Once a week, Green Leaf Radio Magazine’s catchy theme song plays on radios across Uganda. As more listeners pour in every week, they are greeted by a number of segments including news and weather, but most importantly tips on how to improve their farming practices.
To say that farming in Uganda is vital to the average citizen’s economic security is an understatement : 88 per cent of Ugandan households are involved in the industry. This number grows exponentially in the country’s rural communities.
Still, agricultural workers often aren’t getting the help they need through extension, or agricultural advisory, services.
Despite the large involvement in agriculture, only 14 per cent of farming households were receiving active support in 2020. As such, Farm Radio has taken an active role in modernizing the ways that these households can receive information and help in the field.
Green Leaf is the focal point of the organization’s “Platform” project, which is providing and sharing knowledge from and to communities through the power of radio.
Taking inspiration from a similar initiative in Ghana, the project targets 12 regions in the country. In each area, a local radio station was selected as a result of extensive baseline research within each community.
“From the baseline, you get to know which radio stations that have preference to the communities and the farmers,” said Lynn Nakabugo, the project’s stakeholder engagement manager. “So we have an agreement for each radio station and how we’re going to work.”
Baseline research began in 2022. The research is intended to assess communities’ knowledge of regenerative and circular agricultural practices, he said.
Farm Radio also made efforts to ensure that radio stations themselves were equipped with the proper infrastructure to support the platforms.
“We did what we call a ‘needs assessment,’” said Pascal Mweruka, a senior radio craft officer and platforms specialist for Farm Radio International Uganda in charge of training the radio stations. “Do they have the equipment, or do they lack some equipment that we can provide for them, for us to know that they are enabled to do the work we want them to do.”
The radio stations were instrumental in obtaining critical information from farmers concerning their day-to-day work that assists Farm Radio in generating educational content. This information includes the types of equipment they use and how their farms operate.
Given the private nature of farming in Uganda, this information can often be hard to obtain.
“Sometimes this is classified information because it is business people don’t want to disclose,” Mr. Mweruka said. “But we needed to engage them and let them know that of course we signed disclosure agreements. We let them know that, no, we are obtaining this information for this purpose and we can’t disclose it to anyone else.”
Training and development
Upon completion of the needs assessment, Farm Radio began to develop detailed templates for the radio programs for each region.
Over the course of five days, Mr. Mweruka trained the radio representatives from each district hub. Each of the regions contains a central district hub, which includes an agricultural advisory coordinator, two broadcasters and three subject matter specialists.
During the training, attendees were trained on conducting interviews and preparing for radio shows. Training also included gender equality and inclusion principles that have been incorporated into the radio programs, Mr. Mweruka said.
The initial training culminated in eight episodes for each hub, with each district focusing on a particular agricultural value chain.
“Some were doing coffee, some were doing dairies, some were doing those different things, depending on their agroecological zone,” said Ms. Nakabugo.
Many of the 12 districts have similar value chains and production practices.
“When it comes to maize production, the practices are the same in all 12 hubs,” Mr. Mweruka said. “The pests that affect the maize enterprise are the same and the remedies designed to counteract these pests are the same.”
The initial eight weeks of programming concluded in December 2022.
In January, Farm Radio recalled the hubs to participate in a design workshop for a new season of episodes. This time the aim was to design a template for 35 weeks.
Unlike the trial season, each region would address more than one value chain decided upon by the district hubs.
While many of the hubs focused on dairy, others branched into more unique chains.
“One was doing banana, two were doing coffee, one was doing aquaculture, then apiculture,” Ms. Nakabugo said. “Because you cannot do coffee for 35 weeks right?”
In the development of the program, it was also important for Farm Radio to work with other NGOs within these various communities.
As Farm Radio’s work generally revolves around radio and digital tools, they often support the work of NGOs aiding agricultural production in the communities, Mr. Mweruka said. This cooperation is critical so as to not confuse listeners by giving them conflicting information regarding the cultivation of their value chains.
Farm Radio also works closely with the Ugandan Ministry of Agriculture and their district departments to obtain a greater understanding of the extension services and value chains offered in each area.
The second season of programming began in March 2023.
Green Leaf Radio Magazine
In general, the radio programs developed for Green Leaf are presented in a magazine format, meaning different segments that spend time with different topics and stories, like flipping through a magazine.
“This is an agricultural program that is holistic in nature,” Ms. Nakabugo said. “It talks about weather, markets, it brings in different value chains, it brings in farmers’ voices, and it has advertorial segments.”
The episodes are different for each region, tackling the value chains and farmers’ needs within the respective district. To accommodate their intended audiences, they are presented in the local languages of each region, including the Green Leaf theme song.
In total, the program generally lasts an hour, with each segment ranging in time from five to 15 minutes. The segments include local and global agricultural news, and a question and answer segment with the listeners.
Learn more about Green Leaf Radio Magazines.
As Green Leaf Radio Magazine powers through its second season, the district hubs are already beginning to show they can generate their own programs.
“Some can generate content on their own,” Mr. Mweruka said. “Others are even doing voice recordings in the communities when they are doing their extension work and they find fascinating stories.”
The hubs have also begun to evaluate their own programs, completing quality assessments and reports. To Mr. Mweruka, this progression is a major success for the project.
This success is also showing within the communities that listen into the program on a weekly basis. Videos of farmers building terraces in their gardens and cultivating coffee using tips from Green Leaf are flooding into the Ugandan office regularly.
It is clear that as the program continues to grow and attract farmers across the country, it has the power to revolutionize farming extension services.
And as its popularity increases, so too does interest from prospective stakeholders, encouraged by the engagement from farmers and radio stations alike propelling the project forward.
According to Ms. Nakabugo , “It is a platform that you don’t want to miss.”
About the project
The “Sustainable Dialogue and Knowledge Sharing Communication Platforms” project aims to provide a majority of rural people in Uganda with a reliable, continuous and powerful communication service through interactive platforms that share knowledge, facilitate dialogue, give voice and stimulate positive change toward inclusive, circular, regenerative agriculture. Working with the Ugandan Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, as well as a variety of private and public stakeholders, the project will establish the building blocks for a network of digital extension platforms hosted at 12 radio stations to create dialogue and knowledge-sharing communication hubs aimed at providing farmers with the latest regenerative agriculture practices, as well as marketing and business advice. This project is made possible thanks to the support of the IKEA Foundation.
Learn more about Farm Radio’s Green Leaf Magazine and other radio initiatives: https://farmradio.org/news/