Farmer Extension Radio for African Smallholders

DSC_2306Our farmer extension radio programme has provided a source of information and connections for farmers across Africa. This unique programme uses a multi-pronged approach. Through the medium of African radio and SMS (text messaging) we reach millions of poor smallholders with the information that they desperately need in order to manage their crops effectively.

The farmers ‘set the questions’ for our radio programme and the LYF provides them with access to answers from experts in the field. We also work in partnership with African educational institutions matching them together as peers so that in-country capacity is built and the necessary business education is provided for smallholders, rather than flying in ‘experts’ from the North.

Our first ‘Farmer Radio’ programme in Kenya was named Dhahabu Ya Murimi  (meaning ‘Farmer’s Gold) and reaches around 4.5 million people (half a million coffee farmers.) Working with coffee farmers in Kenya and Ethiopia and now with women cocoa growers in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) we want to roll out and replicate its success throughout the developing world.

Through our ‘Peer Partnering’ scheme we want to build on our work with local partners Ambo College in Ethiopia and Nyeri Technical Training Institute (NTTI) in Kenya.   To date, the programme transfers Ambo’s knowledge and experience of working with smallholders to the NTTI, enabling the NTTI to then train their own staff to work with local smallholder producer organisations in Nyeri. This approach delivers real independence, opens up market access and creates sustainable local capacity in a cost-effective manner as it builds on the skills, knowledge and infrastructure already widely available in East Africa.

Most recently we have also created the new Farmer Extension Website, specially created for ease of access to smallholder organisations in Africa. This is a tool that provides support to smallholders and their organisations. Through it, farmers can access relevant and timely information on radio broadcasts, weather reports and crop prices. We are also thrilled with our new beautifully illustrated training manuals for smallholders – which provide important information about co-op governance, ethical trade, supply chains and marketing. We have also created specially designed picture books on crop cultivation which can be used by smallholders with little/no literacy skills. Our new Farmer Extension website is here www.farmer-extension.org.

Our site also enables farmers to access Visual Weather Forecasts: These are weather maps using live data from NOAA servers in the USA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Organisation). Our partners at Theyr, will prepare the data for visualisation so that weather maps can be seen live by producers globally. These maps provide 6 days of forecast data updated every 12 hours, providing multiple parameters of air pressure, rainfall, temperature, wind.

To find out more about the impacts of LYF’s work so far in Kenya please see here. But our Farmer Extension Radio approach can work outside of African countries too!  Our aim is to build a network of local organisations working towards a common purpose – to strengthen smallholder producer organisations, lifting their farmer members out of poverty.

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