CHANGE is in the air!

woman with radio

Smallholder farmer in northern Ghana with her radio. (c) Sylvie Harrison, Farm Radio International. Used with permission.

Radio helps make CHANGE happen in northern Ghana

As the first year of CFTC’s Climate Change Adaptation in Northern Ghana Enhanced (CHANGE) project comes to a close, the results are in and they are extremely encouraging.

Despite a difficult growing season in 2013 due to late rains, close to half of all farmers involved in the project (48%) reported an increase in agricultural production which they attributed to learning from CHANGE. This is compared to only 13% who reported increased yields in 2012. In addition, two-thirds of households reported that CHANGE interventions brought about increased access to food throughout the year.

A good part of the results can be attributed to the role of radio in disseminating information throughout the most climate-change challenged regions in northern Ghana. While some 2,000 smallholder farmers received training and other services directly through the project in 17 communities in the Upper East, Upper West and Northern Regions, an additional estimated 400,000 farmers were able to receive information on climate smart agriculture (CSA) practices and techniques by listening to radio programs broadcast throughout the area. Many of those unable to attend a community or in-person meeting, or without access to a visiting community extension agent (trained by Ministry of Food & Agriculture (MoFA) for this project), were able to hear the same information through radio broadcasts.

Critically, the information was available to farmers in a variety of languages both in person and over the airwaves. In northern Ghana, more than 30 languages are spoken and it is not uncommon to go from one village to the next just down the road to find residents speaking an entirely different language.

Radio Extends CHANGE’s Reach
Two types of programs were produced and broadcast by community radio stations trained to do so by CFTC’s CHANGE coalition partner, Farm Radio International (FRI). Two of the stations (Zaa Radio and Might FM) were in the largest and most populous Northern Region, with one each in the Upper East (Radio Gurune) and Upper West (Radford FM) Regions.

Radford FM

The crew of the RADFORD FM community radio station with CFTC visitors, Tumu, Upper West Region.

These community radio stations run on shoestring budgets, but provide an essential connection for smallholder farmers who are otherwise isolated. Bringing new content and building the stations’ self-sufficiency in producing content, is having a long-lasting effect.

Even in impoverished communities, radio is relatively easily accessible and can provide ‘just-in-time’ information, particularly weather forecasts and market price information that is so crucial for good decision-making in these highly variable environments.

Radio campaigns extend far beyond the critical weather and market news. Two types of radio programs were developed. The first, called EFRAS (Effective Farm Radio Advisory Service), was a 22-week series of programs that mirrored the information provided in in-person training in communities.

Based on agricultural training modules co-developed by CHANGE technical partner, the Savannah Research Institute (SARI), EFRAS programs helped farmers select and adopt new practices such as water conservation, soil protection, producing crops in drier conditions, and quickly adapting to rapidly changing and unpredictable weather patterns. Basic techniques related to seed selection; disease management and pest control; ploughing, spacing, harvesting, drying and storage; fertilizer application; and crop rotation, among many other topics, were conveyed to farmers whose use of these techniques in response to the impacts of climate change was virtually non-existent.

A shorter series of participatory radio campaign (PRC) programming helped farmers mobilize to adopt a specific farming practice. PRCs are farmer-driven and feature the voices of farmers at every step, plus they are highly-customized to farming populations with unique challenges in specific locations.

Ninety-nine per cent of farmers – equal numbers of men and women – now report they have a basic understanding of climate change and its impacts, compared to just 20% in the baseline study conducted in early 2013. And 91 per cent, or nine out of 10 farmers now know where to obtain information on climate change, a dramatic increase from just one per cent measured in the baseline study.

Uptake High for New CSA Practices
FRI estimates that approximately 395,600 people, a significant proportion of the total smallholder farming audience in the three northern regions, heard the radio campaigns produced. A large number (85%) rely on the weather forecasts as basic information to inform when, where and how to plant.

women farming

Women farmers. (c) Sylvie Harrison, Farm Radio International. Used with permission.

Beyond weather forecasting, however, the effectiveness of the radio broadcasting to provide concrete information that enhances climate-smart agricultural practices is clear. In post-program surveys and focus groups, FRI reports that respondents from passive communities (those that could hear the programs but had no access to direct project training interventions) scored significantly higher in terms of knowledge of climate change and climate-smart practices than respondents from control communities who could not hear the programming.

FRI also found that an estimated 93,100 farmers in passive communities (where radio was the only medium for dissemination of climate-smart agricultural practices) had actually implemented and tested one or more adaptive practices promoted on the radio.

Zaa Radio, Radford FM and Radio Gurune broadcast PRCs on how to make a compost pile at home to increase soil fertility, with specific focus among the Radio Gurune audience in the Upper East Region on composting and fertilizing with animal manure. At Might FM, one of the stations in the Northern Region, listeners learned how to reduce post-harvest loss by using a triple-bagging storage method.

Women Continue To Face Barriers to Accessing Climate-Smart Agriculture Information
There were and continue to be gender differences in men’s versus women’s access to and use of CHANGE training and CSA practices. Along with lower access to good quality land (as women are not landholders by tradition in northern Ghana), women also find it difficult to learn and implement CSA practices given the many other tasks that demand their time.

Women's focus group discusses their unique challenges and achievements as part of the project's  end-line study.

Women’s focus group discusses their unique challenges and achievements as part of the project’s end-line study.

Focus group discussions (gender-segregated to ensure that women’s concerns would be voiced and heard) revealed that women’s daily tasks are far more numerous than men’s, and include caring for children, performing household chores and farming. Farming is a complementary rather than a priority activity when the family structure includes children. This is of great concern given that it is also true that the produce and income generated by women’s farming are more directly related to the quality and quantity of food available for household consumption (whereas men’s farming activities are market-driven, and income from the sale of produce may or may not be reflected in improvements to the household’s income and by extension its food security).

These gender issues, along with other methods to ensure the availability and uptake of climate-smart agriculture practices, are now being explored and enhanced in the second phase of CHANGE.