Online Communities to Supplement Radio for Farming

Farm Radio International is doing productive work to exchange practical and real-time information to serve the interests of small-scale farmers to ensure food security. After researching FRI further, I learned of an initiative that has taken off under them, called Barza. Barza makes relevant and important resources like radio scripts, audio clips and advice from peers available to rural radio broadcasters through an online platform. The initiative aims to increase the extent to which rural radio helps African small-scale farmers meet their food security, farming and livelihood goals.

The word Barza is actually French and describes a place where people meet under a tree to exchange ideas, which is exactly what this initiative seeks to provide.  Tools are available for the producers of farm-focused radio programming, and resources are available for farmers who potentially missed the program, or who would like supplemental information. There are interactive modules (see below) on the site that help broadcasters to produce efficient programming that would be of use to agricultural workers, listener surveys to see if the programming is effective and useful, and sample scripts to guide discussions.  Listeners are able to view or download transcripts, so that they can have the facts presented in the program in a concise and centralized place.

Screen shot 2014-02-28 at 12.53.12 PM

A screenshot of one of training modules used to help producers create interesting and useful content for their listeners

There are some obvious strengths and weaknesses to this tool. First, these tools allow the producers to create content that is helpful to the constituents who listen to the programs.  They are also able to receive feedback to help improve the announcements and information they relay on the program in order to better serve the needs of the community members listening.  Also, it is beneficial for the listeners to have this online platform to be able to further discuss content, and exchange ideas.  On the other hand, after reviewing some of the modules on my own, I found that this would be very difficult with a low bandwidth.  With the goal to communicate real time information, and the lack of access that many in rural areas face, I am not sure how successful this would be.  Also, after looking at the message boards, I have found that there is not a lot of participation.  Barza needs to do a better job working with radio stations to make sure that their tools are being communicated and marketed in an appealing way! Also, they should do further market research to make sure that the partnering radio stations that they have have loyal listenership bases.  This great tool cannot serve the need to ensure food security if the right groups of people are not participating in the online community.

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One response to “Online Communities to Supplement Radio for Farming

  • areed2014

    This is an interesting project, however like you, I have a few concerns. For one, the project assumes that rural farmers have access to the physical technology as well as the capability to use the internet technology. It also assumes that farmers have the time and desire to invest in a few style of farming that utilizes other forms of knowledge. I think it would be fascinating to see project platforms like this handle problems like product delivery. That being said, if the rural farmers became invested in listening and reading the information, there could be interesting improvements made in environmental health and different economic dimensions.

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