Voices 58

January 2001

Use sound effects to enhance your programs

Sound effects. They are the sounds you add to your radio programs to make them come alive, grab listeners’ attention, and make your stories memorable.

What is the secret to great sound effects? Simplicity.

In order to draw your audience into your story and help them “see” the action in their imaginations, you need only a few well-placed and familiar sounds. These should be sounds that your listeners hear often – ones that will conjure up images of people, places, or actions they already know: the hero, the villain, the marketplace, a sacred spot, hands clapping or people coming or going, for example.

You do not need a lot of sound effects to tell your story (in fact, too many will make it confusing), and you do not need them in every scene. Take a look at your script. Is it a drama or a comedy? Is it an interview? An announcement? A serious drama or scary story will most likely use sound effects to describe the setting; that is, to “show” listeners where the action is taking place. In a comedy or adventure story, your sound effects will most likely describe the action itself. Good scripts can make use of both techniques.

Scripts will often have “cues” written by the author, suggesting when and how to add sound. What cues are given within your script? Are they appropriate for your audience? Ideally, there will be blank space on one side of the page for you to write in your own notes.

How to use your sound effects

Describe or introduce characters (the people in the story)
If you have an important, recurring character (the hero or villain), a sound effect can help identify him to the audience (as can playing a specific piece of music or giving him a “catchphrase” or motto). This is particularly true in the case of comedies. Does your character sing or whistle? Does he ride an animal or have an animal with him? Does he have a particular way of walking? These types of sound effects are often best performed by the actor, and are great ways to let the audience know that the hero or villain has joined the scene without having to use dialogue.

Describe the setting (where the action is occurring)
If you would like to perform a scene without having to explain the setting, sound effects can be very helpful. This is particularly true when your scene occurs in the same place as a previous scene, and you would like your listeners to remember it. These sound effects are usually used as background noise – sounds that are not part of the main dialogue: animals, indistinct voices in a crowd, vehicles, etc. They give listeners a sense of whether the scene is happening inside our outside, in public or in private, and what the weather is like.

“Atmosphere” – the tone or feeling of your scene – is also part of the setting. If the story is scary, a wind effect helps build tension, as does a thunderstorm or wolf howls, etc. You can also use sound effects to introduce a new scene, showing that time has passed (a clock chiming, rooster crowing, or any other sound that listeners will associate with a particular time of day).

Other uses
Remember, too, that sound effects are not only good for dramatic scripts. Having one dynamic sound effect at the beginning of a news show or segment, for example, is a great way to attract people’s attention. Use the same sound effect every show so people will recognize it and think of your program when they hear it.

Creating your sound effects
The type of sound effects you use will depend on your audience’s likes and dislikes. They will also depend on what you are actually able to produce. Resources are limited for most broadcasters, so you need to make the most of what you have.

There are 3 key ways of getting sound effects for your program. Some advantages and disadvantages of each are listed in the chart below:

You may wish to combine these ideas (such as taping a live production and reusing elements in other shows), or you may wish to use some ideas of your own. Perhaps several shows at your radio station can work together to create a sound effects tape, or perhaps you could trade one of your tapes with a different station.

Above all, creating sound effects should be fun. They will add energy to your program and help to make your message or story more interesting for your listeners. Good luck!

Pre-recorded by other people (downloaded from the internet, or played from a cassette tape or compact disk)


  • wide variety of sound effects available
  • creates sounds you might not be able to
  • good quality
  • provides you with sound effects you might not have thought of yet


  • expensive
  • requires the most complicated sound system
  • might be difficult to find sounds specific to your region
  • requires internet access
  • internet files may take too much time to download

Source: Pre-record your sound effects


  • you can make the specific sounds you need
  • inexpensive
  • you can keep the sounds you need and reuse them between shows


  • requires tape recorder (preferably portable) and microphone
  • takes time to produce sound effects

Source: Create your sound effects live during the show


  • inexpensive
  • you can create the specific sounds you need
  • requires little or no extra equipment
  • adds energy to your show


  • smaller variety of sound effects available
  • may require an extra person during the show
  • it makes the show itself more complicated to produce

Contributed by: Krystyn Tully, Toronto, Canada

The importance of millet

Our January 2001 package features seven crops that are regularly grown and play a central role in diets in many parts of the world. One or more of them is probably grown by the farmers in your audience. They are: maize, rice, cassava, sweet potato, yam, green leafy vegetables and finger millet.

