Rural radio programmes promote Special Programme activities in Burkina Faso

Farmers and their families are both the main actors in FAO's Special Programme for Food Security (SPFS) and the key audience for information about its goals and methods. In Burkina Faso, where the Special Programme has been in operation for three years, they have also become the principal actors and audience for an information campaign using the medium that has the greatest outreach into remote farming communities - rural radio.

A local radio station - Radio Bobo - has been working with village residents and SPFS staff to gather information about the lives, work, and aspirations of rural families and to raise public awareness of the Special Programme. Eleven half-hour programmes have been made - including game shows focusing on SPFS activities, as well as open discussion of problems faced by farmers. The programmes are being broadcast weekly.

Banzon, west Burkina Faso: a local language radio producer interviews a member of the farmers' cooperative

FAO communication expert Jean-Pierre Ilboudo, who participated in the programmes, said, "There was tremendous enthusiasm. At every site, the whole village - youth, women, men, elders - gathered to participate in the programme. Everyone wanted to express themselves, to be listened to. It was a major event for the village - like a feast day."

Burkina Faso - a landlocked country partly taken up by the Sahara in the north - is a low-income food-deficit country (LIFDC). Despite arid conditions and erratic rainfall, agriculture is the population's main source of employment, food and income.The major objective of SPFS activities in Burkina Faso - at the seven pilot sites - is boosting rice production.

Technological production packages for three distinct types of rice cultivation - irrigated rice, rainfed rice and lowland rice - have been developed by SPFS staff in collaboration with farmers' groups. These packages include seeds for improved varieties, advice on techniques of cultivation, tools and equipment, video demonstrations and, where appropriate, fertilizers. Maize is also being introduced as a new crop under the diversification component.

Each pilot site has been equipped with a treadle pump so that farmers can grow irrigated vegetables in the dry season, which lasts from November to July. Cabbages, tomatoes, onions and chilli peppers are the main crops and are grown both for family consumption and marketing.

Programme staff are working with farmers' cooperatives at the seven sites, providing training and using participatory techniques to analyse - and where possible resolve - constraints faced by farmers in their fight to provide their families with an adequate diet, increase productivity and boost incomes. The radio programmes, which were funded by FAO, serve several purposes - promoting discussion among farmers, gathering information necessary for effective programme planning and raising awareness about the Special Programme among radio listeners across the country.

One major problem that limited rice production was lack of threshing machines, which made it difficult for farmers to process and sell their rice. To solve this, the farmers' cooperatives have organized group savings and approached private sector suppliers for loans.

17 March 1998

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