How radios can turn around the fortunes of rural farmers

5

FM radios are the most accessed mode of communication in Uganda, thanks to the liberalisation of the broadcast sector which led to its rapid growth. Radios easily transcend barriers like illiteracy, distance to urban centres, lack of electricity and poverty.  In addition, rural FM radios easily adapt to local language and culture and rural folks can listen to them in their homes in a language they are comfortable with.  But, what type of information do these radios provide to the rural folk? Are they contributing to the improvement of household incomes of their target audiences?  Do these radio stations have trained journalists? Do they involve their target audiences in programme design? What percentage of their time do they use for development messages in comparison to foreign broadcasts and music?  Of course, there are challenges like meeting the commercial interests of the owners and the information needs of the target audiences.  Uganda is a predominantly agricultural country with over 80% of the population directly or indirectly employed in the sector —— majority in the rural areas.

Appropriate use of radio to sensitise rural farmers on market information, seeds, modern farming methods and access to loans can easily turn around their fortunes. A lot of agricultural sensitisation funds are invested in buying airtime and calling experts to teach people what to do. This is good, but is it sustainable?  Government agencies, donors and civil society involved in agricultural sensitisation should embrace the use of radio to sensitise rural farmers on good farming practices.  I have been in the villages of Kabarole in western Uganda and listened to their radio stations.  The topic is always who is going to win in the coming elections, which player Ferguson bought the other day, how Bobi Wine is pirating Kafeero’s music and so on. You hardly hear them talking about which agricultural products are available for sell in a given village, low interest farmer loans in a given financial institution or improved seeds in a certain shop in town.  Imagine what difference it would make if such radio programmes were connecting buyers and sellers of agricultural products, giving the contact phone of the seller and buyer, place, amount and products needed or available!  To reduce the gap, government agencies, donors and civil society organisations involved in agricultural sensitisation should also allocate part of their funds to training rural FM radio journalists in agricultural reporting because it is sustainable.  Sensitisation of the target audience to make more money by radio stations sustains their business because when people are rich they will always have money to buy radio airtime.

If nothing is done many people, especially in the rural areas, will continue to produce crops but sell them at low price to exploitative middle men hence gaining little from months of hard worand the vicious cycle of poverty con

he New Vision: Uganda’s Leading Dailly Newspaper http://www.newvision.co.ug/PA/8/459/729757 Publication date: Tuesday, 24th August, 2010

By Solomon Akugizibwe – Media & Communications Officer,

We are Social