Crops such as rice and maize are widely recognized as staple crops and are the focus of much research by scientists. On the contrary, minor millets such as finger millet, foxtail millet and proso millet, have been largely ignored by scientific research and as a result many farmers have stopped growing them.

Script #7 of package 58 suggests some good reasons for farmers in your listening audience to continue growing millet. We need to understand the value of traditional crops in local communities, and to continue to support farmers who are producing them, even if these crops are not being promoted by researchers and extensionists.

As a broadcaster, you can provide farmers with important information about millets. Minor millets, and in particular finger millet, have a great number of advantages for small-scale farmers with limited resources.

  1. The cost of seed is low. A large number of grains can grow from a single seed so farmers can produce seed easily.
  2. In general, the small seeds of finger millet store well for a long time, ensuring a continued food supply during the dry season or when there is a crop failure. Because of this, millet is sometimes called a famine crop. Also, because the seeds are small and dry out quickly, insects cannot live inside them.
  3. Millet seeds often require less cooking time, again because of their small size. This is important as women have increasingly less time to spend on food preparation.
  4. Some species of millet grow well in difficult situations such as poor soils or drought conditions.
  5. Many varieties of millets are very nutritious. They contain much higher levels of some essential minerals, such as iron and calcium, than rice. Finger millet provides energy for a long time after it is consumed; this is important for farmers and their families who regularly do hard manual work.
  6. Finger millet straw is valuable fodder for livestock.

There are some disadvantages to growing millet, including a lower yield than maize. Also it is hard work to grow millet at all stages (e.g., seedbed preparation, weeding, bird scaring, harvesting and threshing). But, for farmers who are struggling in a difficult climate, with few financial resources, this can be a practical and useful crop.

When preparing your radio broadcasts, remember that farming success stories told by your listeners – through phone-in shows, in-person or on-air interviews – are a good way to make your program more interesting, and your message more meaningful.

Contributed by Vijay Cuddeford, Toronto, Canada

Our partners help us set new directions

In October 2000, Farm Radio Network partners from South Africa and Nepal joined our program planning retreat to help us determine how best to use radio to meet the needs of rural audiences.

Asking our partners to participate was a natural step. We believe that the Network’s most valuable resource is the vast experience, insight and capacity of our overseas partners. So it is no surprise that our future plans and success depend on closer links with you – our partners.

An important decision was to focus more closely on partners who use radio to promote sustainable development in rural communities. That is reflected in our new mission statement: “We support broadcasters to strengthen small-scale farmers and rural life.” In response to partner feedback in surveys, interviews, planning meetings and other correspondence, we plan to add new services to our program:

  • A greater variety of information, in addition to agriculture and environment, for you to use in your radio programs: health and nutrition; HIV/AIDS; rural income; farm and rural household management; and more.
  • Written materials and workshops to help you develop your professional skills, including: how to work with agriculture and health experts to understand technical information and put it in a format that your audience can use; how to manage a radio station, from deciding program content to generating revenue; how to communicate effectively using techniques such as interviews, panels and entertainment.
  • Internet-based services, including: access to our scripts on-line; access to our library catalogue and research services on-line; electronic discussion groups on topics of interest to farm radio broadcasters; links to our partners, and more.

As we develop these new services, we will need your response to ensure that we are meeting your needs. Although we no longer request your feedback to each package of scripts, we will ask you to complete an annual survey to provide current information about your programs and how you use the Farm Radio Network.

Please don’t forget to fill out the survey enclosed with this package – and at any time, send us your comments, samples of your programs, and news about your listeners.

We look forward to a productive partnership with you!

George Atkins Communications Award honours broadcaster in Costa Rica

We are very pleased to announce that Beltrán Meza Quiros, of Radio Sonora Radio Fides in San José, Costa Rica, is the winner of this year’s George Atkins Communications Award. The award is given annually to a Network partner who demonstrates excellence in farm radio broadcasting.

Beltrán joined the Farm Radio Network in December 1992. In a recent letter to the Network, he describes his radio program, “Dialogo Agropecuario” (Farmers’ Dialogues), which has been on the air for over ten years! The program airs on Radio Sonora at 5:00 AM, when most farmers are having breakfast and getting ready to go to the fields.

