After 27 years on air, ‘mother’ of rural Congolese radio still helps farmers improve yields

April 02, 2018
Une traduction pour cet article est disponible en Français

Adèle Tombet Tourissa knows the corridors of the Congolese agriculture ministry’s rural radio department as if it were her own home. Not a single room is unknown to her. As she prepares her programs, she moves from room to room applying finishing touches. At age 56, she is like a mother to her colleagues, who affectionately call her ATT.

Mrs. Tombet Tourissa is an agricultural engineer. She has hosted farmer radio programs since 1991. She presents her program Malongui yabeto nabeno or “Advice between us” in both Kituba and Lingala, the two main languages in the Republic of the Congo. The programs are broadcast from Brazzaville to an audience of about one million.

She also hosts a 15-minute flagship show called Opération Radio et Promotion Rurale on Radio Congo, the national broadcaster.

During the program, she talks about issues and challenges in agriculture, shares new farming techniques, and advises her listeners on how to improve their yields.

She says: “We produce programs according to the seasons, or the farmer calendar, if you will. I feel free and at ease with the farmers, especially when I’m in the field with my Nagra . I like to listen to their challenges, their visions. In short, listen to how they see the world, as farmers.”

Back at the radio station, she broadcasts the information she gathers. Farmers also call in to ask questions about problems they face.

She remembers one program in particular from 2015 on cassava planting techniques. The program was a huge success with farmers. She says: “This program made a splash in all of Congo. I explained how to plant the cuttings in order to get good yields. Lots of farmers had complained that the tubers weren’t giving good yields.”

Mrs. Tombet Tourissa advised the listeners to choose clean cuttings. She further explained that there are three ways to plant them: inclined, vertical, and horizontal.

The radio host recalls: “Whichever method they used, I advised them to respect a distance of one metre between cuttings in a row, and one metre between rows, and the cuttings should be 15 to 20 centimetres long with six nodes.”

The program was rebroadcast several times by popular request.

After listening to this program, Nkoula Anne Marie, a farmer in her 50s, changed how she planted cassava. She has a one-hectare field in Mfila, in southern Congo, where she grows mostly cassava.

Mrs. Nkoula remembers listening to the program early in the morning on Radio Congo, but she didn’t fully understand the recommendations. So she called the station and got more detailed information. She put the techniques into practice, and her yield increased.

She says: “I love that lady on the radio. It’s a boon for me. I followed her good advice and it helped me a lot. Before, I didn’t understand why my cuttings weren’t producing well, but when I followed her advice, I had good yields. I prefer to use the vertical method.”

She harvested enough cassava to make 30 50-kilogram sacks of cassava flour, compared to only 10 sacks in previous years.

Mrs. Nkoula never misses the radio program. She listens from the start of the planting season right through to harvest time, to follow the host’s advice and guidance concerning problems in her field.

Bergina Moyengué Niango is a radio producer at Radio Congo. She says that this kind of feedback is encouraging, and it motivates the radio team. She adds that farmers certainly appreciate the radio programs. Thanks to Radio Congo’s national coverage, the programs reach farmers even in the most remote parts of the country.