Capacities for Change, GFAR blog

Radio for resilience in Ethiopia


Hiwot Tirfneh regrets that she wasted water.

She lives and farms in the Tigray Region of Ethiopia, where drought is frequent and water is precious. She has never deliberately wasted water, but she only recently learned to harvest rain water to irrigate her crops.

This knowledge—gained from a farmer program broadcast by Dimtsi Weyane Tigray—helped her to produce a good harvest during a difficult growing season.

The staff at Dimtsi Weyane Tigray received training and support for their farmer program from Farm Radio International. The program covered a variety of topics that local farmers had identified as important, including soil and water conservation, seed selection, and pest management.

But when the rains failed in 2015, the broadcasters began to question the importance of these topics. The radio station talked with Farm Radio about their concerns. As a consequence, the focus of the program quickly shifted to topics designed to help farming families survive the drought, like water harvesting to collect any rain water that did fall.

By being flexible, the staff at Dimtsi Weyane Tigray were better able to provide their listening audience with the information they needed, particularly during the crisis.

Mrs. Tirfneh followed the detailed instructions on the broadcast, and dug shallow wells to collect water to irrigate her crops. She says: “I have learned that we have to save every drop we get from the rain. I am applying the techniques and I got good results. You can see the difference even between the crops where water harvesting has been practised and not.”

In recent years, infrequent rains have resulted in difficult growing conditions, and Mrs. Tirfneh was only able to harvest 200 kilograms of grain. But after harvesting water and irrigating her crop, her yield increased to 500 kilograms—despite the drought. She credits water harvesting for the good harvest she enjoyed this year.

Dimtsi Weyane Tigray also aired advice about managing livestock during a drought. Experts advised farmers to consider selling part of their herd, as it is easier to maintain a smaller number of animals during dry conditions. They also suggested using the stalks of failed crops as livestock feed.

Because the broadcasters tuned in to the needs of their audience, farmers in the Tigray Region were able to grow crops which were more resilient to drought.

This story originally appeared as a Spotlight in the May 22nd issue of Barzawire, a weekly news service from Farm Radio International, a Partner in GFAR, that shares stories relevant to small-scale farmers and rural communities.

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