Farmer Radio in DRC – Presenter Interview

Our Radio presenter Jasmin talks of the Lorna Young Foundation’s radio outreach programme and how it is trying to improve women’s lives through cocoa in the DRC


Jasmin, LYF Radio Presenter in DRC

Jasmin is 27 years old, a student in Human Resource management, and the energetic radio presenter for the LYF programme that is broadcast to 1 million listeners on Wednesdays and Saturdays on Radio Graben in North Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). In this interview, she tells us of her love of radio, the role of women and the opportunities that cocoa could bring.

Reminiscing, Jasmin explains to us why she became a radio presenter, ‘In the DRC radio is a massive form of media. Men, women and children will huddle around a transmitter in the evenings to get their news. I’ve loved listening to radio since I was a young child, and all my life I wanted to be a journalist, someone who could paint a picture with words and spin a good tale. You know in Africa, we love telling stories.’

Asked why she joined the Lorna Young Foundation radio programme, and what she most likes about the project, she told us, ‘I’ve worked as a radio journalist for 6 years. I joined the Lorna Young Foundation DRC cocoa project with IDAD because I wanted to enlarge my horizons, and this was my way of contributing to the communities in my region. What I really like about this project is that it reaches out to women. It gives women the opportunity to contribute to the family income and also develop themselves through cocoa as a cash crop. Women in the Congo and especially in Beni face huge difficulties, they have confidence issues, often they feel they do not have a voice. Traditionally people thought that women could only grow certain types of crop and lots of the cash crops were left to the men. This project helps them find themselves and perhaps helps them find a place in society. We also want to encourage these women, as mothers, to participate in the protection of the environment, to sensitise them and their children about the forest, to help them send their children to school.’

Our radio presenter Jasmin feels that the LYF programme gave her the opportunity to develop as a journalist, ‘I received training from the LYF presenter in Kenya to use a very precise methodology giving agricultural extension and making the programmes interesting for listeners.’ The project provided us with cameras, dictaphones, MP3 recorders, phones for listeners and more recently solar panel chargers for these very remote communities. However, Jasmin hastens to point out that, ‘Despite providing phones, SMS exchanges are still difficult due to illiteracy of women and so we have to encourage centres for reading and writing. This is a challenge, but the women who write an SMS go to one woman in the group who has been given a mobile and send their questions through her.’ Asked if she has any favourites in the listening group, she smiles ‘I do have my favourites… have you ever heard the interviews with Maman Fanic and Maman Jose?  They are straight talking and sharp and they are always encouraging other women to lift their heads and believe in themselves. Fanic is a widow and felt abandoned to her own fate after her husband died. Maman Jose, who is older and can’t read and write, always reminds listeners that if she can do it, so can others. This has really helped boost our listeners’ confidence.’

So has she seen any changes in the women? ‘Yes; absolutely! If you followed me on the 3rd programme, you can hear how freely they express themselves. We gave a workshop recently to train producers on how to set up their nurseries and those from the listening groups come and took part in the activity. This is the first time that I’ve seen a programme on cocoa targeting women and really reinforcing them in their capacity. Women call other women and it encourages them.’

They’ve had training; they’ve made a huge effort in following the programmes, setting up nurseries and taking care of their cocoa trees. It would be good to see them properly rewarded for their efforts through good quality and also good prices

individual care DRC cocoaDespite the positive effects that the project is having on women farmers, it is clear that women still underestimate themselves. This is largely a result of their role in society and at home.  Although they are working in partnership with their husbands much of the time, it is more often the man who benefits from the proceeds. Jasmin hopes that this project will help change that. Asked what her hopes are for the future of women from North Kivu who take up cocoa farming, she says, ‘I know it will have a positive impact for the beneficiaries. They’ve had training; they’ve made a huge effort in following the programmes, setting up nurseries and taking care of their cocoa trees. It would be good to see them properly rewarded for their efforts through good quality and also good prices.’

As for Jasmin, she hopes to continue working on sensitisation programmes which improve the role and participation of women in the community. ‘There should be a programme which just targets women and addresses the question of their role in society. Something to raise their confidence…In the same way that we are open to include neighbours of producers in the programme, it would be good to have local groups which could support women that are vulnerable.  Women living in a precarious situation, widows, mothers and older women who can’t fend for themselves.’

From her experience working on cocoa these last two years, Jasmin feels that people want to get behind cocoa and she wants to encourage them to grow it as a cash crop. ‘Mainly because it grows so well with other food crops. So that farmers can benefit from a good staple diet and have cocoa as a source of income, they can reap double benefits. Cocoa with its ability to grow next to other foods, bananas, maize, soya, beans, is the perfect agroforestry crop.’

As for what the future holds for Jasmin, ‘I will continue to work with projects alongside IDAD but I would like to do more programmes to promote the role of women. I would love to meet other presenters from other countries and to be part of an international team. I hope the LYF continues to help me develop these exchanges with other journalists and to discover new ways of doing things.’

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