Voices 61

October 2001

The role of broadcasters in successful farmer-scientist collaborations

By Blythe McKay

Broadcasters can facilitate cooperation between farmers and scientists, and make farmers the ultimate winners.

In many areas of the world, and for many reasons, farmers lack the necessary information to improve farm activities. Governments are cutting back extension services. And when farmers do receive information about the results of agricultural research, it is not always useful or relevant to their particular circumstances. This may be because farmers themselves have not been involved in the process. Sometimes the methods designed to help farmers are unrealistic because they are too costly or rely on inaccessible resources. Or the information might be presented in a very technical way, or in an unfamiliar language.

When farmers and scientists work together, farmers get a chance to explain their problems and perspectives. Researchers can respond to problems identified by farmers, and create opportunities for new research that addresses local challenges.

Role of broadcasters

What is the role of radio in linking farmers with scientists? Radio broadcasters are used to communicating with their audience in a familiar, conversational way. In consultation with researchers, broadcasters can help transform technical research results into radio programs that are interesting and easy to understand. They can broadcast in the languages of their listeners. At the same time they perform a useful service by publicizing the work of agricultural scientists.

There are several specific ways that broadcasters can facilitate farmer-scientist communication. They can:

  • Visit field and open days at research institutions. These events can provide the basis for interesting farm radio programs.
  • Produce programs about local farmer-scientist collaborations.
  • Through real-life stories and fictional drama, challenge the stereotypical views that farmers and scientists might have of one another.
  • Involve agricultural researchers in the production of programs about their research.
  • Make researchers available on air to take questions from farmers.

A three-way collaboration is currently underway in West Africa. Radio broadcasters are striking up partnerships with researchers and farmers in Cameroon, Ghana, Mali and Uganda. In a workshop in March 2001, researchers and broadcasters from these countries met to discuss how they could work together to produce radio programs for farmers that would contribute to improved food security. Next year teams of researchers and broadcasters from each country will attend a capacity building workshop to mobilize resources for agricultural research and rural radio linkages, and to strengthen partnerships with farmers.

Scripts 3 and 4 of this information package address the topic of farmers in partnership with agricultural researchers.

For further information about the West African radio-farmer-scientist collaboration, contact:

Helen Hambly
Research Officer, International Service for National Agricultural Research (ISNAR)
PO Box 93374, 2509 AJ
The Hague, The Netherlands.
E-mail: h.hambly@cgiar.org

Nancy Bennett
Executive Director, Farm Radio Network
416 Moore Avenue, Suite 101
Toronto, ON M4G 1C9
E-mail: nbennett@farmradio.org

Mr. Chui: I have heard that Ndege’s son is coming back from the city today. He has become a big scientist and is going to teach us to grow better crops. Imagine! A young man who sits in an office telling his elders how to farm!

Mr. Kazi: Yes, educated people think they know everything, just because they no longer eat with their fingers! They should remember that farmers were growing food long before there were schools and universities.

Announcer: Now we know what Mr. Chui and Mr. Kazi think of scientists! Do all scientists believe that their knowledge makes them superior? Times are changing. More and more scientists are now working with farmers to solve the problem of growing more food.

Just by chance, and later the same day, Mr. Ndege and his son the scientist can be found speaking together about this very idea. Farmers and scientists working together. Let’s listen in …

Excerpt from package 61, script 5, ‘A scientist respects farmers’ wisdom’

Farmer-researcher-broadcaster cooperation: a success story

In the village of Bhilwara, India, goat herders were struggling to find a way to feed their goats throughout the dry season, as they could not afford to buy feed. Local scientists from the National Research Centre suggested an alternative feed from pods of a tree, Prosopis juliflora, that grew locally. The tree species, viewed previously as a useless weed, was native to Central America but had been introduced to Bhilwara in the 1800s. The researchers knew the tree species was used in Central America as animal fodder, and hoped that the same results would prove true in India.

Through on-farm experimentation facilitated by the researchers, farmers learned that they could store and then feed the nutritious seed pods to female goats during the dry season. The result was fatter, healthier, goats that produced more kids. After the initial success of the project the goat herders continued to experiment on their own by feeding the pods to both lactating females and young goats which resulted in more milk for village children and a healthier herd.

Radio programs available

The story of this and other successful farmer-researcher collaborations were broadcast by BBC World Service earlier this year in a feature series called In the Field. The series discusses innovative ways in which researchers are working with local people to meet local challenges.

Programs available include:

  • Managing goats more effectively (India)
  • ustainable alternatives to slash-and-burn agriculture (Bolivia)
  • Cotton: reducing the use of insecticides (India)
  • Rats: how improved pest control is benefiting the community (Mozambique)
  • City gardens (Zimbabwe)
  • Ethical trade: cocoa (Ecuador)

These programs can be downloaded from: www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/sci_tech/highlights/010207_field.shtml

Character development in radio drama

The current Farm Radio Network information package includes a program series featuring two characters; a city radio host named Philip Kwan, and an elderly agricultural specialist named Dr. Peter Composter, better known as ‘Dr. Compost’. The programs are set up as fictional interviews. Common themes that arise from their conversations are threaded throughout the series. Philip and Dr. Compost relate through humour and shared knowledge.

