Using compost as fertilizer gives good yields and conserves soil: A Participatory Radio Campaign in Ghana

Soil health

Notes to broadcasters

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The African Farm Radio Research Initiative (AFRRI) was a participatory action research and radio-based project. Its goal was to discover and document best practices in using radio to meet small-scale farmers’ needs for agricultural information in Ghana and four other African countries (Malawi, Mali, Uganda and Tanzania). It was implemented from April 2007 to September 2010. In essence, AFRRI was trying to answer the following key questions:

  • How can radio most effectively help small-scale farmers in Africa to meet their food security challenges?
  • How can new technologies such as cell phones, satellite radio and MP3 players increase the effectiveness of radio as a sustainable, interactive development communication tool?

By investigating these questions, Farm Radio International and other stakeholders were able to identify some effective ways to use radio to have maximum impact in promoting food security in Ghana and in Africa in general.

In Ghana, a mix of commercial, public and community radio stations were selected for the AFRRI project. One of the stations was Radio Ada, a rural community radio station in the eastern part of the country. Working with AFRRI, the station implemented a PRC to help area farmers adopt the use of compost, known locally as icofertilizer, to fertilize their crops.

Three communities in the station’s listening area were chosen as “active” communities” for the project: Adedetsekope, Ayisah, and Ceasarkope. Farmers in these communities interacted extensively with the project. They were interviewed on the radio; they gave feedback on-air; and they helped choose the PRC theme. They were also given the opportunity to compare the cost of using chemical fertilizers to the cost of using compost.

This script tells the story of this successful PRC. It shows how farmers and radio stations can collaborate to produce and present programs for the benefit of both. The end result was good yields and increased soil conservation.

This script is based on actual interviews. You could use it 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.



Presenter: Field reporter/producer
Community members:

  • Emmanuel Narteh Wudah – male farmer
  • Eunice Dornyo Osabutey – female farmer
  • Tetteh Tottemeh – community leader, male farmer
  • Mary Mensah – female farmer

Host 1:
Good morning, listeners, this is (name of radio station). My name is (name of host), your regular host of(name of program).

Host 2:
And this is (name of host). Today we are going to tell you the story of a successful project, a unique project that brought farmers and radio broadcasters together. The project fought for a common cause: food security and poverty reduction by using low-costicofertilizer or compost. This fertilizer gives you good yields and preserves your farmland for many years. You don’t need to buy it from a store. It can be found behind your house, just close by you.

I hope you want to hear about this success story and its benefits. If you do, I beg you to listen to this program to the end.

Musical interlude for one minute

Host 1:
Welcome back. I am now going to tell you all about this unique project. The project started in 2007 and ended in 2010. It was three years long in order to have enough time to broadcast a series of programs that could have a positive impact on local farming practices, and enough time for evaluation and review – to see what worked well and what could have worked better.

Three communities were involved in the project: Adedetsekope, Ceasarkope, and Ayisah, all in Dangme East, close to Radio Ada.

Farmers in these areas used onlyicoas fertilizer during the project. They compared their yields usingicofertilizer with yields from chemical fertilizers. The cost oficowas also measured against that of chemical fertilizers bought from agrochemical distributors. We shall hear later in the program from farmers in these communities.

Host 2:
But before we listen to the farmers, let’s listen to one of the extension officers who was attached to the project. We asked him how farmers came to use compost as a preferred fertilizer.

Extension officer:
Soil fertility in these areas is a problem. Over the years, farmers’ yields have gone down because of the sandy nature of the soils here. When it rains, the soil drains easily and doesn’t retain moisture. To increase yields, farmers had to rely heavily on chemical fertilizers. And the prices of chemical fertilizers from the agrochemical shop have increased over the years. So we needed to find an alternative way to maintain good yields.

Over the years, we as extension officers have rolled out projects to help farmers maintain or increase yields because of the poor soils. It was already known that animal manure and compost were good sources of soil fertility. But they were not widely used, because compost was not available in large quantities.

At the same time, there was the problem of animals like goats and pigs roaming freely and destroying crops. The first radio campaign by Radio Ada encouraged farmers to keep these animals in pens so they didn’t destroy crops. So when farmers enclosed their animals in pens, their manure became widely available for use in farms.

Musical interlude for 30 seconds

Host 1:
or compost is a mixture of animal manure and decomposed household refuse such as the peels of food crops. The wordicois also used to describe animal droppings or manure used for planting. It is commonly used as a supplement to chemical fertilizers.

