Drama Queens

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If every radio broadcast had the same format, people would get bored and stop tuning in. When Farm Radio International designs a radio campaign, we try to use a variety of segments to keep listeners entertained and engaged in the program.

‘Drama+Discussion’ is one great program type that combines education and entertainment in the perfect way to engage listeners. This ‘edu-tainment’ approach presents educational messages through the dramas, with a discussion airing after each episode. Listeners can get involved by phoning or texting in to the radio program at the end of each episode.

“Radio drama can be an excellent way to share information with hundreds of thousands or even millions of small-scale farmers. The listener can be entertained and learn alongside the characters in the story,” says Kevin Perkins, Executive Director of Farm Radio International. “And the mobile phone revolution has only made radio better by allowing interaction between broadcaster and listeners.”

Farm Radio International’s Drama+Discussion radio programs have been successful. A 2007 project based in northern Nigeria aimed to raise awareness and provide information to small-scale farmers about climate change adaption. The 26-episode drama was broadcast to over 20 million listeners in four northern Nigerian states. By listening to the show, 84 per cent of female and 68 per cent of male listeners gained an improved awareness of climate change adaption, and 92.8 per cent of these respondents had taken subsequent action.

Knowing the success of radio dramas, we used it again in 2013 to discuss vitamin A deficiency in Uganda. The ‘My Children’ radio drama first aired with the goal of promoting the farming and consumption of orange-fleshed sweet potatoes. The project reached 350,000 households in thirteen districts across the country, and was followed by a second season, aired in January 2016. Listeners were able to engage in the storyline by participating in polls through SMS text messages. The result was more than 100,000 text messages sent by over 40,000 listeners during season one alone.

Beans, a family affair: A drama about women growing and marketing common beans

Most recently, we’ve turned to ‘edu-tainment’ to address gender issues in Tanzania. ‘Beans, a family affair’ is a new five-part radio drama covering gender equity issues in common bean production. It has been written in an effort to bring women’s issues to light while providing farmers with valuable information for growing and marketing various legumes, including common beans.

The series explores the relationships and experiences of several members of a women’s village loan and savings group in Tanzania. It follows their struggles with harassment, abuse and overcoming the traditional gender roles in their community. The drama also incorporates light, funny moments to balance against its serious themes. Radio dramas have the benefit of being entertaining and memorable, so these lighter moments are important. The series hopes to bring positive change for women in their communities as its characters quickly realise how strong they are when they stick together, supporting each other both in their home lives and in growing and marketing common beans.

A good radio drama captures the audience’s attention so that they laugh and cry along with the storyline. It doesn’t take long for listeners to form attachments to the characters they hear on the radio each week. Many of the struggles depicted in the show will be familiar to listeners, and can spark important conversations. Call-in programs aired after the episodes allow listeners and experts, both female and male, to call in and rant, discuss and unpack the issues raised in the drama.

‘Beans, a family affair’ is a great opportunity for women to learn, discuss and have their voices heard. Scripts for the drama are available in English, French and Swahili and represent an exciting opportunity to turn the spotlight not only on improved bean production, but on the role of all family members in producing this staple crop.

The scripts can be found in English at: http://scripts.farmradio.fm/radio-resource-packs/beans-a-family-affair/

And in French at: http://scripts.farmradio.fm/fr/radio-resource-packs/des-soeurs-le-font-pour-elles-memes/

PARTNER SPOTLIGHT logoThis blog post, by Steph Stroud, is part of our Partner Spotlight on Farm Radio International (FRI). Partners in GFAR like FRI are aware that rural communities often have little say in their own future and in directing support to create the innovations to get there. Yet farmers and social groups are experimenters, producers of knowledge and researchers in their own right, hence they need to be empowered to drive innovation processes. FRI has used radio for three decades as a tool for bringing information to people that other communication methods often cannot. Paired with other technologies, radio also allows an opportunity for two-way conversation, so that development practitioners can hear farmers’ knowledge, insights and concerns, and respond accordingly to them.

Multistakeholder actions that empower farmers to voice their own needs and know-how to drive innovation and improve their livelihoods, are part of GFAR’s Key Focus Area Empowering Farmers at the Center of Innovation.

GFAR Secretariat is turning the spotlight on the work and Collective Actions of Partners in GFAR who share in our mission to strengthen and transform agri-food research and innovation systems globally. Not a GFAR partner yet? Join now!


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