American Institutes for Research Creates Farmer Voice Radio to Improve Farming Practices in Africa

Washington, D.C. – The American Institutes for Research (AIR) has created Farmer Voice Radio, a network of radio broadcasters, agricultural experts, and farmers to provide millions of small farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa a broad variety of agriculture-related radio programming. Supported by a $10 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Farmer Voice Radio will give small farmers access to current information, useful resources, and new farming techniques to help them improve their productivity, livelihoods and well-being over the long-term.

“We are honored to work with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on this project, which will benefit so many in Africa by providing farmers with the help they need to improve the productivity of their farms so that those in their communities benefit,” said Sol H. Pelavin, president and CEO of AIR.

In Africa, 200 million people – 33 percent of the population – are undernourished, and hunger is expected to increase exponentially over the next 20 years unless sustainable steps are taken to meet domestic food needs. Currently, small farmers account for 60 percent of all farmers in sub-Saharan Africa, making them a critical component for establishing economic growth and food security on the continent.

Radio is the most far-reaching, low-cost, and ubiquitous mass-medium in Africa. Farmer Voice Radio will use this medium to deliver vibrant, relevant agricultural programming to help small farmers find the best soil and seed varieties, conserve natural resources, increase crop yields, and gain access to lucrative markets. With easy access to this range of valuable information, small farmers can measurably improve their productivity, livelihoods, and well-being.

To accomplish this Farmer Voice Radio will implement multiple activities, including:

  • Deploy public extension officers in ministries of agriculture to radio stations to help develop programming and content
  • Appoint radio field representatives in communities to deliver onsite reporting and share feedback from farmers
  • Produce local and syndicated content designed to effectively share agricultural knowledge
  • Create a research desk at each station to serve as an information hub for farmer feedback, and station and programming development
  • Engage university radio interns to support Farmer Voice Radio at the station and community levels as an accredited part of their studies
  • Use its network of agricultural experts, including universities, research institutes, ministries of agriculture, and NGOs, to ensure relevant programming content

Through these activities, Farmer Voice Radio aims to build the capacity of radio stations across Africa to serve as an informational resource for small farmers. It also seeks to encourage the participation of farmers through the use of other technologies, such as mobile phones, SMS, and MP3 recorders, so they can obtain the information they need while sharing their concerns and experiences.

Programming topics will range from general farming practices to individually focused techniques based on the needs of a small community. Initially, the project will begin in Kenya and Malawi before expanding to Uganda, Mali, Ghana and Tanzania.

In conjunction with Bill Gates’ keynote address October 15, 2009 at the World Food Prize Symposium in Des Moines, Iowa, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced this grant, along with a package of nine agricultural development projects totaling $120 million to address long-term food security.

“Melinda and I believe that helping the poorest small-holder farmers grow more and get it to market is the world's single most powerful lever for reducing hunger and poverty,” Gates said.

This grant is part of the foundation’s Agricultural Development initiative, which is working with a wide range of partners to provide millions of small farmers in the developing world with tools and opportunities to boost their yields, increase their incomes, and build better lives for themselves and their families. The foundation is working to strengthen the entire agricultural value chain—from seeds and soil to farm management and market access—so that progress against hunger and poverty is sustainable over the long term.

About AIR
Established in 1946, with headquarters in Washington, D.C., the American Institutes for Research (AIR) is a nonpartisan not-for-profit organization that conducts behavioral and social science research and delivers technical assistance both domestically and internationally in the areas of health, education and workforce productivity. For more information, visit

Media Contact

Dana Tofig

Managing Director, Corporate Communications