Host 2:
The campaign identified many practices in radio which can help meet small-scale farmers’ needs for agricultural information. These practices include using the farmer’s own language in broadcasts, and including an attractive opening signature tune that reminds the farmers that it’s time for the program to begin and gives them time to assemble.

The broadcasters at Radio Ada and the AFRRI staff documented the opinions of farmers who listened to the programs in a variety of ways. There were focus group discussions and individual interviews. Listeners provided feedback via letters, SMS messages, call-ins, listening group feedback forms, and farmer diaries. Also, the project conducted evaluations which revealed farmers’ overall assessment of the campaign.

Host 1:
During the project, there were two kinds of listening communities: active and passive listening communities. Members of active communities listened to the programs, interacted with the broadcasters, and received extension officers’ support. In passive communities, farmers could listen to the broadcast but did not interact with the station, or receive direct support and coaching from extension officers or other experts.

Farmer Emmanuel Narteh Wudah lives in one of the active listening communities. His opinion is based on what he sees and hears in both active and passive communities. Let’s listen to him.

Farmer Emmanuel Narteh Wudah:
The campaign programs were popular in both active and passive listening communities – and even beyond these areas. Farmers from other communities and districts told us that they heard us farmers on the radio programs. They wanted to know how we became involved in the programs so they could participate too.

Some groups – especially men – took their small radios wherever they went so that they could listen to the programs in the fields, markets and other socializing places.

Most of the farmers who listened to the programs were satisfied with the frequency and broadcasting schedules of the radio campaigns, with a few variations in the timing of repeat broadcasts.

It was a good thing that the programs were aired when most farmers were in the house to listen. Farmers like me could relax and listen to the radio with great concentration. This was the only time when families were together and could listen to the radio together.

Host 2:
You have just heard from a farmer who was involved in the project. We will be back after a short break.

Music interlude for 30 seconds

Host 1:
Welcome back! Men, women and youth were all involved in the campaign. They fully participated in the programs in various ways. They decided on the program content and the timing of broadcasts, and they were treated as experts in what works for them – or not – in the fields.

Host 2:
Let’s listen to Madam Eunice Dornyo Osabutey, a woman farmer, about her participation in the project.

Madam Eunice Dornyo Osabutey:
I listened to the program one day and decided to try the things they were discussing. The program talked about using manure and compost for our plants instead of the chemical fertilizers we had been using. After listening, I decided to get some compost from a friend. I saw a positive change in my plants after just three weeks of applying it.

Farmers also like to hear from people who have expert knowledge. We like hearing them interviewed in the studio or in the field talking to farmers. It is also good if a program uses local music and recordings of women’s dance, poetry, humour, theatre and songs. These draw and hold the audience and provide a change of pace from all the information; they allow the listener to pause and reflect. I thought that the broadcast of the programs during the project was perfect.

I was happy to get another alternative for the costly chemical fertilizers. I was also happy to hear farmers like myself on radio programs, especially women and youth farmers.

Host 1:
You have just listened to Madam Eunice on the importance of hearing the voices of women and youth farmers as well as those of experts. We will be back after a two minute break.

Musical break for two minutes

Host 2:
Composting is a valuable farm practice. Compost is a mixture of animal manure and rotting household refuse like cassava, plantain, cocoyam peels and left over foods. It enriches the soil and maintains soil fertility for a long time. It is not difficult to find or to make compost. Farmers who use compost talk of its numerous benefits. One benefit is the price. The price of compost is often 80% less than the price of chemical fertilizers. Farmers in the area welcomed the promotion of compost by Radio Ada through the AFRRI project because of its many benefits, including its low price and the fact that, because they are now penning their animals, animal manure to make compost available.

Composting is not new in our communities. In the past, people used to grow vegetables on abandoned refuse dumps. Plants cultivated at these places grew well and gave good yields. Schools and backyard gardens used animal dung as fertilizer. And compost doesn’t just provide nutrients to plants, like a good fertilizer. It also helps the soil retain moisture, helps prevent soil erosion, and can improve resistance to disease and pests.

Host 1:
Tetteh Tottemeh is a community leader. He has something to say about the cost and benefits of compost.

