Reaching the Smallholders – Small charity, Big Loud Programme! Climate change, deforestation, food security, droughts, poverty alleviation, export markets, sustainable agriculture, gender, HIV… Is it impossible to reach smallholders in developing countries on all of these issues at the same time?
The LYF thinks not … At 8.30 pm last night, the first ever radio show aiming to deliver real market information to coffee farmers in Kenya, was broadcast to an audience of 4.5 million people and 500,000 coffee farmers via the Kenyan Broadcasting Corporation channel Coro FM. Under the management of the Lorna Young Foundation (LYF) and its African partners, thanks to funding from Comic Relief, it is the first project of its kind to bring together a multi stakeholder platform to reach smallholders.
The LYF forged relationships with a cross section of ‘specialised’ NGOs, buyers, exporters, research and training institutes in order to deliver real time weekly information to coffee farmers in Kenya. The aim is to enable smallholders in coffee to make more informed business decisions when it comes to their crops and engagement and learning on key issues, such as quality and yields, climate change and food security.
Over the next 36 weeks, Joseph Macharia (an agricultural extension specialist, coffee farmer and radio presenter) will run 15 minute programmes under the name of ‘Farmers Gold’ or Dhahabu ya murimi as it is known in the local Kikuyu language. He will be tackling important issues around Agriculture (weather breakdown and tasks month by month) Coffee markets (crops, quality, prices, local and regional markets) Climate Change (food security, sustainable agriculture diversification), Certification (social and environmental requirements, buyers, markets) and will incorporate Gender and HIV issues into the educational broadcasts via specialists at the Swedish Cooperative Centre in Nairobi.
An opportunity will be given to smallholders themselves to have their own questions answered and to engage further with the partners, through a live feedback facility which uses SMS text messaging and an internet platform. Every week, 5 key questions submitted via the platform will be addressed through the ‘Question Time’ part of the programme. What’s truly innovative about Dhababu ya murimi though, is not just the wide area of complementary issues that the broadcast addresses – but that radio content will be decided entirely through two farmer field listening groups based at Gikanda and Rumukia Coffee cooperatives in Nyeri – an area that the LYF has been working to build up a long-term programme of support with since 2007. This means that content is collected from the farmers themselves, documented and broadcast for the benefit of all smallholders.
This use of radio extension offers farmers extension focussed support with up to date information and the opportunity for feedback and follow up. The LYF aim to scale up this approach in order to meet specific needs of smallholder clusters in other regions and with other crops.
Ian Agnew, Director of the Lorna Young Foundation commented “The beauty of being a small charity in the UK, with very few overheads is that we can afford to be flexible and adapt according to what the smallholders tell us their needs are.
For several years now, we – and our African partners – have been frustrated by the fact that even very few fair trade buyers, charities or campaigners have realised that the fairest way to transfer business and market skills to the smallholders is by equipping them to be able to deliver learning materials themselves. African institutions clearly have the ability and the desire to deliver such training in their localities, and it seems peculiar to us that Northern NGOs have not concentrated more effort and money in this area in order to build longer term capacity for smallholders.
Radio is a superb way of reaching out across Africa and we are grateful to Comic Relief for seeing the immense value that this programme is going to have in terms of future long-term food security.” Lorna Young Foundation partners on this project are Farmer Voice Radio, Coro FM, Swedish Cooperative Centre, Nyeri Technical Training Institute (NTTI), Coffee Research Institute, Coffee Marketing Services and Dormans. Bioclimate (UK) For more information on the LYF and the Smallholder Support Network please visit: www.lyf.org.uk