Growing fruit trees: A Participatory Radio Campaign in Uganda helps farmers earn income, improve the environment and enhance household nutrition

Crop production

Notes to broadcasters

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Mega FM is based in the northern town of Gulu, in Uganda. The station was established by the British government through the Department for International Development, in partnership with the Ugandan government. Mega, which means “mine” in the Lwo dialect, is renowned for its peace-building activities in a region that experienced one of the most brutal conflicts in the world for over two decades – the Lord’s Resistance Army rebellion. The radio has a mission to provide relevant, timely and accurate information on improved methods of farming, farming for a business, and other agricultural issues, using specialists from various farming sectors.

In 2008, Mega FM collaborated with Farm Radio International’s AFRRI project (African Farm Radio Research Initiative), an action research project that investigated the effectiveness of radio as a tool for improving food security for African farmers, and how ICTs can help radio to more effectively communicate food security issues to farmers in Uganda, Tanzania, Ghana, Mali and Malawi.

Cultivation of fruit trees was the second radio campaign broadcast by Mega FM, following the promotion of modern beekeeping in the first radio campaign. Both campaigns ran for six months. The decision to focus on fruit trees came directly from farmers in the three communities of Coo Pee in Gulu district, Abululyek in Oyam district, and Pagak in Amuru district. These were the research communities where farmers adopted fruit production while listening to the radio campaign. Other research communities included the control community that did not listen to the campaign at all, and the passive listening communities that listened to radio without any contact with broadcasters or agricultural extension support.

As a result of the prolonged war in the region, many fruit trees had been cut down, which farmers said was a big setback to their agricultural activities. The farmers expressed interest in growing more fruit trees to improve their food security because there is a good market for fruit. For example, a fruit juice company called Britania buys various kinds of fruit for juice. The fruit purchased includes oranges, mangoes and pineapples. Another reason that farmers selected fruit tree cultivation was to increase the density of trees in the northern part of Uganda. Northern Uganda was heavily deforested during the war.

A program entitled Tet tipuwaa or “Under the shade” was launched on November 18, 2009. In addition, Mega FM piloted an ICT program in which SMS messages on fruit production were sent to farmers, and SMS messages alerted farmers to upcoming programs.

For more information on the AFRRI project, visit Farm Radio International’s AFRRI website at

This script is based on actual interviews. You could use this script as inspiration to research and write a script on a similar topic in your area. Or you might choose to produce this script on your station, using voice actors to represent the speakers. If so, please make sure to tell your audience at the beginning of the program that the voices are those of actors, not the people involved in the original interviews.



Producer of farmers’ program – Grace Amito

Lead farmers in the communities:

  • Okello Tom (male)
  • Akot Janet (female)
  • Okwera Peter (male)

Extension workers:

  • Abwola Samuel, District forestry officer, Gulu (male)
  • Nyombi Tombo, Range manager, National Forestry Authority (male)

Hello, listener, my name is Grace Amito and I am the producer and presenter of the farming program here on Mega FM in northern Uganda.

Agriculture is the backbone of Uganda’s economy, employing more than 70% of the population, including 80% of women. It contributes 43% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product. Ugandan farming depends on the rains and on basic technologies such as the hand hoe. Ninety per cent of farming is carried out by small-scale farmers on pieces of land averaging only one hectare in size. Reforming farming in Uganda is fundamental to improving Uganda’s economy. Radio stations like Mega FM have played a very big role in reforming the economy.

Mega FM broadcasts farming programs from Monday to Friday. The program topics range from animal husbandry to beekeeping to growing rice, beans, potatoes, and fruit trees, to mention only a few.

In November 2009, Mega FM collaborated with the African Farm Radio Research Initiative, or AFRRI, to broadcast a series of programs that promoted growing fruit trees in northern Uganda. The fruit tree program was calledTetipu waa, which means “under the shade.” It was broadcast every Wednesday from two to three p.m. Most of the programs were pre-recorded. But once a month, we had a live talk show where I invited specialists from the Forestry Department and the National Forestry Authority to answer farmers’ questions and address their fears. I was the presenter and the producer of the program, assisted by Afaya Nickie in the studio.

