If radio seems like a bygone form of idle entertainment, think again. In Cameroon, where more than 200 community and rural radio stations are actively transmitting agricultural advice, news and information, the radio stars are the brightest ones around.
Rural development actors have many tools in their belt, including Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) such as mobile phones and the internet, to get critical information to food producers. However, wireless and cellular networks in Africa countries have rural coverage that is patchy at best, and for many farmers in isolated areas the humble radio may be the only communication asset they have.
But just because it’s humble doesn’t mean it’s not powerful.
In the city of Douala, for example, a station called “Radio solution” provides agriculture-related programming every Thursday on the so-called “environment space” show. The hour-long program educates young listeners on environmental practices and strategies for safe and profitable management of urban household waste.
A hot topic has been the production of compost manure for the development of urban agriculture, horticulture and arboriculture (fruit). Loyal listeners can even call in for instant advice and clarification on their problems.
Take also the case of the community radio station “Yemba FM” in the western region of Cameroon. The majority of transmissions from this station are given in the local Yemba language, assuring its accessibility for even the most isolated farmer. Every Wednesday and Saturday afternoon, rural producers are offered a program called “Farmer program,” which invites special guests active in the rural economy to educate, inform, and communicate with listeners.
Some farmers in Fondonéra, a small village in the Department of Menoua, attach great importance to this program, saying that it brings them satisfaction and improves their lives. Indeed, critical information is often dispersed through the program. Many farmers, for example, heard about an outbreak of African Swine Fever in 2011 through the radio, and were able to take preventative measures.
So can radio be considered a tool for agricultural extension services? Consider that radio programs can be tailored to meet the specific needs of producers by offering information on improved production technology, funding opportunities, changes in local food prices or consumer markets, even laws which might affect their production activities, and it is clear that radio is more than just an instrument for entertainment. It is an instrument for communication and exchange with rural—and otherwise disconnected—producers, and it can improve the lives and food security of many.
Blogpost by Ngouambe Nestor, a social reporter for AASW6.