Farmer Voice Radio is 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 gives 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.
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.
This grant is part of the Gates 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.