspicion and mistrust, while improving the flow of market information. Volta Star’s programs are also off-air now, and farmers have been asking for their return.

Host 1: Ok, let’s listen to some Ghanaian farmers. Emelia Awakese grows vegetables and raises poultry in a community within Radio Ada’s broadcast area. She sells her produce to middle-women at several markets. Her biggest challenge is low prices caused by a glut of produce at the market. Sometimes the situation is so bad that she brings her produce home and goes to another market the next day. She says the MIS program has been of great help.

Emelia Awakese: I listen to the market information and go to low price areas to purchase farm produce, and then go to high price areas to sell the produce. The earnings from the sale of my own farm produce doubled because of the program. In just one season, I was able to earn 3000 Ghana cedis (Editor’s note: approximately US$1880), of which I used part to pay school fees for my daughter and two sons. I also used 700 Ghana cedis to purchase roofing sheets to roof my new house. And I also saved 1,000 Ghana cedis at the bank. I am very excited.

Host 2: Edwin Saho grows okro and maize in the community of Hipko, in Volta Star’s listening area. He also expressed unhappiness with middle-men. But the MIS program helped him know where to sell his crops, and what varieties of crops were needed.
Edwin Saho: We got to know through the program that the market wanted the labadi and abalavi varieties ofokro. These give higher yields, have longer shelf life, and the traders pay more for them … We therefore changed our seed and now we earn more money … Even more importantly, the radio has made Hikpo farmers popular. Hikpo is mentioned on-air because we have so much okro at a cheaper price and needed traders to come and buy in bulk. Through the program, I made a profit of 300 Ghana cedis, which is three times what I would have earned without the program. The program is so good and must be continued.

Host 2: A system called Farmers’ Phone was implemented in Ghana. This allowed farmers to make calls to three different phone numbers. These numbers connected farmers to pre-recorded campaign programs and market prices. They could also leave a message for the program host. More than 4300 calls were made to Farmers’ Phone across the country between the end of January and the end of May 2010. Almost half of these were related to market prices. This shows the popularity of services that offer market prices and other marketing information. It also shows the potential of new technologies such as mobile phones to support more effective MIS programming in Ghana.

Host 1: As in Mali, an evaluation was conducted at the end of the campaign. The survey showed that listeners to both Radio Ada and Volta Star appreciated the new type of MIS because it went beyond simply announcing market prices. The programs discussed farmers’ issues, engaged with farmers, and dealt with the challenges of transportation and market intermediaries. By listening to discussions of market conditions directly from the markets, farmers could plan their transportation ahead of time. They could decide which market would give them the best prices for their produce, and which markets had the lowest prices for purchasing produce.

Host 1: You’ve been listening to a program on Marketing Information Services in Mali and Ghana. Next time, we will present part two of our program on MIS programs, and will look at MIS in Uganda and Tanzania. Goodbye for now.

Host 2: Goodbye.