Listeners might ask, “What evidence was there that farmers – female, male, and youth – were interested in learning about growing fruit trees?” The answer is that farmers from the three active listening communities of Coo pee, Abululyec and Pagak chose this practice. During discussions with the radio station, AFRRI staff and other collaborators, the farmers said that this particular food improvement should be the focus of the radio campaign. There was a lot of support in the area for growing fruit trees. A few farmers were already growing them and the weather in the area is favourable for growing fruit trees. Also, there is a ready market for fruit in and around northern Uganda. Fruit trees grown in the area include mango, orange, avocado, jackfruit, passion fruit, guava, papaya, pineapple and banana.

There was also a lot of expert support for farmers who wanted to adopt fruit production. For example, the tree nursery section at Gulu University Faculty of Agricultural Sciences grafted improved varieties, and farmers were able to obtain seedlings. Also, the district office of the National Agricultural Advisory Services, the National Forestry Authority, and the district forestry department worked closely with farmers. As well, farmer groups worked on marketing the fruit.

I will be back after a short musical break to tell you more about Mega FM’s Participatory Radio Campaign on growing fruit trees.

Short musical break

Welcome back to our program on Mega FM’s Participatory Radio Campaign on growing fruit trees.

In the campaign, Mega FM wanted to communicate a few key messages to farmers:
Firstly, plant improved, mature fruit tree seedlings.
Secondly, explain the benefits of growing fruit trees.
Thirdly, explain good management practices, including fertilizer application, pest and disease control, weeding, pruning, and irrigation during dry spells.
Fourthly, give information on post-harvest management of fruit, marketing of fruit, and record-keeping for marketing fruit.

Many other topics were addressed during the campaign. These included:

  • adding value to fruit, including storage and transportation of trees and fruit, branding of produce, and fruit preservation;
  • conservation of indigenous tree species and woodlots;
  • the importance of indigenous trees as habitat for wildlife, forage for bees, construction materials, a source of herbs, a source of animal feed, and a source of both animal and human medicines;
  • fruit trees as a source of income;
  • how trees prevent soil erosion;
  • the nutritional value of fruit;
  • the medicinal value of fruit trees;
  • how forestry creates employment;
  • trees as windbreaks; and
  • trees for marking boundaries.

Mega FM also conducted an experiment on the usefulness of SMS messages during the campaign. The goal was to learn how interactive Information and Communication Technologies, or ICTs, could improve radio’s ability to increase farmers’ adoption of agricultural practices such as growing fruit trees. Before the program, I was trained how to use the ICT equipment, including a modem. The producer was asked to collect farmers’ telephone numbers in the target areas. A total of 500 telephone contacts were collected and loaded into the computer.

Farmers were able to get information via SMS on the availability of quality planting material for different varieties in nearby farms and nurseries. This helped farmers to get quality planting materials without significant travel. SMS messages also included other information on growing fruit trees as well as market prices.

During the fruit tree campaign, the station also sent SMS alerts to listeners in the active listening communities to alert them of the forthcoming radio programs so that they could tune in at the right time and listen to the campaign. These alerts were sent out at least 30 minutes before the campaign program was broadcast. Those who received the messages were asked to notify other community members by word of mouth since they did not have mobile phones.

After the campaign, AFRRI and Mega FM interviewed farmers from the three communities to determine the impact of SMS alerts on the listenership of radio campaigns, and the usefulness of the other information sent via SMS messages. In each community, 20 people were interviewed – five adult men, five adult women, five young men and five young women.

The Participatory Radio Campaign programs and especially the SMS service received widespread praise, mainly because farmers were able to command good prices from buyers.

Short musical break

As a broadcaster, the Participatory Radio Campaign played a big role in changing my radio programming. One change is that the number of people who listened to my program went up. This was because the SMS messages I sent attracted many listeners. I remember that one farmer use to boast in his village that whoever wants to talk to the popular lady should contact him!

