Rural radio and agricultural development: linking farmers, extension workers and reserarchers
Dear Forum Members,
In 2008, during the Nairobi International Trade Fair, Kenya’s Minister of Agriculture Hon. William Ruto (he has since been transferred to another ministry) wondered aloud why the excellent demonstrations of healthy looking crops and animals are not replicated in the farms across the country. His remarks pointed to an existing gap between agricultural researchers, extension officers and farmers. Farmers do not use proven farming practices either because it does not reach them or the information is packaged in a way that it is not easily understood, making application difficult.
Broadcast media plays a big role in disseminating information about innovations in agricultural technologies and practices while seeking to engage farmers and stakeholders in interactive discussions.
Let me share our experience at The Organic Farmer (TOF) magazine – a monthly publication - and radio program – a weekly feature. We publish stories of environmentally friendly farming practices, technologies and innovations; products of research and creative solutions that farmers use to address challenges in their farms. We receive lots of questions and inquiries from farmers for clarifications and/or requests for inputs, contacts of the sources of our information for follow up and so on.
However, one challenge remains. Farmers will most certainly ask for a practical on-farm demonstration of a given technology or practice. Now, that is beyond my mandate as a broadcaster or in this case an information service. In such a situation, the best I can do is to refer the farmer to a farmer training institution, NGO promoting the technology or if I’m lucky to know an extension officer in that locality then I would give him or her the contacts of the farmer and vice versa. If not the farmer is left high and dry!
This experience tells us that there is need for a link or a working relationship of some sort between the broadcaster, extension officer and the farmer. That if such an arrangement is built, it goes a long way in hastening uptake of appropriate technologies, creating opportunities for discourse and information exchange between farmers and researchers. The big challenge is how to do go about this!
This discussion is intended to call forth;
- Thoughts on the nature of relationship between broadcast media (in this case radio), extension workers and farmers. What it is now, what it ought to be?
- Experiences of projects, programmes; what others are doing; challenges, successes and impact.
- Ideas of how to build and sustain and/or strengthen these vital linkages.
Thank you to all who will contribute as I look forward to an interesting and enlightening discussion.
John Cheburet, TOF Radio