Maxine Betteridge-Moes | August 13, 2018
In Ghana’s Northern Region, farmers who tune into Radio Savannah 91.3 FM on Sunday evenings recognize the familiar voice of a man who is a source of vital information and a link to expert knowledge. But they also recognize the voice of their friend, Amadu Malik.
“If you visit most of the communities in the Northern Region, they know of me,” says Mr. Amadu, smiling. “I’m the farmer’s friend.”
The “farmer’s friend,” or Pukparibi Yilikperilana as he is known in the local Dagbani language, has been hosting Pykparibisaha (“Time with farmers”) for nearly a decade. The 90-minute program features live interviews with agricultural experts and a segment for farmers to phone in to the studio and ask questions.
But after hosting the program for some time, Mr. Amadu realized the phone-in segment was too short for the number of callers trying to get through.
“Before you end, you have a number of people still calling, even though the program is off. Even [just] before you leave the studio, you are picking calls,” he says. “So I thought: why not give them an extra line, [so that] after the program they can communicate with you.”
The solution was simple, but it changed the way farmers receive important information about things like farming practices, climate change, and government policies. Mr. Amadu uses his personal number, which he calls “The farmer’s friend line,” so that farmers can call or send messages via WhatsApp. He announces the number throughout the program, reminding listeners that they can call any time with their questions.
“Even sometimes you will be sleeping and they will call you,” he laughs.
At the beginning of the farming season, Mr. Amadu often receives more than 20 calls a week. Farmers have questions about subjects like buying seed and tractor services. Midway through the season, when farmers are busy in their fields all day, he receives fewer calls—but his phone line is always open.
“Most of the questions they ask, I can easily answer them because I’ve been farming since my childhood,” says Mr. Amadu. “I’ve been doing this program since 2009 and I’ve been learning along. It’s like I’m in school.”
For more technical questions, Mr. Amadu gives farmers the contact information of one of his many sources at the Ministry of Food and Agriculture or other research institutions and NGOs.
One of Mr. Amadu’s devoted listeners is a man named Sulimana Baba, a farmer in Bini village, in Yendi district. Mr. Baba has been listening to “Time with farmers” on Radio Savannah for three years. He has even memorized the farmers’ friend line number.
“When the number is busy, I can also text him,” says Mr. Baba. “We have become personal friends.”
Building relationships with farmers and visiting their fields is an important part of Mr. Amadu’s work. There is a severe shortage of extension services. This means that many farmers do not have anyone in their district who can visit their farms or offer advice and expertise. Mr. Amadu visits his farmer friends at least once or twice in a season, but wishes he could go more often.
“Radio Savannah goes far and it really helps them. When you visit them, they feel happy. But I must be frank; it is difficult visiting them,” he says.
Mr. Amadu’s farm program and occasional field trips are vitally important in Mr. Baba’s village.
“I can’t remember the last time the extension officer visited my community,” says Mr. Baba. “If you come to my area right now and ask who our extension officer is—do you know their name—nobody can tell you. The radio program is what I’ve been depending on. Mr. Amadu is doing marvelous work.”
According to the Ministry of Agriculture, there should be 4,400 extension officers working directly with farmers in the field. However, the government currently employs just 1,600 and 80 per cent are set to retire in the next three to four years. In June, the government approved the placement of 3,000 extension officers across the country.
In the meantime, it’s thanks to dedicated and innovative radio broadcasters like Mr. Amadu that Ghanaian farmers can obtain the information they need to support themselves and their families.
Radio Savannah is a Farm Radio International broadcasting partner. If you would like to learn more about becoming a FRI partner, please see Farm Radio International’s Guide to resources and Partnership agreement here: farmradio.fm