Many of the radio broadcasts are based on Network scripts, which are adapted to suit local conditions and circumstances, so listeners can relate to them. The letters Beltrán receives from his listeners demonstrate that his program is useful.

Beltrán is fortunate to have financial support for his radio program, which allows him to keep his commitment to providing this valuable service to small-scale farmers.

As winner of the 2000 George Atkins Communications Award, Beltrán will receive US$250. Congratulations, Beltrán!

New Partner Profile

Jerry Wampamba joined the Farm Radio Network as a partner in August 2000. He is the head of radio station Green Channel FM 98 in Kampala, Uganda and also doubles as a producer and presenter of several programs on the station. The programs are broadcast twice a week from 11:00 AM to 12 noon. Titled Omubeesa, they tackle family issues, such as family health, caring for children, the environment, children’s life, and farming itself, i.e., poultry, livestock, fish, agricultural and pastoral farming.

Phone-in participation in the program allows farmers in Jerry’s listening audience to exchange views on various aspects of farming. The area surrounding the city produces horticultural crops like cabbages, tomatoes and pineapples, which are also talked about on the shows.

Green Channel FM 98 has a frequency broadcast reaching about 10 km away. Their audience is between 2 and 2.5 million people, spread out around Lake Victoria and the central part of Uganda called Buganda. Programs are broadcast in the local Luganda language.

If you would like to have your work profiled in Voices, please send us information about yourself, your station, audience and radio programs, and how you use Network scripts in your shows.

Study: The use of internet and e-mail in the Farm Radio Network

How do our partners use internet and e-mail? What is the potential to use these tools to communicate between the Farm Radio Network office and partners, and amongst partners themselves?

This was the focus of a recent study conducted by Casandra Bryant, a graduate student at the University of Guelph (Canada). Seventy partners participated in the study, including a handful who were interviewed in Honduras. Following is a summary of the findings.

The majority of participants in the study were from Latin America and the Caribbean (48%), with smaller representation from Asia (16%), Africa (15%), Europe and the former Soviet Union (8%), North America (7%), and the Pacific (5%). Radio broadcasters represented 34%, extensionists and research/reference groups each accounted for 19%, and 17% described themselves as teacher/classroom. Seventy-four percent of respondents were male.

Almost all participants use e-mail regularly in daily communication and have continuous access to the internet.

First and foremost, participants see the internet and e-mail as an information provider. They use the technology for communication and information exchange, for knowledge accumulation (research and news), and as a forum to create and maintain information networks. At the time of the study, most participants had never been in contact with another Network partner.

Those surveyed said they would like the Network website to include a reference library of past scripts, the latest script package and Voices*; an information panel (to provide information to the Network); an evaluation panel; and a facilitated discussion group. Almost all participants believe a partner directory would be beneficial and should be made available on the Network’s website.

If you would like to receive more information about the study, please contact Casandra Bryant at casandrabryant@hotmail.com. And remember to check our website regularly as we develop it to meet your needs.

Editor’s note: The latest script package is now available on-line under the “What’s New” section of the Network’s website; several issues of Voices are posted under “Publications” in “The Network” section (both are currently available in English only).

Professor Jacques Saintelus is an agriculturalist and radio broadcaster in Haiti. He joined the Farm Radio Network in 1997. Jacques’ radio program, Corner of Agriculture, has been on the air for the past sixteen years. From radio station Radio 4VEH (Cape Haitian), the show reaches about 400,000 families in underserved communities in remote areas of most of the northern part of the country, and parts of central and southern Haiti.

Jacques often uses material from Network scripts in his radio programs. Requests from listeners are also an important force driving his programs. Recently, for example, Jacques had many requests for help from listeners who had problems with their sweet potatoes. ‘Worms’ were eating the plants after 2 or 3 months – well before harvest time.

Jacques decided to address this problem on his show. He found a script from the Farm Radio Network, which shared an idea from Cuba. The method described was to take ants from an ant nest and place them in the infested field. This took care of the problem.

Jacques also has a successful outreach program and holds seminars for farmers on animal health, composting and pest management. He sometimes teams up with a missionary from Christian Veterinary Mission to offer paravet (animal health specialist) training.

The above article was sent by Dan Sonke, Director of Information Programs, Educational Concerns for Hunger Organization (ECHO), and based on a recent interview with Jacques Saintelus.