Character development is an essential part of writing any kind of radio drama. If you create a series with unforgettable characters, your audience will be eager to hear the next in the series.

Creating characters

Begin by creating an outline of your main characters including their name, personality traits, likes and dislikes, and family background. The outline may include a character’s height and weight, age, career, vocabulary, education, any significant physical detail or speech pattern and marital status. Get to know that character as you would a friend, so when you write their dialogue in a script, it feels natural and captures the way that person speaks. The main character in the story should be someone that the audience likes and can relate to, and also that earns the sympathy of the audience.

Here are some of the questions to ask yourself about your character:

  • Is she shy, boastful, funny?
  • Does he speak quickly or slowly or make strange noises?
  • Does she stray from the topic or avoid talking about certain things?
  • What does he have a lot of knowledge about?
  • What does she love, fear?
  • How does he relate to friends and family?

In the programs involving Philip Kwan and Dr. Compost, we learn that Philip was raised in the city and that Dr. Compost was raised in a rural area. Dr. Compost has received a university education in agriculture, but still respects and understands rural life. He is elderly and forgetful. He reveals his level of comfort and knowledge about farming through his straightforward discussion of agricultural techniques; he particularly enjoys discussing the uses of manure.

Philip’s squeamish nature about smelly and rotted things is the main device for comical exchanges between the two characters. The differences between their views creates enough tension for a lively interview.

In radio, the main tools for conveying character are dialogue, narration, sound effects and silence. The listener learns the most about characters through dialogue: what characters say, how they say it, and what they avoid saying.

Tips on writing dialogue for characters

  • Use language and tone appropriate to the character.
  • Use humour and/or tension to maintain interest and break up long monologues.
  • Go for the natural flow of conversation. In interviews, for example, interruption by one speaker when another is talking is a good way for the discussion to feel natural and may provide opportunities for wit or tension.
  • For a series: Have characters drop hints about ideas that will be discussed in another program.
  • Reveal a character’s strengths and weaknesses.
  • Don’t forget to use sound effects that complement dialogue and setting – marketplace sounds, music, and kitchen noises.

Create radio dramas that audiences will remember by developing recognizable characters; people that are unique, but also resemble your neighbour, friend, enemy, spouse or family member.

Contributed by Belinda Bruce, Vancouver, Canada

Farmers profit from a budget

Have you thought of broadcasting information about budget-making to farmers and other rural business people? Farmers who learn the skills necessary to make a budget can:

  • determine in advance which crops will bring the most profit
  • decide how much of each crop to plant
  • identify potential financial problem areas in advance, and
  • ultimately, earn more money from their farms.

Script numbers 1, 2 and 3 in this package are short radio dramas that present the basics on making a budget for farmers.



The Farm Radio Network has been a source of vital information for our Community Radio Network (CRN). The October 2000 edition of your scripts discusses women in agriculture. The future of our nation very much depends on what efforts we put in now to empower our women. Women are hard workers and to mobilize them is to take a positive step towards enhancing self-sustenance and aleviating poverty.

So far we have edited and adapted the Network scripts and have shared them with women related organizations in the State. We have sent them to women leaders in churches and to the Women Alive Foundation (WALF), an NGO initiated by the wife of the executive Governor of Plateau State. We have also shared the same with the Country Women Association of Nigeria (COWAN).

Our broadcasts have been arranged to air on our FM Radio Station 90.5 in English and on the AM station in Hausa language for 30 minutes every week.

Michael Joseph Gowon
Executive Secretary
Rural Economic Development and Empowerment Agency (REDEEMA), Nigeria


I am happy to inform you that my boss has asked that we create a spot specifically to use scripts from the Farm Radio Network. I am also trying to develop a jingle using Farm Radio as a credit piece for all the materials adapted from your scripts.

I also wish to inform you that we have already started a weekly programme with the Savannah Agricultural Research (SARI) in the Northern Region of Ghana.

Sadiq Harruna
Simli Radio, Ghana

(Editor’s note: Sadiq was a participant in the workshop for broadcasters and researchers held in Ghana last March.)

The community radio station as a resource for farmers: The case of Radio Ada

Kofi Larweh
Station Coordinator, Radio Ada

Radio Ada is a not-for-profit community radio station located in Ada, in the Greater Accra Region of Ghana. The station serves an estimated target area of 600,000 people, located in four political districts. Sixty percent of the audience is illiterate, and poverty is widespread; most people in the community still lack such basic infrastructure as piped water and electricity.

Radio Ada broadcasts solely in the vernacular language of its audience, Dangme, in its various spoken forms.

Of the working population of the station’s listening community, approximately half are agriculturalists. Within this group, the women out-number the men due to culturally assigned roles both on the farm and at home; apart from bush clearing, ploughing and chemical application, all farm activities are undertaken by women.

