Philosophy and principles
Radio 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)(2)
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)
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.