Engaging an audience on orange-fleshed sweet potatoes

| November 7, 2016

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Esther Nahabwe has worked hard to ensure her radio program is participatory—and says a Farm Radio International innovation called Uliza has helped.

Miss Nahabwe is a broadcaster with Hunter Radio, based in the Bushenyi district of western Uganda. The station broadcasts to about one million people, and Miss Nahabwe anchors a radio program called Omuhingi, which means “farming.” She says: “Many farmers have benefited because it involves interaction with agricultural extension workers and other experts from different fields, depending on the topic of discussion.” The program started in February 2016 and has recently focused on orange-fleshed sweet potatoes.

Esther Nahabwe

Esther Nahabwe

Miss Nahabwe adds, “Farmers access useful information through voting on poll questions, [and through] text messages and alerts.” This is facilitated by Uliza, a web-based application that makes it simple for broadcasters to integrate mobile phones—either for sending alerts or polling the audience—into their radio programs.

Miss Nahabwe says Uliza is simple to use. She explains that to poll her audience, “I read the question while on air concerning the topic we are discussing on orange-fleshed sweet potatoes.”

Farmers respond by leaving a missed call or “beep” at the phone number announced on air.  The farmer is called back, and records his or her response with the keypad and by leaving a voice message. Miss Nahabwe says, “I then use these recorded voices in the radio programs.”


Uliza platform

Uliza makes it easier for broadcasters to share farmers’ experiences and opinions, gathered through interactive voice response polls like this, or through SMS polls, alerts, and other information and communication technologies (ICTs).

Uliza was developed by The Hangar, Farm Radio International’s radio and ICT innovation lab, based in Arusha, Tanzania. Kassim Sheghembe is FRI’s ICT team lead. He says that Uliza’s ability to collect poll information and feedback in one location makes it easier for broadcasters to air a participatory radio program. He explains: “Uliza makes the poll results accessible and easy to understand. Broadcasters can interpret this data live on air as it comes in. Broadcasters can also access the voice recordings from listeners. They can then air the comments, ask listeners’ questions to an expert, or have an on-air discussion with callers.”

Nicholas Twine is a farmer who has benefited from the Hunter Radio program—and from Uliza. He says: “I have been listening to Hunter Radio for a long time, but this program is so educative and interesting. I have learnt that orange-fleshed sweet potatoes are useful to our bodies, and I urge all listeners to learn, plant, and eat these potatoes.”

Mr. Twine says he has been participating in the program by beeping when Miss Nahabwe asks a question on air. “I start beeping when the number for Uliza is read on air. I follow the prompts and answer all the questions. Uliza is so interesting, and I’m happy because my voice is aired during the program. I urge people to continue beeping, using Uliza, on the Hunter Radio program, which is aired every Tuesday and Friday.”

Mrs. Adrine Mweheyo is another farmer who learned about orange-fleshed sweet potatoes through Hunter Radio. She says she enjoys using Uliza. “The good thing is that they call me back immediately. At first I thought they would charge airtime, but there were no charges. I follow the prompts and answer all the questions that are asked. In the next program, I hear my voice on Hunter Radio, and that is so interesting to me and my family.”

Miss Nahabwe says Uliza has received overwhelming support from listeners. She says, “The listenership has increased drastically because of using recorded voices.”