Radio dramas broadcast for food security

Actors run lines for a radio drama about a mother who discovers orange-fleshed sweet potatoes can cure her children of Vitamin A deficiency.

Actors run lines for a radio drama about a mother who discovers orange-fleshed sweet potatoes can cure her children of Vitamin A deficiency.

Throughout this week, I’ve heard a lot of of discussion about the importance of using new technologies to reach out to farmers. At the same time, we should look at new ways of using old technology — like the radio.

Agricultural radio programs are one of the best ways to reach small-scale rural farmers, and in fact these programs have become something of a staple in the past few decades. Now, it’s time to push that further. At Farm Radio International, an NGO that works with community radio stations to produce farmer broadcasts, that means entering some uncharted waters: experimental radio.

My Children is a radio drama. It follows the story of Florence, whose children have been suffering from chronic coughing, bad skin and diarrhea. She learns that the cause is vitamin A deficiency, and it can be remedied by feeding them orange-fleshed sweet potatoes.

The consumption of orange-fleshed sweet potato crops can prevent vitamin A deficiency, a condition that causes blindness and increase the risk of maternal mortality. The crop is also highly marketable and production is geared towards women. This information has been presented in straight educational forms, but a radio drama helps connect people to characters in entertaining and engaging ways.

In Mali, Farm Radio International is starting FarmQuest, a radio reality show to find the next top farmer. In response to all those posts and presentations calling for youth involvement in agriculture, radio could be an interesting tactic to promote it as an attractive career option.

Talking with different groups here at Africa Agriculture Science Week (AASW6), I’ve learned about many more innovative practices in agricultural development. New technologies like ICTs are essential to moving forward and can actually enhance the radio experience. They have become highly integrated into our programs and are used for everything from market price indexes to localized weather and feedback.

The existence of technologies alone,however, will not solve our problems. A radio drama may not be what people first think of when trying to build food security in Africa, but it should serve as a reminder that technologies are only as innovative as the ways in which we use them.

Blogpost by Juanita Bawagan, an intern with Farm Radio International’s regional office for Anglophone West Africa in Accra.

Photo: Farm Radio International

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