Jaime Little | November 6, 2017
Farmer, teacher, and broadcaster Mubiru Ali knows his radio shows have helped change lives. He produces and presents weekly farmer programs on Radio Simba, which serves central, eastern, and western Uganda. He estimates that his database holds about 15,000 farmers’ phone numbers. He might not remember all their names, but they remember him.
He recalls: “Last year, one farmer from Kasambya, Mubende, brought me a goat, thanking me for giving the information about the orange sweet potato—the farming, the purposes, and where the markets are. He was very happy that I had given him information that he really needed at that time. He sold his orange sweet potatoes and he was able to pay for four years of schooling for all his 12 children. So he gave me a goat.”
For Mr. Mubiru, there’s something even better than the gift of a goat. When Fall armyworm first devastated Ugandan farmers’ fields, Mr. Mubiru talked about it on the radio, and broadcast farmers’ voices. Then, representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture intervened.
He says: “The best moments are when we’re discussing issues affecting farmers and then the government comes out to work on it. The farmers got pesticides from the government for free to help them out.”
Mr. Mubiru is 30 years old. He has been working with Radio Simba, a Farm Radio International partner, for six years.
From fighting pests to trying new tools to getting a good price for their harvest, farmers depend on Radio Simba for information that helps them make the most of their crops.
But gathering that information and presenting it clearly can be a challenge. Mr. Mubiru says it’s frustrating when experts aren’t available for interviews. And explaining complex techniques on the radio can be tricky.
He adds: “Some issues require practical demonstrations. I do find it hard explaining when the people can’t see you, [when] they can’t have a live look at what you’re telling them. Being a teacher, I do my best.”
Mr. Mubiru trained as a teacher, and made the move to radio when he realized what a difference reliable market information can make to farmers’ lives.
He explains: “My mom inspired me to join radio. My mom was a farmer and I looked at how she struggled to make a living for us, and what she could earn at the end of her harvest. So I thought I could be a mouthpiece for the farmers to get their rightful amount from their produce.”
Now he aims to link farmers with buyers, and ensure farmers are familiar with market prices so they can get a fair deal.
Mr. Mubiru regularly broadcasts live community panels. He invites experts, extension workers, and knowledgeable local farmers to discuss topics and demonstrate techniques.
But he doesn’t depend only on those sources. He also relies on his own experience as a farmer. Mr. Mubiru grows maize, bananas, and orange-fleshed sweet potatoes.
He says, “I actually got involved in farming so I could have first-hand information, not just hearsay. Then I can give appropriate information [on the radio] to my fellow farmers.”
It’s all part of his effort to change attitudes toward farming. He says when villagers see someone with a university education return to the fields, it encourages them to see farming as a profitable career.
“I’m proud to be a farmer too. That’s why I’m preaching what I’m doing. Very many people who are educated are benefiting from such activities.”
Farm Radio International presents the annual George Atkins Communications Awards to radio broadcasters who excel in providing programs to help small-scale farmers feed their families and increase their incomes. The award is named after the late Dr. George Atkins, founder of Farm Radio International.