How can radio broadcasters help?

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Our little broadcaster promotes farmer innovation
Radio broadcasters can help ensure that small-scale farmers are active participants in agricultural development. Radio is an effective way for farmers to hear personal success stories. Farmers can learn how their neighbours in the next village or region improve their planting techniques, increase yields, modify tools and reduce labour. Through this sharing, farmers' experiences and knowledge are validated, and their confidence grows.

In 1999, a weekly two-hour radio program on farmer innovation was broadcast on Tunisian radio, with farmer innovators presenting their innovations on air. During his presentation, an innovator who distils cosmetic plants made an appeal to other farmers to grow the plants on a contract basis. A few days later he was visited by a group of farmers, organized by an agricultural extension project team. When the farmer was interviewed on radio again a few months later, he had already signed production contracts with 20 farmers. The Tunisian radio program has also helped change the attitudes of extensionists and researchers, who now realize that farmers can generate new and useful technologies. Extension workers and scientists, seeing successful innovative practices in the field, can support farmers and spread the word about their innovations through networks of colleagues.

Broadcasting Farmer Innovation

By promoting farmer innovation, broadcasters can not only spread the word about particular innovations; they can also strengthen farmer capacity for innovation. This encourages farmers’ ability to respond to change and crisis, and build their own circles of knowledge. Broadcasters can encourage farmers to explore new possibilities, and can help raise awareness of the value of farmer experimentation and innovation in the community.

Ideally, broadcasts about farmer innovations should be backed up by visits, field days and face-to-face exchanges among farmers. Broadcasters can integrate these field visits as much as possible into their programs. For example, broadcasts might precede or follow the field visits, or both. They could even be recorded during the event.

You may also want to give recognition to families and the larger community for collective practices. One example of a collective practice was found in Zimbabwe . Led by their chief, a village revived a traditional practice of communally working one field. The grain harvested from this field was set aside for those in need. Broadcasting community innovation is a way to acknowledge collective local knowledge, and broaden its impact. Find creative ways to do this, such as broadcasting from community events, or collaborating with farmers' groups.

Programming ideas

  • Identify and visit local farmer innovators. Record interviews on location or invite farmers to your station to discuss their innovations. Follow up with farmers once they have had more time to test their experiments.
  • Include stories of local women innovators. Rural women innovate to increase their income and to reduce their workload, and their innovations are often practical, low-cost and highly applicable to other farmers.
  • Announce in advance and present special farmer innovation awards from your station. You could also award prizes to listeners who respond with letters or calls about the innovations presented in your programs.
  • Interview several farmers (or host a panel of farmers) who have passed innovations on to one another.
  • Hold on-air discussions with researchers who are identifying, testing, and promoting farmer innovation.