Radio Extension for Kenyan smallholders in minority languages
Radio is easily affordable, widely available and accessible at all levels of education. It is a highly suitable medium for agricultural extension. However, some of the world's farmers are much better served this way than others. Our initiative is designed to improve the radio info services available to Kenyan smallholders speaking minority languages, and therefore their productivity.
The aim is to enable radio stations broadcasting in local languages to make ag extension a standard part of their programming. The stations chosen had previously devoted no or very little air time to farming.
We began with the first stations in 2015-2017. Our implementation partner was Kilimo Media International (KiMI, s. links below). Staff there worked with Kalya FM, Star FM, Serian FM and Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC), and the County Departments of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries (DALF). Together they delivered agricultural extension via radio in the counties of Marsabit, West Pokot, Samburu, Isiolo and Garissa. These are outside the area in which SFSA has so far operated in Kenya.
KiMI trained broadcasters how to, for example, interview farmers in their fields, and how to run call-in sessions with experts in the studio. Issues such as the best timing of farm programs were also covered. Importantly, KiMI, assisted by SFSA, also helped the stations develop plans to earn revenue from programming. This enables sustainability after our withdrawal.
The counties‘ ag extension officers play a crucial role in this initiative. Most quickly realized radio’s potential to increase their reach enormously, and at very low cost. Some extension officers have developed into “radio stars“! Those who revealed their mobile numbers on air are in particularly hot demand from farmers whom they could never otherwise reach.
Our partnership with KiMI continues. The second group of stations completed initial training with KiMI and county extension officers in January 2018. Like us, the stations are on Twitter: @Thiirifmkenya, @syokimaufm, @radioJangwani, @BusRadioKajiado and @1017fm (Rware FM). These are mainly in the south of Kenya; Jangwani is in Marsabit. The main broadcasting languages this time are Kimeru, Kikamba, Borana, Kimaasai and Kikuyu respectively.
A survey of achievements with the first group of stations appeared at the end of 2017. This showed that they had successfully raised listeners‘ interest in acquiring agricultural information. From only 0.3% at the outset, the share of respondents seeking information from local extension service providers had risen to 29%.
The project not only transmitted information. It also created awareness of the presence and value of local extension service providers. The radio stations consistently collaborated with extension officers and other agricultural experts, and let them speak and interact with farmers about local agricultural issues.
KiMI also measured the programs‘ ability to change listeners‘ farming practices. Some 84% of respondents not only listened to and understood the practices as broadcast, but also adopted them. The baseline figure for adoption of ag extension advice had been only 9.3%.
Radio listenership rose from 59% at baseline to 96%. Frequency of listening to agricultural radio programs at least once a week also increased, from 34% to 62%. The proportion of farmers who rarely listened to agricultural information on the radio decreased from 53% to 10%. These findings suggest a considerable rise in farmers‘ confidence in the relevance of radio information.
Radio dissemination of agricultural information also expanded the reach of the local radio stations and extension officers beyond their main catchment areas. For example: Interactive radio sessions showed that information via Kalya FM (West Pokot) was raising the interest of farmers as far as Uganda. Star FM in Marsabit discovered that it has listeners as far away as southern Ethiopia.
Studies and publications
- Analysing Farm Radio Through Contemporary Models of Science Communication. F. Oswald (2018-19 Master's Thesis about our initiative)
- Kenyan farmers' perceptions of and adaptations to climate change before and after a radio program intervention. F. Mwaniki (2016 PhD thesis).
- The waves that change? Agricultural advice via radio in local languages: benefits and gaps. P. Castle (2014).