Most people – including Mega FM staff – used to think that the farming program was only for the poor and illiterate. But now it became the darling of programs! I received many visitors, both farmers and forestry specialists, who came for clarifications and wanted to know how they could partner with the radio station.

I also started selling improved grafted seedlings from the National Agricultural Research Organization centre in Kawanda, from which I earned a good amount of money. I bought grafted mangoes and oranges at 1800 Ugandan shillings from Kampala and sold them at 2500, to cover the cost of transport to Gulu. In 2009, I sold 45,000 grafted mangoes and oranges to individual farmers and institutions. The majority of the other traders were selling them for 3500, but pricing mine at 2500 attracted a lot of buyers.

We’ll be back after a short break to talk to some farmers about how the Participatory Radio Campaign worked for them.

Short musical break

Now it’s time to hear from some farmers. Here is Okello Tom, a farmer from Abululyec.

Okello Tom:
I was very happy to receive SMS messages which included market prices. I have always been cheated by middlemen who give me the lowest price for my produce.

Akot Janet is a farmer from the Oyam district of Uganda. She was asked if she had benefited from receiving market prices via SMS messages. Here is her response:

Akot Janet:
I used to sell my crop for a very low price, just because I had no idea how the market was moving. I often felt confused when I was dealing with traders. I thought that I had to take the first bid the trader offered. This information on fruit tree growing has given me a lot of encouragement to start planting trees to improve my income. I have a number of mangoes and pawpaw trees, but I didn’t know that fruit could earn me a living.

Here is farmer Okwera Peter.

Okwera Peter:
The first time I received SMS messages on my mobile phone, I received the latest market prices. I also received information on traders who were offering deals, plus basic knowledge on growing fruit trees. Now I can choose what to plant because I have all the basic information I need. I can also inform colleagues and friends. I can tell them what price they should get. I can even encourage more farmers to grow fruit trees.

Mega FM sent information by SMS on market prices and growing fruit trees. We also told farmers which government organizations could help fund farming projects and how to form themselves into groups.

The programTetipu waainterviewed a number of farmers and specialists in the Forestry Department. One was Samuel Abwola, the district forestry officer in Gulu. When we asked him about how farmers could benefit from growing fruit trees, he had this to say:

Samuel Abwola:
Fruit trees purify the environment by cleaning the air, improving soil quality, preventing erosion, creating animal habitat, and sustaining valuable water sources. They also improve nutrition. When there is more communication between buyers and sellers, there is greater trust. Understanding increases. When farmers have more knowledge, they are better able to understand and use commercial agricultural products like tractors, pesticides, fertilizers, and manure.Agricultural supplycompanies also become more willing to explore the small-scale farmer market. The radio programs helped a lot with this.

Nyombi Tombo is the range manager for the National Forestry Authority. When asked about the benefits of using radio to disseminate agricultural information and about sending SMS messages to farmers, he had this to say:

Nyombi Tombo:
Up to 80% of households in my village of Lamwo own a radio. Radio is still the main source of information for many people. In my village of 40 households we have no electricity. One of the reasons why mobile phones are accessible is that they don’t need to be charged very often. They can be taken to local trading centers and charged for only 500 Ugandan shillings (Editor’s note: about US$0.20).

Here’s district forestry officer Samuel Abwola again.

Samuel Abwola:
Growing trees on and around small farms has many benefits for a farm family. They provide products needed for household use such as fuelwood, construction materials, fruit, and other tree foods. They provide farming inputs such as animal fodder and green mulch. They reduce farmers’ environmental risk by protecting against soil erosion and degradation. And they make the farm more financially stable by adding to the diversity and seasonal spread of farm products.

For farmers to fully benefit from growing fruit trees, Market Information Services such as those supported by agriculture ministries should regularly provide prices for fruit as well as grains and other staples. Without these prices, farmers are left in the dark. They do not know what price to start from when bargaining. Extension services should be trained to help farmers develop and use market information. This should include helping farmers develop group marketing so that their fruit gets to international markets.