Tetteh Tottemeh:
When I learned about compost from the radio program, I decided to give it a try. I saw it was good for my crops. I started preparing my own compost by buying a mini-bag full of animal manure for one and a half pesewa from livestock and poultry farmers (Editor’s note: about $US0.01. In Ghana, one hundred pesewa equal one cedi). Four mini-bags are enough for an acre of land and give maximum yields. After usingicofor three seasons, I was able to increase my yields. And I saved about 80% of the cost of chemical fertilizers. Pests and diseases were also reduced when I usedicoon the farm. Local farmers are also making money by selling animal manure to other farmers. So now farmers do not throw away animal manure and organic refuse.

In fact, the radio programs on compost were very good. We wish to thank Radio Ada and AFRRI for the project. It has given us low-cost and lifelong alternatives to costly chemical fertilizers which sometimes brought many pests and diseases. I now use onlyicofor my onion farm and I have been getting good yields.

Host 1:
That was Papa Tetteh Tottemeh.

Musical interlude for two minutes

Host 2:
The campaign programs progressed from week to week. This step-by-step movement helped the farmers to also make progress. They moved from having better knowledge of compost and manure to discussing it with others, to making a commitment to use compost, to actually applying it. The program was broadcast at least once a week for 30-60 minutes, at a convenient time for farmers to listen. It was also repeated at a different time in the same week. These repeat broadcasts served two groups of listeners – those who missed the first broadcast, and those who wanted to review information they were not able to understand well on the first broadcast.

Farmer Margaret Mensah:
The repeat programs were very good for us. Sometimes we missed the broadcasts. But because of the repeat, we heard all the information we had missed. The station ran spot promotions of the compost broadcasts for weeks before the campaign, and throughout the campaign. This was also helpful because it reminded us of the broadcast time.
Mobile telephones gave us an opportunity to be part of the program at any time. Radio used to be a one-way medium. But the campaign changed that. It allowed farmers to phone in and participate in discussions. Hosts could also phone out to experts, to hold them accountable for their advice on specific implementation issues.

Of course, broadcasters could not get to every village to record our voices. But they could phone out to ensure that voices from all areas were heard. We could also use our mobile phones to exchange SMS messages with the radio station. Letters, suggestions, field interviews and discussions also gave us the opportunity to discuss matters with the stations.

Host 2:
My dear listener, you have heard for yourself the words of our farmers. There seems to be strong support for campaign programs that use interactive formats. The formats used in the campaign included narration, expert interviews, panel discussions, phone-outs and phone-ins, local music and soundscapes, and where possible, jingles, dramas and quizzes.

A campaign like this is not a good time for a radio station to “go it alone.” Instead, it is a time to reach out to all organizations that can help the campaign be as thorough and effective as possible. Extension services are a prime example. Some NGOs can play important support roles, too. Schools and private businesses that sell farming inputs can also play crucial roles.

Host 1:
The campaign run by Radio Ada turned out to be very successful. Sixty-eight per cent of farmers in the active listening communities started using compost as a result of the broadcasts. Forty-eight per cent of farmers in the passive listening communities adopted the use of compost. In contrast, no farmers in those communities who did not receive the broadcasts adopted composting. This shows the effectiveness of Radio Ada’s PRC.

Host 2:
Many radio stations in rural areas in Africa say that they serve the people through their programs. But many of these stations do not involve listeners in their programs. The AFRRI Participatory Radio Campaigns run by Radio Ada and other stations show the many benefits of involving community members in their programs.

It is on this note that I wish to end this report on a project that was undertaken to promote and measure the impact of adoptingicoor compost among farmers in the listening area of Radio Ada. Until we meet again next time, it is bye for now.

Host 1:
Bye for now.


  • Contributed by: Kwabena Agyei, Production Manager, Classic FM, Techiman, Ghana, a Farm Radio International broadcasting partner.
  • Reviewed by: Ben Fiafor, Regional Field Manager for English Speaking West African Countries, Farm Radio International; and former National Research Coordinator, AFRRI Ghana.

Information sources

Interviews with:

  • Richard Wusah, Producer and Presenter of farmer program on Radio Ada and an Extension Officer of Dangme West District, May 25, 2011.
  • Samuel Tetteh, Extension Officer at Dangme East District, May 26, 2011.
  • Emmanuel Narteh Wudah, male farmer, May 25, 2011.
  • Eunice Dornyo Osabutey, female farmer, May 27, 2011.
  • Tetteh Tottemeh, community leader and male farmer, May 26, 2011.
  • Mary Mensah, female farmer, May 25, 2011.