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Capacities required

There are several areas of capacity that require support for radio to be used to its full potential. First, radio stations vary in their infrastructure, and the kinds of equipment, training, and support available that will enable them to work with farmers or through other advisory services. Assessments of needs and procurement of the right equipment might be necessary. Broadcasters may appreciate low-cost recorders such as mp3 players to help them produce programmes in the field. Second, radio station staff will need to develop particular skills to work directly with extension services and address the needs of farmers. These skills include the technical use of phones to call listeners or receive calls from listeners, using voice-based systems; gaining knowledge about agricultural practices; and having the people skills necessary to bridge the gap between specialist-level knowledge and the grassroots rural vocabularies of their listening publics. Rural communities may also need training on how to use phones to call and receive calls, or record messages for the radio stations. Farm Radio International used its experience over the last 10 years to develop a tool called VOICE, which enables radio stations to consider key factors, such as consistency, relevance, and convenience that can help them to develop high quality programmes for farmers (Figure 1). With training, and in collaboration with other agricultural actors, radio broadcasters can play an active role in extension, beyond simply facilitating information sharing.(popup text="(6)"}Gilberds, H. and Myers, M. 2012. Radio, ICT convergence and knowledge brokerage: lessons from sub-Saharan Africa. IDS Bulletin, 43(5): 76–83.


The costs vary of involving radio programmes and radio stations as partners in agricultural extension programmes. Many programmes try to include radio primarily as a dissemination tool, and pay for airtime. This can be expensive if the broadcasting coverage is nationwide. Community stations, with localised coverage, may not charge as much for airtime. Training, technical capacity, and knowledge sharing also have cost considerations. These activities can be conducted through face-to-face meetings, facilitated remotely, or as blended face-to-face and technologically facilitated activities, each method having its  own cost implications. Overall, the cost per farmer for using radio as part of an extension service (where one community radio station can reach as many as 200,000 households) is significantly lower than other strategies such as regular site visits, use of printed media, and facilitating regular and ongoing engagement with many communities. For example, in Ethiopia, a four-month radio programme on teff (a staple crop in Ethiopia), which reached four regions cost just US$0.38/farmer. (7)

Farm Radio International. 2014. Radio for Ethiopian smallholder staples development. Outcome Evaluation Report submitted to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Ottawa.
 Community stations can be established for as little as US$20,000 (including costs of equipment, permits, and other essentials).