Spotlight on George Atkins Communications Award winner Mubiru Ali, Radio Simba, Uganda

October 07, 2018
A translation for this article is available in French

In April 2016, Ugandan farmers called in to their favourite program on Radio Simba to complain of an unknown pest that was destroying their maize crops. The program host, Mubiru Ali—a beloved broadcaster, teacher, and farmer—took it upon himself to find out all he could about the pest and prevent further devastation.

“I started asking around from friends both in Uganda and outside Uganda and that’s when one friend of mine in the United States told me it’s the Fall armyworm,” he says. “So I started doing research and I got some photos that I shared with extension workers in the districts where we work.”

Fall armyworm is native to the Americas and arrived in Africa in 2016. At first, the Ministry of Agriculture in Uganda held off distributing information until they had conducted further research and identified approved prevention and control practices. But Mr. Ali was committed to helping his farming colleagues and shared as much information as he could.

“It was the outcry of every farmer where Radio Simba reaches,” he says. “I had to bring out what my farmers need because one of my objectives is providing timely information to the farmers at any given moment.”

Mr. Ali was one of the first broadcasters to work with Farm Radio International on the Fall armyworm project in Uganda. Radio Simba and Radio Kitara in the country’s Central and Western regions produced shows as part of a 10-week radio campaign that was launched in October 2017. The programs helped farmers differentiate Fall armyworm from the African armyworm and other pests in the region, as well as monitor their fields and use biological and chemical pesticides.

Mr. Ali brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to his radio programming. He holds a Bachelor’s of Arts in education, completed a certificate in journalism and mass communication, and also completed a Master’s degree in education leadership and management. He has been broadcasting for nearly seven years and has taken part in numerous Farm Radio projects. Mr. Ali makes use of Farm Radio resources, and goes well beyond his role as a radio presenter to ensure farmers have a say in what goes on air.

“Twice a month, I have dialogues out in the community. I always go out to the communities and do research about problems they have,” he says. “I plan a community dialogue based on the farming and crops they do. I look at their needs and then I look out for the resource packs to come with to the communities.”

Mr. Ali also works to change negative perceptions of farming and encourages more people to get involved in agriculture, whatever their level of education.

“Farming can help you generate income and survive while you wait for your monthly salary,” he says. “I get out of the office; I go to the garden. The office shouldn’t limit you from doing agriculture. I want to be an ambassador to people to show them that no matter how much you’ve [been] schooled, you can still get involved in farming.”

He adds that the George Atkins Communication Award inspires him to continue this important work.

“I felt honoured to be the winner this year. It has motivated me to work more with farmers and with Farm Radio. It’s a milestone that I’m actually doing some good work and giving back to the community and the listeners.”