Burkina Faso: Broadcasters use radio and ICTs to reduce vitamin A deficiency

| February 9, 2015

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Amidou Ouédraogo’s passion for radio continues to burn bright after 13 years of broadcasting. Mr. Ouédraogo says: “When I started on the radio, it was a matter of pleasure. I have many things in my heart that I want to share with others. And the radio seems to me to be the best tool for the job. For me, radio is sharing.”

The broadcaster used to run a shop which sold cosmetics, but in 2002 he landed a job with Radio Lotamu. The station broadcasts from Solenzo in northwestern Burkina Faso, about 300 kilometres west of the capital, Ouagadougou.

Mr. Ouédraogo explains: “When Radio Lotamu started up, I was among their loyal listeners. Then, because I liked the radio so much, I started to wonder ‘Why shouldn’t I go and see if I could convince the manager to let me host a show?’ He agreed and I started with a sports broadcast. Then the audience asked if I could broadcast a program in the Djoula language. I tried it and it worked.”

He left the cosmetics shop to his little brother and began to devote himself to radio. He’s carried the nickname “Banwa Beauté” ever since, in reference to the name of his cosmetics shop.

In 2014, Farm Radio International chose Radio Lotamu as one of three stations in Burkina Faso to implement a radio campaign that encouraged farmers to grow and eat orange-fleshed sweet potato, or OFSP. The tuber is an excellent source of vitamin A, a nutrient lacking in the diet of many Africans.

Growing orange-fleshed sweet potatoes. Photo credit: Adam Bemma

Growing orange-fleshed sweet potatoes. Photo credit: Adam Bemma

Radio Lotamu appointed Mr. Ouédraogo as head of the station’s campaign team. He explains: “We produced and broadcast a total of 17 shows. It was only during this campaign that I began to understand that we could use the radio to change people’s habits.”

The campaign introduced the idea of using mobile phones and the Internet to increase audience participation. The station uses a system known as Beep-2-vote, in which farmers can interact with broadcasters free of charge via mobile phones.

Alimata Konaté is the Radio and ICT Officer at Farm Radio International’s office in Burkina Faso. She says: “The [beep-to-vote] system allows us, for example, to conduct surveys to test the public’s knowledge of any given subject. [We can] produce programming designed to change behaviours and [encourage the] adoption of [new] practices.”

She adds: “This system is effective because listeners are encouraged to participate as much as possible during programs, and again after they are broadcast.”

Apollinaire Kam is a producer at Voix du Verger, a radio station in Orodara, 200 kilometres southwest of Solenzo. His station also ran the OFSP campaign, and he couldn’t be more satisfied with the results.

Mr. Kam says the campaign was a learning process for the station, as well as its listeners. He continues: “In our community, people were growing OFSP, but they were not eating it. Since we started the campaign, people’s mindsets have changed … Many listeners congratulated us [for] making them aware of the importance of consuming OFSP.”

The OFSP campaign was a very rewarding experience for Mr. Ouédraogo as well. He can’t hide his satisfaction when he talks about it. He says that, before the campaign, some people grew OFSP, but many had heard rumours that eating the tubers made you weak. He explains, “With the radio able to engage its listeners with accurate information about the health benefits of consuming OFSP … many have returned to producing and consuming this tuber.”

Mr. Ouédraogo concludes, “We have learned a new way to make radio that showcases our listeners, and we intend to continue in this direction.”

Editors’ note: to learn more about Farm Radio International’s Beep-2-vote system, go to: http://www.farmradio.org/ourblog/2014/07/24/learning-how-to-beep-to-vote-in-burkina-faso/