All farm-related programming is created directly by the farmers themselves. The farmers have a producer, and several program collaborators within the various Dangme communities. These people are seasoned small-scale full-time farmers, members of farming groups, and extension staff from the Ministry of Food and Agriculture. They decide and choose who best represents them on the air.

Program production involves interactive sharing of experiences, raising concerns, and questioning policies. Program formats include interviews, discussion panels, magazine shows, news, dramas and folk songs.

Radio Ada provides several specific farming programs about agricultural practices, agricultural education, weather, farming calendars, the marketing and prices of farm produce, funding, preservation, and land and government policy.

Some examples of current farm programs include:

Wabi, wa ngmla (Colleagues, let’s hoe)
A farming programme produced from village to village with the participation of local women and men farmers.

Osra nge je mi (Disasters do happen)
Discussions and tips on how to prevent and respond to natural disasters and emergencies. Produced in collaboration with the National Disaster Mobilization Organization.

Ke jua mi nge ke (How is the market?)
News gathered fresh on the different market days in the coverage area and broadcast in an informal dialogue format.

Waa je sikpa (Let’s go walking)
A weekly village-to-village half-hour walking tour provides people with the opportunity to project their lifestyle and highlight their environmental problems.

At Radio Ada farmers share technical knowledge on the air. They use the station to make announcements and leave messages for individuals and groups. Women farmers have a forum where they can articulate their concerns. Farmers often communicate directly with the station to request advice on various issues such as loans, land tenure and interest rate policies.

A good example of the usefulness of Radio Ada’s approach was demonstrated by a subsistence farmer who declared on the air that the Farmer’s Day Award Ceremonies would better suit farmers if the funds were used to subsidize agricultural inputs. Because farmers create the output themselves, the programs address authentic concerns and can genuinely be shaped to act as resources for the target audience.

Thus, the station and the farming community have developed an interactive beneficial relationship. As Radio Ada has become established in the various Dangme communities, farmers are often seen taking small radio sets to act as companions as they work in the fields.

Radio Ada, PO Box 33, Big Ada
Dangme East District, Ghana
E-mail: radioada@ghana.com



Reseau Africain des Radios Rurales et Locales facilitates training and produces a quarterly journal called Catalogue (available in French only).

Le Centre Audionumérique du Centre Interafricain d’Etudes en Radio Rurale de Ouagadougou (CIERRO)
Centre de Union des Radiodiffusions Télévision Nationales d’Afrique.
Centre Audionumérique du CIERRO
01 BP 385 Ougadougou 01, Burkina Faso
Tel. (226) 31.68.64
Fax: (226) 31.28.66

The Centre for Alternative Agricultural Media (CAAM) is a farmer-to-farmer communication network based in India. It promotes alternative efforts in agricultural communication with an aim to bridge the communication gap between farmers, scientists and government. The Centre maintains a library and publishes an electronic-bulletin.

Dr. Shivaram Pailoor
Director, CAAM
Krishnalaya, 1st main, 4th cross
Narayanapur, Dharwad – 580 008 India
E-mail: caam@vsnl.net www.farmmedia.org

Training opportunities

Radio Netherlands Training Centre invites applications for the following courses:

Documentary program-making (Radio and Television)
January 28th-April 19th, 2002

Producing effective radio and television documentaries, particularly on the theme of identity. Will discuss the form, content and style of documentaries, as well as structure, production process, use of music and effects. For documentary makers.

Training the trainers (Radio and Television)
September 23rd-December 13th, 2002

The potential of training to improve staff performance; needs assessment techniques; training methodology and its application to different target groups; the use of new media; evaluation of training activities. For professional trainers working in broadcast media organizations and training/educational institutions.

Broadcast journalism (Radio and Television)
February 10th-May 2nd, 2003

How to research, investigate and report for broadcast and new media in a responsible and ethical way, particularly on issuesrelated to economic and cultural globalization.

Radio Netherlands 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
African Office: PO Box 06-561, Cotonou, Benin. Tel: 229-33 33 26, Fax; 229-33 53 82
E-mail: rnafriq@bow.intnet.bj, https://rntc.com/

Promoting Community Radios in the Horn of Africa.
This three-day symposium will take place in Addis Ababa from December 11-13, 2001. It will discuss what is happening in areas of social development in the Horn of Africa, and reflect on the relevance of community radios in advancing these initiatives.

Ephrem Tadesse, Program Officer
Horn of Africa Capacity Building Program/Oxfam Canada
PO Box 17732, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Tel: 251 1 62 62 98
E-mail: ephrem_t@yahoo.com


South African Community Radio Directory 2001
The Directory lists 79 South African community radio stations and provides each station’s contact information, frequency, reach, and languages of broadcast. Also lists community radio support and service organizations. Cost is $20.00 U.S.

Chris Armstrong
Partnerships Manager, National Community Radio Forum (NCRF)
Johannesburg, South Africa.
E-mail: ncrf@ncrf.org.za or carmstrong@icon.co.za
Tel: 27-11 403-4336
Fax: 27-11 403-4314