Radio in Africa: keeping people informed in times of crisis

People working in agriculture need to protect themselves effectively against coronavirus infection. They can hear about how to do so on the radio.

Radio? Doesn’t exactly sound like a 21st-century innovation. However, in the coronavirus crisis, when informing people quickly about important health measures is so important, the benefits are clear. Radio can reach many people, even in rural areas, in next to no time and without any risk of infection. In Nigeria, for example, information on coronavirus measures were broadcast to around 280,000 listeners via ‘Farm Radio’.

This was possible thanks to cooperation between the green innovation centres and the NGO Farm Radio International, which has been in place since July 2019. The green innovation centres are run by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). The original aim of the cooperation was to inform smallholders in rural areas in Africa about sustainable agriculture. The smallholders now also receive information about risks and measures related to COVID-19. Food producers play a key role in supplying the country, so it is important that they protect themselves as effectively as possible against infection from the virus.

In addition to its broad reach, a key success of the project is that information can be exchanged in discussions with the listeners. Mark Leclair, department manager at Farm Radio International, explains: ‘In Nigeria, we registered more than 19,000 calls and voice messages from almost 5,000 phone numbers, and over 700 questions were answered on air.’

Sharing knowledge among millions of listeners

The situation on the ground means that radio has clear advantages over other media: many rural areas in Africa lack reliable electricity, and the costs of television or Internet are too high for many people. Mark Leclair emphasises: ‘Nothing compares to traditional radio in rural Africa, and it is proving to be extremely adaptable.’

As Farm Radio has been so well received, the cooperation is being extended to seven more countries: Ethiopia, Côte d‘Ivoire, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Zambia and Togo. More than 30 shows are to be produced in each of the seven countries. Various topics will be covered, including sustainable cultivation methods, processing techniques, marketing agricultural products, hygiene and health, nutrition, and gender justice – all in the context of the pandemic. This will secure the flow of information for millions of people.

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