Gates Foundation funds African farm radio research project

21 11 2008


A major new research initiative will explore the power of radio in delivering information to African farmers and its impact on food security. Backed by a US$4 million grant from The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Canadian-led research project will work with broadcasters and communities in Mali, Ghana, Malawi, Uganda and Tanzania over the next three and a half years.

The African Farm Radio Research Initiative (AFRRI) started in mid October  with an international symposium  organized by the Developing Countries

Farm Radio Network (DCFRN) working in partnership with World University Services Canada (WUSC). The two-day meeting brought together an international panel of experts in communication for development, radio broadcasting, agriculture and other disciplines to explore objectives for the project.

« DCFRN has been working with rural broadcasters worldwide for over 25 years, providing practical information about farming by developing and distributing scripts about crops, land management, health and other subjects, » said president, Doug Ward. « We know radio is a powerful medium and that our strategy of information sharing is a good one, but we’ve always wanted to dig deeper. Now we have the ability to do so. » This study is unique in that the research is applied and will have direct input back into African communities. Concurrent with this study, training will be offered to African broadcasters to build their capacity to serve farmers. Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation senior program officer, Dr Roy Steiner, the Foundation was happy to support both the network and WUSC in implementing the project.

« DCFRN has the grassroots connections with African radio broadcasters and the knowledge of the practical information needs of smallholder farmers, » Dr Steiner said. « WUSC has strong management capacity and a commitment to knowledge and education. » How do African farmers use the  information they hear? What information is useful? What format is best? How can radio stations make use of inexpensive, accessible technologies such as mobile phones and MP3 players? These are some of the questions AFRRI will address in its research.

AFRRI will be implemented in five countries – Mali, Ghana, Malawi, Uganda and Tanzania. In each country, advisory committees representing farmers’ organizations, radio stations, research organizations, government extension agencies and others will work together to  develop action research plans. Radio stations will work with farmers to produce and broadcast a variety of programs, allowing AFRRI to compare their knowledge and farming practices.

About WUSC (, a network of people and post-secondary institutions, is one of Canada’s largest international development charities. Its mission is to foster human development and global understanding through education and training. WUSC is active on more than 70  campuses across Canada and in 17 countries overseas. Its alumni include leaders in the public, private and voluntary  sectors in Canada and around the world.

About DCFRN Founded in 1979, DCFRN ( is a Canadian charity with the mission of supporting broadcasters to strengthen small-scale farming and rural communities in Africa. DCFRN researches and produces radio scripts on rural development issues  and distributes them to some 300 radio broadcasters who interpret and use the scripts to provide their  listeners with practical information about farming, land management, health and other issues. DCFRN also provides training opportunities, facilitating networking among and between broadcasters. In 2004, WUSC and DCFRN entered into a partnership. WUSC provides cost effective program management services to DCFRN, and the two organizations work together to  develop collaborate programs in Africa.


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