The media is an enormously powerful tool that can deliver information, provide platforms for debate, open channels of communication, increase understanding of complex issues thereby empowering people. The media plays an important role in initiating and sustaining many of the development programs and has been recognized as the most effective and efficient medium of communication in agribusiness especially for rural livelihoods. This is because it reaches over 70% of rural households in Uganda for it is easily accessible and relatively cheaper compared to other media tools such as mobile phones and T.V sets. Because of its reliability, it is recognized as the best media tool to reach farmers who are spread out far and wide in their communities.
Image source: farmradio.org
What is rural radio?
According to the Food and Agriculture organization-FAO, rural radio is a representation of a two-way process that involves exchange of information from various sources within a particular community which leads to the acceptance of use of media by that community. It is a channel through which communities gain access to information, education and equally avails them with the opportunity to actively participate in the media as planners, producers and performers. In other words, it is an expression ‘of’ a particular community other than ‘for’ the community.
For rural radio to be effective, it is important for the farmers of a particular community to be ready to adapt new technologies in their farming practices which is provided by agricultural researchers and authorities such as the National Agricultural Advisory Services-NAADS.
It has however been noted that there is a big gap between agricultural researchers and farmers and that most of the findings are not used by the farmers who the research is intended for because information hardly reaches them due to the long distances between them and language barrier among other factors.
Importance of rural radio
Many organizations that focus on the agribusiness sector such as The Uganda Media Women’s Association (UMWA), FIT Uganda and Uganda National Farmers’Association (UNFA), and government in Uganda have partnered with various radio stations to equip farmers with relevant information that they require to help them grow their subsistence farms into an agribusiness enterprise so as to help them improve on their livelihoods.
They provide these farmers with extension services, timely information on how to control pests and diseases, weather information and market linkages among others. These stations are mostly community based and they target that particular community, operate in that community and are equally managed by the same community. There are also programs that are broadcast with a specific airtime targeting a specific community for instance ‘Lobo Pa Lupur’ translating to ‘Land for Farmers’ on Mega FM, Karibu FM in Abim district and Tembo FM in Kitgum district.
This provides a platform for farmers to actively interact and participate with other farmers and relevant authority such as animal and crop experts so they can easily share ideas and knowledge on how best they can improve on the quality and quantity of their farm products as a whole community hence community development.
Because most of the farmers in rural areas have not acquired any form of formal education, rural radio acts as a substitute for formal education thereby giving the farmers a platform on which they can learn and acquire knowledge on how best they can practice farming. In addition, radio allows for the use of a specific language that is clearly understood by the targeted community and the simplification of scientific words hence effective communication where important information on agricultural development can be easily passed on for example information on how to harvest different crops, better farming practices, marketing and soil conservation among others.
Limitations on rural radio
The use of radio however comes in handy with constraints for instance the fact that a lot of training has to be done mostly for the program presenters because it requires financial facilitation. Translating the messages into various languages for the different targeted communities can also be quite difficult in terms of finding effective translators.
Because most of the farming programs are donor funded, sustaining a program may be difficult if the donors pull out as the community may not be willing to contribute to the running of the program. Similarly, radio sets may not be readily available and affordable to some people especially in very remote communities making radio ineffective although this is not very common because most radio sets are relatively cheap and affordable.
It is therefore important for both the government, private sector and the general public to actively participate in the management of community radio stations by supporting them financially and they should equally be freed from government management and regulations such as taxes because they depend on donor support unlike commercial radio stations that are profit based.