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Community Radio reaching out to small scale farmers in Mozambique

©IFAD/Mwanzo Millinga

Michael Tesha, 42, tunes on to the radio to catch-up with the news. “I like listening to newspaper reviews, BBC news bulletin and the market price information program on Radio Tanzania,” says Michael. Riroda village market, Babati, Tanzania.

Local radio stations can be a powerful means of communication, particularly to smallholder farmers located in remote rural places. When listening to the radio, they feel connected to the rest of the world and become better informed. In northern Mozambique, the Programme for the Promotion of Rural Markets (Programa de Promoçao de Mercados Rurais-PROMER), supported by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the government of Mozambique, is using community radio stations as a creative way to disseminate market price and product information.

The main objective of the PROMER programme is to enable small-scale farmers to increase their income from agriculture by helping them to market their produce more profitably. To this end, timely and reliable information on market prices, quantities available and transport costs is crucial for these farmers to sell at a better price. "We found that the community radio was a very effective way to reach farmers and farmers associations; even when the farmers are illiterate, they can immediately understand prices," explained Carla Honwana, PROMER's programme coordinator in Maputo.

Currently, PROMER is broadcasting through 10 community radio stations based in the provinces of Cabo Delgado, Nampula, Niassa and Zambezia where the programme is being implemented. Most of these radio stations already existed as part of a government's plan to reach out to the remote rural areas of northern Mozambique. PROMER identified them as a good channel to communicate prices to farmers. "We have purchased 30 minutes per week of airtime on each of the community radios during which time  an economic bulletin with market prices and analysis is broadcast to farmers," explained Carla Honwana.

The bulletin, which include prices for the main markets and availability of produce in the Farmers Asociations supported by the programme in any given district, is compiled by the District Services of Economic Affairs (SDAE) which send it to the radio stations for broadcast. "We read the bulletin twice a week in Portuguese and twice a week in our local language," explained Lazaro Antonio, broadcaster at Radio Alto Molocue in the Province of Zambezia, the radio which broadcast the first pilot bulletin.  "Sometimes, we interview local producers and farmers on the current situation. When we don't broadcast local programmes we connect to the national antena." Other local programmes focus on issues such as health or the environment.

In spite of its success, one of the issues PROMER is facing is the lack of harmonisation between the different programmes in the various local radio stations. One of the reasons for that is a lack of experience and training of local radio staff who improvise themselves as radio producers and do not always think creatively. They also do not think about getting feedback from their audience to improve their programme. In some community radios, the introduction to the programme can last as long as 10 minutes and the market price bulletin 20 minutes, leaving no space for interviews, while in others, the bulletin is shorter but the airtime is used for music. "We realise that 30 minutes for a market price bulletin is too long, and we would like to hear more interviews from farmers and small traders, but often the radio staff do not think about doing them," said Carla Honwana. Even the most dynamic radio producers like the one at Radio Communitaria Marrupa struggle to diversify because of lack of structure. "Farmers in our area started to ask for prices to be broadcast more frequently than once a week, so I go myself to the market to get prices or sometimes rely on communication via SMS, but it's just too complicated to do the market round because of transport and I don't always trust the prices sent to me," explained the Marrupa radio producer.

Another issue is a lack of diversified income for those local radios who tend to rely too much on PROMER's contribution and do not seek additional revenues from advertising or other sources. When asked how they will finance themselves once the PROMER programme is no longer there to contribute, the answer is very vague. The District Authorities are nevertheless committed to their local radio and want to continue to broadcast. "The local radio is very important to us. It is a very good way to give information and reach out to farmers," said Ernesto Lopes, responsible of the SDAE in  the District of Ribaue in the Nampula Province, who is involved in compiling market information for the weekly bulletin. They all say that they will continue to support the radios.

In the meantime, PROMER has plans to use part of its airtime for broadcasting information on nutrition, following a new commitment from the European Union to speed up work towards meeting the Millenium Development Goal (MDG) of improving nutrition and food security. "As the EU is involved in our programme, we thought that the local radio would be a very good tool to inform about nutrition," said Carla Honwana. "In some areas, small farmers may produce sufficient food but they are not aware of nutrition, so they don't draw all the benefits from the food and remain undernourished." The new programme will start in the next couple of months once the practicalities of broadcasting an additional programme in the same airtime are solved. It is hoped that the new programme will reach out to even more farmers and farmers associations.