Rice and radio: How a Farm Radio International project is promoting collaboration to serve farmers

September 02, 2019
A translation for this article is available in French

Adugna Tigab is a 33-year-old farmer in the Bure kebele of Lebokemkem woreda (or district) in Ethiopia. Farmland in her area is poor and can be flooded by heavy rains. Mrs. Tigab mainly produces rice, but also cultivates maize, onions, garlic, and tomatoes on her one-hectare farm. Recently, she learned to diversify the produce she cultivates, and can now grow year-round, thanks to irrigation. She can now harvest four types of crops in one farming year.

She learned all this from both a radio program and community outreach. Mrs. Tigab says her productivity has increased exponentially since she took part in a project run by Farm Radio International and the Mennonite Economic Development Association, or MEDA, and supported by local extension agents.

The Rice and Vegetables Radio project aims to improve the lives of women growing vegetables and rice in the Amhara region of Ethiopia by using radio and face-to-face trainings. It’s part of a larger project by MEDA that aims to ensure that both men and women benefit from the vegetable and rice value chains.

Getachew Bura is Bure kebele’s Head of Agriculture. He says that the kebele agriculture office is collaborating with the project to provide training on improved rice production and processing, and on creating market linkages. By working closely with MEDA, the agriculture office supported the distribution of recommended seed varieties and new farming technologies.

Mr. Bura says that the kebele agriculture bureau is doing its best to make experts available for farmers’ questions. But with 200 farming households for every extension agent, it’s difficult to reach everyone. He says: “Even though we are seeing improvement in farmers’ knowledge of rice production, we find it impossible to equally reach all the 200 farmer households, especially at intense farming seasons. This is where we use the radio program and motivate farmers to listen. The radio programs broadcast quality expert interviews and share farmers’ experiences that we use as [a] back-up source of information to our farmers.”

When Mrs. Tigab tunes in to Bahir Dar FM at home, she learns about the timing of different agricultural events, such as when to plant and when to apply fertilizer. Listening to the radio sparked a discussion in her family about row planting, another new technique she picked up from the broadcasters. The discussion motivated the whole family to help her improve this practice.

She says: “When we listen to the radio program at home, my husband and the kids also listen to other farmers’ experiences on row planting and how much they have benefited from that. This helped the whole family to understand the importance of that practice and they now tend to help more. They are willing more than ever before to be helping me on the farm.”

And Mrs. Tigab doesn’t keep this knowledge to herself. Her neighbour, Genete Mola, didn’t have a working radio at home at first, so Mrs. Tigab shared the information she learned on the radio and they both followed the advice.

Mrs. Mola says: “Our farmland was very poor in terms of both productivity and variation of produce.… Our families were regarded as unlucky for having such farmland. But once we got the training on improved rice production, we were able to afford to send our children to school, [and] buy water pumps and solar panels.”

Nebiyu Yetsedaw is an FRI project officer based in Addis Ababa. This blog post originally appeared on the Farm Radio International blog. To read the full story, go to: https://farmradio.org/rice-and-radio/