Okello Tom, what are the first steps towards successful production of fruit trees?

Okello Tom:
First, a farmer needs to decide how big a farm he or she can manage. You must ask yourself how much money you need for the lifestyle you want or need. The National Agricultural Advisory Services is providing free fruit seedlings. But there is no sense planting lots of fruit trees if you do not have the funds to support large production. It is better to start small and expand as your income grows.

Find out which are the best seedlings to plant to meet your goals. Learn how to properly take care of your trees and how to protect them from disease. Find other people with successful farms and learn from them.

And here is farmer Okwera Peter.

Okwera Peter:
I chose to plant about 40 orange trees, specifically Valencia oranges, after listening to the radio programs on Mega FM. I’ve had some unfortunate experiences with planting trees before, but growing orange trees was no problem at all. When the program was broadcast, it sounded like planting and making money from the fruit was as simple as counting to one! I made up my mind and bought Valencia oranges from an agricultural expert in the district who had participated in the radio programs. The orange trees are now three years old. The trees started producing fruit late last year. But they didn’t produce many fruit. When I contacted the man I bought the fruit trees from, he told me that the stems of the oranges were still not strong enough to support many fruit. I am happy, however, that the size of the oranges I harvested was amazing, and they were very nice to look at. I was able to sell the oranges for 1000 Ugandan shillings each (Editor’s note: about US$0.40), compared to 50 shillings (about US$0.02) for local oranges.

Thank you. We will be back after a short break with the conclusion to our program on Mega FM’s Participatory Radio Campaign on growing fruit trees.

Short musical break

Before the campaign, environmental degradation in northern Uganda had reached alarming levels because of the longstanding conflict. During the 20-year insurgency, trees were cut indiscriminately for timber and firewood. This led to soil erosion and a reduction in soil fertility. Unbelievably large tracts of forest, which had previously protected water catchment areas and prevented soil erosion, were completely destroyed. Today, erratic rains cause anxiety for farmers. The period between November and April, which was the normal crop growing and harvesting period, is now unpredictable.

The Participatory Radio Campaign on fruit production helped to address these problems. It improved household food security by encouraging consumption of fruit, increasing the availability of firewood for cooking, and increasing household income from selling fruit at the available markets.

As a result of the campaign, many farmers began growing fruit trees. In those communities which could listen to the radio programs, receive SMS messages, and receive extension support, 46% of farmers started growing fruit trees. In communities which could listen to the programs but received no other support or information, 31% of farmers began fruit tree production. In communities which could not listen to the programs, only 5% of farmers began growing fruit trees.

In 2009, there was an increased demand for tree seedlings. As mentioned above, I sold 45,000 grafted seedlings. Also, a good number of farmers consulted extension services. Young farmers in schools became more aware of the benefits of tree planting. Farmers also consulted the radio station about planting trees. Altogether, an increased percentage of youth, women and men farmers started growing fruit trees.

The people who started growing fruit trees are still doing it now. The program started in 2009, so most of the trees planted by the farmers are still growing.

Dear listeners, there is a beginning and an end to everything. For now, I am sorry that I need to wish you goodbye. Remember that fruit tree growing is the right way to go if we want to further sustainable development. This is Grace Amito saying bye till we meet again.


  • Contributed by: Grace Amito, Mega FM, 2010 George Atkins Communications Award winner, and producer of the farming program on 102 Mega FM, Gulu, a Farm Radio International broadcasting partner.
  • Reviewed by: Emily Arayo, former National Research Coordinator, AFRRI-Uganda.

Information sources

  • Interviews with farmers:
    • Okello Tom, February 13, 2011
    • Akot Janet, February 13, 2011
    • Okwera Peter, March 28, 2011
  • Extension workers:
    • Abwola Samuel, District forestry officer, Gulu, March 27, 2011
    • Nyombi Tombo, Range manager, National Forestry Authority, April 14, 2011
  • Further information: