LYF uses Local Radio to Reach Smallholders in Kenya

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:


  1. cristina
    Posted 14/09/2011 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    Great to see Joseph on there!

  2. Gail Cox
    Posted 28/09/2011 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

    Can I just say that this is the best thing I have read in a long time. Why some of the bigger charities and fair trade companies are not supporting you I do not know (or maybe they are and you are just quiet about it!!!!) Anyway – I also saw your newsletter and think that you are all an amazing inspiration. Well done you and I hope you have many successes – you obviously have an affinity for working with the people who matter!!

  3. G Lou G
    Posted 29/10/2011 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

    You’re right Gail. I have been following them for a while and I don’t get why the lorna Young foundation doesnt get more attention from the media and such as they could really do some good for the foundation.

    I personally ,get sick of hearing people complaining that they wont give money to the big charities and ngo’s ’cause the money is being wasted on administration stuff and big campaigns. I agree with all of that but i think people should put their money where their mouth is and sending donations to something like the Lorna Young foundation – like, a small charity that really is doing things that are being overlooked – is one way of showing that you give a damn and that you want the money you send off to be spent as it should be.

  4. Kitonga Muli, L&K consultant
    Posted 07/12/2011 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    I live in Nairobi Kenya. I have listened practically to all the radio program on air since they started in Coro FM. The content is truly informative to coffee smallholders, not just in Nyeri region, but also the surrounding regions where coffee is grown. LYF is doing what the government of Kenya used to do in the 80s and early 90. During these decades, the government broadcast on National radio programs about coffee and tea.
    Congratulations LYF!

  5. Posted 16/09/2012 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

    In my observations, the Ethiopian hnhglaid erosion problem is greatly exacerbated by the cutting of any bush for either fuel or to make some sort of boundary. Most fences’ are not as pictured above but simply a row of piled up cut branches. Cooking is widely carried out on open fires with hearths only to support the pans not for efficient combustion and heat use a practice not only encouraging environmental devastation, removal of deep rooted plants, but giving major health problems to the families breathing the smoke. It is a pity that the community wide benefits of the erosion control practices you discuss (or conversely, recognition that things are even worse than they were 20 years ago) are not being implemented more widely I would certainly note that education and extension work by well-trained workers can also be part of the solution. How far is humanity from extinction? One answer is 20 cm, the average depth of the topsoil.

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