Radio provides an open, two-way dialogue that is inclusive, accessible, and affordable. It has the potential to reach vulnerable and resource-poor communities, while also establishing a feedback and monitoring system through the use of other technologies. It provides an opportunity for information and resource provision at a large scale; yet can also be available in local languages. There may be considerable variability in the capacities of radio stations to work closely with extension and other agricultural development actors. Many community stations may not have the means to sustain the programme beyond initial project duration or funding cycle. Commercial stations may not be trained in using the appropriate language for a farming audience. It certainly does not replace face-to-face interaction and is almost always more effective when it is a component of a larger extension and communications strategy.
Radio works as an effective extension tool when it is part of a broader communication strategy for farmers, and when radio broadcasters participate in the design and production of the content, together with specialists and extension staff. In particular the following are key considerations:
- Target group (e.g women, young people): For women farmers, radio on demand approaches may be effective, in that they can choose when to listen to the programmes each week through pre-recorded mp3 versions delivered to women’s groups. Some groups may be able to purchase radio sets. Young listeners may be motivated by interactivity and integration of smartphone use. For instance using text messages, voice messaging, or beep-to-vote messages (see www.farmradio.org) may facilitate their participation. Other disadvantaged groups could be given certain listening and interactive tools, such as solar powered radios or mobile phone airtime in exchange for their input into the programmes and dialogue.
- Type of agricultural innovation: Different radio formats cater to different innovations. Targeted radio campaigns that aim to better inform farmers’ decision-making processes can support the adoption of new crop varieties, biofortified crops, or new labour techniques. Broader, more complex issues such as climate-related impacts, marketing, linking different actors in the value chain (such as buyers, sellers, processers, and transporters), nutrition, and maternal health related challenges require further discussion and a variety of formats that will facilitate key actors in each area to connect through radio and extension dialogue. Radio can help with a more integrated approach to assisting rural, agricultural-based communities, and where face-to-face extension is limited.
- Ecological setting: Some mountainous landscapes block certain radio signals and could therefore be difficult to reach using national radio stations. However, this is becoming less of a problem due to continued installation of radio towers in rural and remote areas. Some countries offer internet-based radio stations that do not rely on the radio tower infrastructure to broadcast.
- Institutional setting: Commercial, public, or community radio stations all provide various benefits to existing and emerging extension services depending on the region being targeted. Programmes can be highly localised using community stations for locally available information, or can be presented at a regional or national scale, to expand certain technologies across the country and increase the accessibility of a certain crop.
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