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Radio Waves: Broadcasting to Farmers in Northwestern Tanzania

Posted On: August 17, 2023
EWS-KT Technical Field Officers Hadija Lihumbo and Lydia Mkopa and radio presenter Mwl. Natabu sit at a table with microphones and other radio equipment.
EWS-KT Technical Field Officers Hadija Lihumbo and Lydia Mkopa, with radio presenter Mwl. Natabu.

The Power of Radio

In Tanzania, radio is an excellent way to share vegetable farming information with small-scale farmers—and to encourage other listeners to start growing vegetables.

With this in mind, East-West Seed Knowledge Transfer Foundation’s Tanzania team hosts a 1-hour radio show twice a month. EWS-KT Technical Field Officers (TFOs) organize and prepare the technical contents for each radio session based on the different growth stages of crops throughout the year.

Broadcast live every other Thursday evening from the studio of Kahama FM Radio in Kahama town, the show uses a mixed format. Approximately 40 minutes of presentation by TFOs and other invited guests is followed by 20 minutes of answering questions from listeners, submitted via calls and text messages.

In addition to covering each evening’s selected topic, the radio show publicizes upcoming Field Days and training events scheduled at the EWS-KT learning farm in Kahama. 

Farmer Pascali Juma and Technical Field Officer Lydia Mkopa hold buckets of tomatoes in Pascali's field.

Farmer Connection
Pascali Juma (left), who lives in the Kiyinza area, is a regular listener of EWS-KT Tanzania’s radio show—in fact, the show is what motivated him to start farming. He contacted EWS-KT for more advice, and Technical Field Officer Lydia Mkopa (right) began to work with him in person to grow tomatoes.

Hearing from Listeners 

In the first half of 2023, a total of 823 farmers called or messaged during or after the 12 radio shows. “We really see the impact of radio sessions because we are receiving phone calls from farmers in nearby regions,” said TFO Lydia Mkopa, who is in charge of the radio shows. Most of the calls are from outside the Kahama municipal area, coming from farmers living elsewhere in the Shinyanga region (Kahama, Ushetu, and Msalala districts) or in the Geita and Tabora regions. These callers are seeking technical farming advice or have other questions or comments for the EWS-KT team. 

In their calls and messages, listeners say that the show helps them to improve their farming techniques and teaches them about different problems and solutions. They also often compliment the radio team on the topic choices, which confirms that the presenters are sharing information that listeners want to hear. “We have some people who tell us that they always follow our schedule so that they do not miss even one session,” said Lydia. “This shows they love what we offer.”

EWS-KT Technical Field Officers Hadija Lihumbo and Lydia Mkopa sit in front of microphones at the radio station.

Radio show topics, January–June 2023:
– Basics of tomato production
– Types of vegetables and their importance
– Things to consider when establishing home gardens
– Soil health
– Types of organic manure and their importance
– Types and proper use of inorganic fertilizer
– Seed sowing and proper seedling raising
– Safe use and proper handling of pesticides
– Integrated pest management
– Different seed products from East-West Seed that are available from agro-input dealers
– Business and production planning

Engaging with Farmers

With the high volume of calls coming in, not all can be answered during the call-in portion of the show. To keep in touch with these farmers, TFOs call the farmers after the show, introduce themselves and EWS-KT, and help the farmers with their concerns. Phone numbers for TFOs are also shared during each radio show so farmers can contact the TFOs with any questions. 

“Our radio program is important because it reaches a large number of people, even in areas where we have no presence on the ground,” said Lydia. “It also serves people with tight schedules who can’t come to trainings or Field Days.” About 60% of those who call or text are new to EWS-KT, and 40% are already working with us. The radio show is a great opportunity to introduce EWS-KT to a wider audience and share improved vegetable production techniques with more farmers.

Samson Masalu and family stand with TFO Winnie Kessy in a not-yet-planted field.

Farmer Connection
After listening to an EWS-KT Tanzania radio show about watermelon in late 2022, tomato farmer Samson Masalu (second from right) was inspired to start growing this crop on his farm in the Ushetu district. He contacted Technical Field Officer Winnie Kessy (center), who began to guide him in watermelon production, starting with field preparation.

Continuing to Improve

The EWS-KT Tanzania team has been broadcasting since 2021. This year, they made some improvements to build stronger bonds with listeners, and they are seeing a positive impact.

To get the attention of more farmers and increase the listenership, they now advertise each radio show two days before it airs through social media and radio. They are also spending more time answering listeners’ questions and acknowledging those who call or text by mentioning their names on air.

In response, more calls are coming in during and after the radio sessions, with farmers asking for advice and expressing appreciation for the show.

EWS-KT staff Mganga Togolai and Masam Sudi and radio presenter Ally Songolo sit around a table in the radio studio recording room.
EWS-KT staff members Mganga Togolai and Masam Sudi, with radio presenter Ally Songolo.

Even as knowledge transfer activities shift from Kahama to new locations in Tanzania, the radio team will keep broadcasting from Kahama during this transition period as part of a multipronged strategy to continue supporting farmers in the region. In the future, we may also replicate this popular radio show to reach farmers in and around our new work areas in Ifakara, Mbarali, and Iringa districts.

Radio Report, Feb. 10, 2023 by Lydia Mkopa: Yesterday, we had a radio session that aired for 1 hour. The topic was about VEGETABLE CROPS and the areas we covered were: 1. Meaning of “vegetable crops” 2. Groups of vegetables, where we divided them into three groups according to the edible part: root, shoot, and fruit 3. Importance of vegetables to the community and country We chose this topic because when people hear “vegetable crops,” they think only of leaf vegetables and do not know about the different types of vegetables. The response was really great. We got a total of 80 messages and calls during the session and 49 calls and messages after the session, making a total of 129, and we are still receiving a lot of messages and calls from different places.
After each show, Lydia Mkopa shares a short report with the EWS-KT Tanzania team.