Spotlight: Radio program helps Ugandan farmers get better prices for orange-fleshed sweet potatoes

March 12, 2018
A translation for this article is available in French

Alex Niwamanya started broadcasting at Voice of Kamwenge just six months ago, but has already seen the impact of his radio programs. Mr. Alex is a 30-year-old radio journalist who presents a program called Eiraka ryomuhingi no murisa, or “The farmer’s voice.” The program provides market information for orange-fleshed sweet potato farmers, linking them to buyers so they can get better prices for their produce.

Mr. Alex says that when he goes to villages to interview farmers or speaks with them during his call-in program, they tell him how much they have learned from listening to the radio.

He adds, “They have even formed groups which train others on their achievements after they have harvested. So from there, I know that there is an impact.”

Voice of Kamwenge broadcasts to about 2.4 million people in western Uganda, northern Rwanda, and parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is one of three radio stations working with Farm Radio International to broadcast programs that target orange-fleshed sweet potato farmers. FRI designed the programs with funding from HarvestPlus, an NGO that works to reduce hunger by developing more nutrient-rich varieties of staple crops.

For 10 weeks, Mr. Alex settled in at the microphone every Monday from 8 to 10 p.m. to present his program live in two languages, Rukiga and Runyankore. The program touched on many subjects, including tips for sorting potatoes, drying them, and keeping pests away from the stored harvest. The main goal of the program was to encourage listeners to grow and eat more vitamin A-rich orange-fleshed sweet potatoes.

Mr. Alex regularly invited listeners to call in and share their experiences and ask questions. The radio station also reached farmers on their mobile phones to help link them to buyers, or to conduct polls.

Another of the program’s main features was reliable, up-to-date market information to help farmers find buyers and get a good price.

Mr. Alex says this information allowed many local farmers to switch from only supporting their families to farming as a business. He adds: “The radio program has created an impact since [farmers] have now been given strategies on how to market [their produce] … if the strategies were not given, farmers would be working subsistence farming only, but now [many] farmers focus on commercial projects.”

His experience presenting the program has convinced Mr. Alex that radio is a fast and effective way for farmers to get the information they need, when they need it.

He says, “I have learned that people love to hear news concerning their business, like farming. Farmers are so appreciative of the news and information given to them.”

The three radio stations involved in the project—Voice of Kamwenge, Mega FM, and Simba FM—reach 10 million listeners in western, northern, and central Uganda. The last of the originally scheduled programs on orange-fleshed sweet potato were broadcast at the end of February 2018. But because of the popularity of the programs, HarvestPlus has decided to add another five episodes to support farmers during the upcoming planting season.

Financial support for this story was provided by HarvestPlus (www.HarvestPlus.org), a global alliance of agriculture and nutrition research institutions working to increase the micronutrient density of staple food crops through biofortification. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of HarvestPlus.