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Farmer program e-course: Broadcasters equipped for better productions

Farm Radio International recently wrapped up its largest-ever e-course, with record registration and offered for the first time in French. This online learning opportunity ran from March 1 to May 7, 2021. More than 300 men and women broadcasters participated, ranging in age from their 20s to 60s. The broadcasters work for radio stations in 22 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. 

Participants followed eight modules over the course of 10 weeks. The course took place on an interactive platform that provided learners, facilitators, and mentors with intense and fulfilling moments of virtual exchange, with the help of WhatsApp groups set up to support learners.

Ayele Essenam Atayi, 34, is a versatile producer who has been working for six years at Radio Metropolys broadcasting in Lomé, the capital of Togo. She says: “I admit that I was already comfortable on the first day, but rather surprised by the process and the pace of the training, which is perhaps normal since it was my first time. The interaction between facilitators and learners and also between learners was very pleasant and all this gave me great confidence to continue the adventure.”

The course allowed learners to get to know each other in the inaugural week before diving into the lessons. The audience research module sparked the curiosity of many learners, who were tasked with getting to know their audience and their needs in order to tailor programs to those needs.

Rosemond Oteng, 25, has been an assistant editor for three years at Today’s Radio in the Ashanti region of Ghana. She says: “One thing I will never forget about this e-course is the audience research, knowing your audience, and deep-rooted issues. It is really helping me a lot. I now call my farmers on the phone to discuss issues they are facing to know how best we can go. I now know when and how to ask a question to benefit my listeners or farmers. And I must confess that, even though I have been to journalism school, I never knew anything on how to design a run sheet. But now different stations call me to design program run sheets for them.”

Seydou Camara, 34, has been a host for eight years at Radio Wassoulou in the Sikasso region of Mali, and was particularly amazed by the quality of the modules. He says: “The modules have been designed to make it easier to understand. I realized that the first thing I was missing was the audience research technique. I also learned to take the gender aspect into account.”

Beyond introspection and discussion of listeners’ knowledge, learners completed hands-on assignments, during which they were paired with experienced broadcast mentors. With the help of these 52 African, American, Canadian, and European experts, learners honed their skills in identifying deep-rooted issues, and conducting narrative and informational interviews. The learning modules were designed to provide the building blocks of the final assignment: an agricultural show that meets the needs of the audience.

The final assignment required learners to use all the skills they had acquired during the course. The episodes were recorded in local languages ​​using local music and covered a wide variety of topics and sounds, painting a true picture of rural radio programs across Africa. A total of 125 learners who completed all the exercises received a certificate for their efforts.

Abdoulaye Mballo, 62, is the director of Mamacounda FM in the Kolda region in Senegal. He says that he took things easy during the first few modules. 

He explains, “But I realized from the third module that I was not acting professionally, despite my long experience [as a broadcaster]. I reviewed the substance and the form of a good agricultural program. Its realization requires seriousness and calls for taking into account a set of parameters to produce a … complete agricultural broadcast. I salute the patience, availability, courtesy, and the very high level of understanding and openness of the mentors and facilitators who have supported us tirelessly.”

The online course was organized with the financial support of the Government of Canada through Global Affairs Canada as part of the “Scaling Her Voice” project. Additional funding was made available by GIZ within the framework of the RECOVER project at the instigation of the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany.

Photo: Khady Thiam in studio at Radio Djimara in Medina Yoro Foula, Senegal in 2020. Credit: Tara Sprickerhoff.