For decades now, radio has been a dominant source of information for farmers in much of sub-Saharan Africa. Although the reach of radio varies from country to country, it is estimated that between 80 and 90 percent of households in Africa have access to a functional radio.
The liberalization of regulatory environments in a number of countries has further increased the number of independent and community radios broadcasting over the airwaves. Given the fact that adult literacy rates in sub-Saharan Africa are just over 60 percent and that electricity in many rural communities is non-existent, battery-powered radios are often the most affordable and practical way for rural farmers to access information.
Radio continues to be the best way to reach sizeable portions of rural smallholder farmers in Africa. Furthermore, advances in information and communication technologies (ICT) have made it significantly easier and more affordable to engage and interact with listeners over the radio. By using new technologies, it is possible to enhance the potential of radio as a powerful distribution channel beyond what had ever been possible. Radio stations and development organizations working with farmers now have a number of options available to them for converting traditional broadcast-only radio into what has become known as interactive radio.
Interactive Radio for Agricultural Development Projects Toolkit for Practitioners
The Interactive Radio for Agricultural Development Projects Toolkit for Practitioners is designed to help USAID projects and other implementing organizations use interactive radio to augment the traditional agricultural extension services they are providing. In addition, it aims to provide practitioners with a foundational understanding of what is needed to create compelling radio programming.
It is important to stress that this toolkit does not assume that radio is the most appropriate solution for disseminating agricultural information. Rather, given the fact that radio continues to be the most readily accessible communication tool in much of sub-Saharan Africa, this toolkit aims to enable practitioners to develop a more systematic approach to using interactive radio as one medium through which they share information with farmers.
Who Should Use This Toolkit for Practitioners?
The primary audience of this toolkit is USAID implementing partners and other development organizations that are using or planning to use radio to enhance the impact of their agricultural and rural development project. It does not assume any level of prior knowledge of interactive radio from the reader.
The toolkit will primarily appeal to practitioners who are planning to work through established radio stations or disseminate audio recordings independently of radio (i.e. MP3 players or mobile phones). It is not intended to be a guide to establishing a radio station from scratch, although you will likely still find much of the content relevant even if that is your main objective. If you are planning to help start a radio station, UNESCO’s Community Radio Handbook is a good resource, despite being slightly dated.