Mary Sengelela | December 5, 2016
Izack Mwacha is just 24 years old, but his voice is heard frequently on Radio Maria in Tanzania. Mr. Mwacha produces and broadcasts an agricultural program on sorghum production. But thanks to some training he received, he is now being asked to produce any program that needs an energetic person—and so is a key producer at Radio Maria.
Mr. Mwacha enjoys his work. He says: “I am very passionate about producing and airing farming programs as a result of the training I received from Farm Radio International (FRI)…. The trainings provided by the FRI radio officers have enlighten[ed] my mind. I can use a short time to produce a high quality program. I can record a program and none of the listeners can identify that it is a recorded program.”
Radio Maria is in Dar es Salaam, and Mr. Mwacha’s program can be heard throughout Singida region, 600 kilometres away. Mr. Mwacha has created close relationships with farmers across the region, and has interviewed many for his program. At first, farmers were not confident raising their voices and being recorded for radio. Mr. Mwacha says they didn’t know the benefits of being interviewed for the programs they listened to. But he has managed to make the farmers feel comfortable, and helped them raise their concerns clearly. Now, they are very happy to hear themselves on the radio.
Mr. Mwacha also likes to hear from his audience, and works hard to incorporate feedback from social media and from FRI.
Laughing, he explains: “I feel the programs were of international level. I have been receiving feedback from Tanzanians living abroad [in places] like Denmark, Italy, New Delhi, and [the] Netherlands. They feel like they are in Tanzania once they listen to the programs, and they call me ‘Balozi wa mtama,’ which means the sorghum ambassador.”
The Kilimo chetu (Our agriculture) program has focused on sorghum farming, thanks to funding from Irish Aid and support from Farm Radio International. The program has pushed farmers in Singida to do things out of their comfort zone—including performing local dramas, songs, and dances that had been forgotten by their communities.
While Mr. Mwacha loves his work, he has faced several challenges. It takes 18 hours to travel from the station in Dar es Salaam to Singida region. Language has also been a challenge, as some older farmers do not speak Swahili. But with dedication and some help with translation, Mr. Mwacha is meeting these challenges.
Though funding for the Kilimo chetu sorghum program has ended, Mr. Mwacha is looking for ways to keep it on air. If he cannot find funding, he is willing to continue sharing agricultural tips on Farm Radio International’s Uliza platform. Uliza enables broadcasters to collect feedback from their audience. It can also be connected to an interactive voice response system which allows farmers to leave a missed call or “beep” and receive a call-back message with agricultural tips.
Mr. Mwacha is excited to continue working with Farm Radio International, and taking advantage of the resources available to improve his radio programming.
Photo credit: Izack Mwacha, Radio Maria