CountrySTAT Plus Farm Radio International Respond to Food Security Challenges

14/11/2012

Farm Radio Stations have introduced new farming shows on the air, encouraging listeners to plant a drought and disease-resistant varieties of crops that would thrive in Ghana and fetch good prices at the market.

Many farmers in Ghana have been reluctant to experiment with new crops but after listening to these radio stations' programmes, they have now decided to give a try. They tune into the show to hear farmers and government agricultural extension officers offer advice on where to buy the seeds, how to prepare the soil, when to plant, and how to tend the fields. 

In Africa, many governments lack resources to educate farmers about new agricultural practices and technologies that can help them increase their productivity and incomes. There are inadequate agricultural extension officers, hence inadequate opportunities for farmers to interact with them for services. But more than 70 percent of Africa's rural population has access to radio, making it a reliable way to reach farmers.

In 2007, Farm Radio International, with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, launched the African Farm Radio Research Initiative (AFRRI), a project aimed at exploring how to use radio to help rural farmers improve their lives. Working with five partner radio stations in Tanzania, Uganda, Mali, Ghana, and Malawi, Farm Radio has already reached 39 million farmers, providing information on disease-resistant crops, composting, animal housing, soil and water management, and a range of other vital agricultural issues.

In Ghana, the radio campaign promoted the high-yielding rice, New Rice for Africa (NERICA) to small-scale farmers with the demand for the seeds nearly doubling in 2009 over 2008, exhausting the Ministry of Food and Agriculture's supplies.

The main among the farm radio international partnered stations in Ghana include: Classic FM, Techiman, Volta Star, Ho, Radio Ada, Ada, Radio Simli, Tolon/Kumbungu, RAF FM, Afram Plains.

The key to the success of the shows, farmers say, is that they focus on the questions and concerns of small-scale farmers themselves. 

Many of the government agricultural extension officers who have spent years bumping along dusty roads on their motorcycle trying to meet with many farmers in their districts have now decided to take their extension work onto the airwaves.

They now park their motorcycles and take seats in the radio studios, taking calls from across their districts on questions about improved seed varieties, how to use cow manure as fertilizer and seeking advice on how to improve their crop production.

It is now a lot easier than riding their motorcycles to visit the farmers.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation which supported the Farm Radio International programme that have chalked so much success have also provided funding for CountrySTAT. CountrySTAT is a statistical framework for the compilation, management and dissemination of food and agriculture data at the national and international level.

The two giant efforts of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will go a long way to responding to food security challenges and encouraging self-reliance, especially in Ghana.

 

Writer and Editor: Emmanuel Kpakpo Brown & Emmanuel Kpeglah