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Philosophy and principles

ggp18 lRadio is considered one of the oldest information technologies, and is one of the most popular in the developing world, partly due to its accessibility and affordability. While many rural people own a radio, those who do not may access programming through family, friends, or neighbours. Traditionally, radio has been seen as a one-way communication tool, providing information, news, and entertainment to listeners. However, when integrated with other communication tools (such as mobile phones) it can serve as a two-way platform for dialogue, to further discussions about topics that interest listeners, and to create entertaining and interactive programmes. For farmers, radio has the potential to help connect them to technical specialists, policy-makers, other farmers, suppliers, or buyers. Radio, and particularly participatory, demand-driven radio programming as a tool for extension, complements existing agricultural information systems that emphasise interaction among stakeholders (farmers, public and private knowledge brokers, market actors, researchers, policy-makers, the financial sector, etc.) where no single actor is the expert. (1)

More so, radio programmes in vernacular languages provide new communication channels and space for dialogue for communities in more remote areas, or of varying literacy levels. (2)
Chapman, R., Blench, R., Kranjac-Berisavljevic, G. and Zakariah, A.B.T. 2003. Rural radio in agricultural extension: The example of vernacular radio programmes on soil and water conservation in N. Ghana. Network Paper No. 127. Agricultural Research & Extension Network.
 

Radio programmes for farmers have a long history in several regions, including Latin America, West Africa, as well as parts of Europe, and North America. Most recently, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations developed guidelines for communication for development that directly pertain to current agricultural information system gaps and needs. (3)

Acunczo, M., Pafumi, M., Torres, C. and Stella Tirol, M. 2012. Communication for rural development sourcebook. Rome, Italy: Food and Agricultural Organization.
 The guide mentions the role of radio as a complementary tool to existing approaches in reaching and interacting with farmers. Traditional applications of radio relied on a ‘top-down’ approach where extension services or research institutions develop the materials and content for the programmes and pay for airtime for radio stations to broadcast. More recently, broadcasters have begun to play a more active role in creating content and conducting on-farm interviews with farmers. In participatory radio, broadcasters work in collaboration with extension services, researchers, government representatives, and farmers. (4)
Chapman, R., Blench, R., Kranjac-Berisavljevic, G. and Zakariah, A.B.T. 2003. Rural radio in agricultural extension: The example of vernacular radio programmes on soil and water conservation in N. Ghana. Network Paper No. 127. Agricultural Research & Extension Network.
Findings from the African Farm Radio Research Initiative (AFRRI) and other evaluation studies showed that farmers’ listening frequency is directly correlated with an increase in knowledge of a particular agricultural practice that was discussed in a participatory radio programme. (5)
Farm Radio International. 2010. Agricultural radio that works

Radio programmes can cover a range of topics and integrate scientific information (appropriately repackaged in various formats) with consideration of, and reference to, the social and cultural context, knowledge, and interests of the intended audience. Radio programmes can serve a number of communication functions including: enabling active listening (to find out farmers’ preferences, needs, opinions, etc.); raising awareness of services, events, or programmes; disseminating information and facilitating discussion about the information; hosting campaigns on behaviour change topics (disease prevention or adoption of a new variety); and initiating networking between farmers. 

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