The financial, political, and social capital available to radio stations directly impacts the kinds of programmes and messages that are directed towards farmers. For example, community managed and funded stations may emphasise local context and resource availability. Commercial and private stations may be more inclined to enlist agro-dealers or businesses as sponsors of programmes, which may lead to bias in the preparation of programmes. Public stations, funded through government agencies, may reinforce national policies and may not accommodate the locally specific needs of rural communities.
Radio-based extension activities, particularly interactive programmes, can provide the following governance roles and services:
Provision of feedback on government initiatives: Assistance in monitoring the uptake and impacts of government policies on land use, crop specialisation, etc. (including potential unintended consequences).
Feedback on land grabbing and land disputes: Radio can offer an inclusive and safe venue for discussing sensitive issues around land and land use changes between various stakeholders, particularly if listeners can contact the station anonymously.
Rapid information on natural disasters, food security, climate-related issues: In Liberia and Sierra Leone, local radio stations played a key role in delivering information to remote villages about Ebola prevention, while also tracking the rate and locations of infection, and advising where to seek treatment.
Evidence of impact and potential scalability
Purdue University, USA, showed that the use of radio increased the level of interest in, and adoption of, triple bagging of cowpeas by farmers in Nigeria.8 Farm Radio International’s participatory radio campaign strategy continues to show positive results in both increase of knowledge and uptake of particular agricultural practices presented through radio with support from existing NGO and government interventions.9,10 In Ethiopia, over 50 percent of farmers who listened regularly to the programmes increased their knowledge of teff cultivation. Farm Radio International’s ongoing work demonstrates the value of engaging radio stations as active partners in extension. They have shown that radio has helped to increase demand for planting materials, and has led to an increase in farmers testing new innovations. Scalability is evidenced through the ongoing work of Farm Radio International,11 as well as previous radio work through Mediae (mediae.org) and BBC Media Action, and through their strategies for working with existing national extension services and training radio stations on producing quality radio programmes. Increasing the use of translation tools and strengthening networks among radio station staff, ministries working in the agricultural sector, researchers, donor agencies, and other key actors could help to build a more sustainable model for radio communication, integrated with extension services.