Hannah Tellier | July 6, 2020
Sixty-year-old Joseph Mchome is the founder and director of Ileje FM radio, an exceptional community radio station in the Songwe region of Tanzania.
Created in July 2016, Ileje FM is a trusted source of information that broadcasts 24 hours per day every day. The station dedicates 42 hours a week to programs about agriculture and rural life.
To deliver this quality programming, Ileje FM creates partnerships that link the station to the skills and resources of a local government board and non-government organizations.
Before founding Ileje FM, Mr. Mchome was a forestry professional. For 20 years, he applied his knowledge at a Dutch development organization where he worked on environmental and development projects. Years later, Mr. Mchome used his knowledge of natural resources with the Ileje District Council.
When Mr. Mchome decided to create Ileje FM, these experiences gave him a unique opportunity.
Mr. Mchome decided that, in order to make a strong radio station, he wanted as many partners as possible. So he incorporated Ileje FM as a private business called the “Ileje Community Radio Company Limited” and invited the Ileje District Council and a local environmental organization called the Ileje Eastern Environmental Conservation Group to be shareholders.
These groups participate in the station’s programs, management, and decision-making. Mr. Mchome continued to work with the Ileje District Council until this year, and says that this structure helps the radio meet listeners’ needs.
Mr. Mchome says, “Radio is not for making profit. It’s for serving the community. Shareholders play a [big] role in helping the radio survive,”
When Mr. Mchome pushed for this structure, his idea was for the radio station to help propel the development work being done by both groups. He says: “We wanted [a partnership between the] government and the community. The Ileje Eastern Environmental Conservation Group stands for the community. The Ileje District Council stands for the government, so it’s like a community-government partnership.”
Though Ileje FM does not meet often with its shareholders, the strong ties between them mean that the groups collaborate regularly. Mr. Mchome knows he can call the Ileje District Council for expertise on specialty programs. Ileje FM has featured agriculturists, doctors, health officers, livestock specialists, and even the district commissioner on its programs.
When the Ileje District Council needs to make important decisions, they know that Ileje FM and the Ileje Eastern Environmental Conservation Group will give them insight into the needs of the community.
“Every strategy has its advantages and disadvantages,” says Mr. Mchome. But together, each group helps the others to make informed decisions for the good of the community.
Beyond radio, these unique partnerships help create new opportunities for Ileje FM.
A few years ago, farmer listeners were reporting low profits. Mr. Mchome explains that middlemen were paying a low price to farmers, then bumping up the price at the market.
“So we tried to make a connection from the end market to the farmer through radio and from there, the profit of the farmers raises up,” says Mr. Mchome.
Thanks to its partnership with the Ileje District Council and the Ileje Eastern Environmental Conservation Group, the radio station was eligible for funds from the United Nations Development Programme to develop a solution. The station received the funding and used it to create a mobile phone-based application where farmers can sell their produce themselves.
“The farmer can say I have … a certain amount of product, then buyers say, ‘I need that,’ so they come to buy it [directly],” says Mr. Mchome.
The application can be used on smartphones and cuts out the need for middlemen so that farmers can earn higher profits. Farmers who want to use the platform but who do not have access to a smartphone can simply call Ileje FM and tell the station the produce they have available. Radio staff then input the information on the farmers’ behalf.
The platform currently has more than 250,000 users in Tanzania, Zambia, and Malawi.
For radio stations looking to similarly expand their partnerships and opportunities, Mr. Mchome encourages broadcasters to think big.
“My advice is that the radio stations should work on adding some good programs and projects that can help, for example, on women, youth, and development.”
Ileje FM recently joined Farm Radio International’s network as a broadcasting partner. To learn more about how to become a broadcasting partner, go to: https://farmradio.fm/