Monday 13th February is UNESCO’s World Radio Day.
Radio is the most affordable and accessible media in the Global South: it is trusted, inclusive and has a rapid, wide reach. Our partner in Uganda, the Mount Elgon Tree Growing Enterprise (METGE) has been piloting the innovative Farmers’ Voice Radio. An approach that brings local farmers and experts together in community settings to discuss their challenges and share knowledge via the radio.
Smallholder farming communities in Uganda are under huge pressure. Intensive cultivation, climate change and poor agricultural practices have resulted in deforestation, degraded land and declining productivity. They often do not have access to knowledge and information about best farming practices or access to markets to sell their produce, which means they remain in poverty and they are vulnerable to any crisis.
At the start of 2022, METGE – with the support of funding from the Welsh Government – set up the pilot project to use the power of radio to share knowledge and support farmers to grow trees and improve their livelihoods.
The first step was to create two listener groups – made up of 12 farmers and an equal balance of men and women, who have been working with METGE on the tree growing project. They met on a monthly basis to discuss and share knowledge on tree growing, climate adaption and gender equality in the context of climate justice. These discussions were recorded and made into 30-minute radio programmes aired on local radio stations.
Some of the topics they discussed include:
- How to grow vegetables and beekeeping as a beneficial activity to accompany tree growing.
- Sharing and explaining the importance of growing trees, and helpful tips to raise a seedling to maturity.
- The benefits of agroforestry – a farming practice that grows trees around crops and pasture, which can improve soil fertility, productivity and biodiversity.
- How trees can help prevent flooding, which is helpful for the high-risk flood areas in the region.
METGE worked with a local radio station called Open Gate FM, chosen because it is widely listened to in the Elgon region and predominantly broadcasts in the locally spoken language of Lumasaba. The show “Bisale Nibyo Bulamu” which means “Trees are Life” was broadcast each Wednesday at 7 pm – a time when most farmers are back home in their villages and able to gather and listen. Farmers from across the region could call the radio station and ask questions to METGE and local experts.
Individuals from these communities were given radios and trained to be Radio Guardians – 54 in total. They were responsible for mobilising fellow farmers to gather and tune in. This setup ensured the content was widely shared and allowed further informal learning among the neighbouring farmers.
The radio programmes have boosted publicity about the tree growing project and now more people are coming to collect free seedlings. This is important for a heavily deforested region such as Mount Elgon. Following a recent flood, farmers were recorded sharing how trees can reduce the risk of flooding. After the show aired, seedling collections at nurseries in the affected area increased, boosting tree cover and reducing the risks of flooding in the future.
Being able to listen to tips and helpful advice directly from farmers means that communities are embracing best practice. The now more-popular-than-ever tree growing programme is also running more effectively with better survival rates and integrated livelihood practices such as beekeeping and agroforestry. And best of all, this learning is passed on from one community member to another.
Ms Asha Musuya speaking on the benefit of planting trees during one of the radio broadcasts:
“A tree is very important, for those trees that germinated and naturally matured into big trees, they were uprooted and transferred to other places so as to create space for a few you leave there to grow well. Remember trees help us to thicken our soil, act as wind breakers to prevent our properties from being broken by wind. We also get firewood from these trees, timber and those that we feed on like mangoes, jack fruit and among others.”
Donate here to support METGE’s work in Mbale working with communities to grow millions of tree and build sustainable livelihoods