I read with great interest Package 56 on Biodiversity. Its focus on protecting and conserving traditional varieties of crops in different countries is very important. Unfortunately, it is a forgotten issue for governments and, sometimes, for farmers.

The seed banks are like a double-edged sword. In most cases, they are not financed nor supported by governments. Therefore, they have to find other sources of funding. This carries the risk of promoting only a specific type of seed to improve its commercialization and, ultimately to make more money. Consequently, seed banks become prey to large companies that can offer large financial investments to the people directly involved in their set up. This financial support often means marketing of the company’s own seeds.

One issue that I feel was left out of your package regards the need to keep diversity of the “unknown” species as well. For example, the practice of leaving a weed barrier between plots, or of not planting some of the available land and leaving natural habitat and weeds as natural elements. By doing this, many insects can survive and propagate, allowing us to know more about their life cycles. This aspect of biodiversity is lost whenever mechanization and modernization of agriculture takes place.

I would like to thank you for your time and your excellent work. It is a struggle against time, but for every person you reach, you gain another ally. One of these days, the land will be for the farmers and for their benefit.

Jean-Michel Maes
Museo Entomológico, León, Nicaragua

Partner to Partner

In the April 2000 issue of Voices, we asked you to share your adapted radio scripts with other Network partners. In response to our request, we received a contribution from Harrings Kachali of the Mbowe Sustainable Ecofarming Project in Malawi. Although they do not yet have access to radio facilities, workers from the Project use Network scripts in their extension teaching, travelling long distances to reach farmers in remote areas.

The teaching technique described by Mr. Kachali demonstrates how participatory methods can be used to share farming and other information for sustainable development.

In a small village, farmers attend a meeting held by workers from the Ecofarming Project to learn about and discuss the importance of recycling farm wastes. Following the opening prayer, the facilitator leading the meeting asks everyone to share their own ideas about recycling farm wastes, as well as any problems they are having. This initiates a discussion and provides the facilitator with feedback about specific recycling issues to address.

The farmers leave the meeting with new recycling ideas to try on their farms – gained both from their neighbours and the facilitator from the Ecofarming Project.

Thank you very much, Mr. Kachali, for sharing your participatory teaching methods with us.

For submitting his adapted script, Mr. Kachali will receive a book on effective communication for development.

Management and Training for Community Radio

Radio Netherlands Training Centre invites applications for their international course, “Broadcast Drama for Education (Radio and Television),” to be held in The Netherlands, September 24-December 14, 2001.

This 12-week course, with the theme Children and Development, builds on drama’s proven success in captivating audiences, particularly children and young people, and in informing and educating them. It will consist of a series of workshops with a target audience approach to the design and production of programs.

Application is open to citizens of all developing countries. Netherlands Fellowships are available to cover the costs of travel, accommodation and course fees. Deadline for applications is May 1, 2001.

For more information, visit the Radio Netherlands Training Centre website at www.rnw.nl/rntc or contact:

Radio Nederland Training Centre
PO Box 303, 1200 AH Hilversum, The Netherlands
Tel: 31-35-6724 500
Fax: 31-35-6724 532
E-mail: secr.centrehsum@rntc.rnw.nl

Regional Offices:

Bureau Afrique
PO Box 06-561, Cotonou, Benin PK3
Tel: 229-33 33
26 Fax: 229-33 53 82
E-mail: rnafriq@bow.intnet.bj

Radio Nederland/CDI
Apartado 880, Centro Colón
1007 San Joseé, Costa Rica
Tel: 506-220 4141
Fax: 506-220 4302
E-mail: rntccdi@sol.racsa.co.cr

We want your feedback

Have you produced radio programs based on our recent script packages – Agroforestry, April 2000; Biodiveristy, July 2000; Women in agriculture, October 2000? We’d like to know which scripts you used and how you used them in your work. How did you adapt them to suit your audience? Did you receive any feedback from your listeners – were they able to successfully apply the information?

Please send your comments to us by e-mail, fax, or snail mail for possible publication in a future issue of Voices. Perhaps your contribution will help another Farm Radio Network partner!

It’s time to update your records.

Please complete and return your partner form enclosed with this newsletter.

Returned questionnaires will be entered in a draw on April 30, 2001, to receive a guide for program managers: How to Design and Produce Radio Serial Drama for Social Development.