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Bringing farmers and broadcasters closer together: Rubanda Tukore FM

Rubanda Tukore FM, a Ugandan radio station, has found ways to bring itself closer to the farmers in its listening area—even while COVID-19 is keeping people farther apart.

Rubanda Tukore has 22 broadcasters and is located in the Kigezi sub-region of southwestern Uganda. While the station mainly broadcasts in a local language called Rukiga Runyankore, it runs programs in multiple languages.

When COVID-19 became an issue, Rubanda Tukore FM, like most radio stations, had an immediate drop in revenue. At the same time, the need for information increased, as did the cost of providing it.

Rubanda Tukore FM is one of the recipients of Farm Radio International’s COVID-19 Support Fund, aimed at helping radio stations continue to inform their rural listeners while COVID-19 wreaks havoc on their sources of revenue.

Javura Twizukye is the programs manager and a host at Rubanda Tukore FM. He’s worked at the station since 2018.

Twizukye says, “We were moved to see the challenges they [the farmers] are facing.”

He says one of the biggest challenges was the closed markets. Farmers were still able to harvest their produce, but couldn’t find a market to sell it. This made finding storage a much bigger issue. (To address this issue, Farm Radio published a backgrounder on keeping food fresh for longer [1].)

The next step, Mr. Twizukye explains, was to approach district leaders and production officers to see how farmers could find markets. The station broadcast talk shows in their studios (with masks, of course), and hosted representatives from farmer groups who worked together to grow and harvest their produce, sharing earnings at the end of the year.

The farmer groups said that working together allowed them to market their produce more effectively, making them more attractive to lucrative exporters. Farmer group representatives encouraged others to make similar choices.

The station also asked farmers about their farming methods. Using sheep droppings to improve soil fertility became a particular topic of interest.

Mr. Twizukye says, “Because other farmers didn’t know this method, we recorded their voices for stories and played them over the radio.”

He adds, “Then we received more calls, asking more questions: how they could do it, and to see how it might work for them.”

The principle of learning from other farmers worked with the farming groups. After explaining on-air how one group worked, more farmers created marketing groups to sell their produce, encouraged by the radio station and assisted by the district.

Ineya Kantaki is one such farmer. She is the chairperson of the Bushura farmers group in Bubare sub-county, part of Rubanda district. She says that after markets closed because of the pandemic, she formed an association with her fellow farmers, enabling them to market their Irish potatoes.

She says they formed the group to help rural women boost their own incomes, rather than having to rely on what their husbands gave them.

Some of FRI’s COVID-19 support funding was earmarked for purchasing recorders that reporters can use in the field, as well as equipment to edit stories in the studio.

Mr. Twizukye says, “When we have recordings from a real farmer, it convinces another farmer in another area to really believe.” He adds, “We found we could not go and say what is happening—just narrate the story. To have a recording [of a farmer] sounds much better than me [talking] as a presenter.”

Station staff speak a number of languages and record voice-overs of important information in those languages on their new microphone, also purchase with FRI’s COVID-19 support funding.

The station also purchased a computer. This, like the other equipment, will be used to amplify farmers’ voices.

Mr. Twizukye says, “The computers we use to edit those voices, and the microphone—we speak a number of languages—we do voice-overs together for all those languages.”

He adds that focusing on farmers’ challenges has built connections with small-scale farmers who listen in their gardens or their fields.

He says, “When we are talking about a certain issue, it will bring us closer to them. As they listen at their fields, it brings them closer to us.”

He adds, “We are hand-in-hand educating each other.”

Photo: Farmers during the planting season in Bushura parish, Bubaare subcounty, Rubanda district.

Rubanda Tukore FM was one of more than 100 stations to receive Farm Radio COVID-19 Support Funds. Read more Spotlight stories to learn about other recipients of these funds.