Radio listener clubs empower Rwandan farmers to manage climate risk


By James Hansen, Jackqueline Turner, Gloriose Nsengiyumva and Desire Kagabo

The Rwanda Climate Services for Agriculture project, funded by USAID, has been supporting farmers to use weather and climate information through participatory group processes and innovative radio programming. Radio Listener Clubs now combine the reach of radio with the richness of face-to-face discussion.

Climate services through agricultural extension

In eastern Rwanda, Ntambara Theogene has been trained to use weather and climate information to improve his farming practices. He has more than doubled his crop yields by adjusting crop variety, planting dates and fertilizer application according to weather and climate information. With increased income from his improved practices, he is able to pay his children’s school fees, diversify his family’s diet, and expand the area he cultivates.

A volunteer ‘Farmer Promoter’ within Rwanda’s Twigire Muhinzi(1) agricultural extension service, Ntambara is one of more than 1,800 agricultural extension workers that the Rwanda Climate Services for Agriculture project trained in the Participatory Integrated Climate Services for Agriculture (PICSA) approach. These trained extension workers have in turn trained and helped about 112,000 of Rwanda’s farmers to access, understand, and incorporate climate information into their management decisions. The project also partnered with four local faith-based NGOs to facilitate training and support implementation in farming communities in their respective provinces.

Climate services through radio

A parallel effort involved training journalists and working with a community radio network to develop climate service programming.

With the project’s support, the Radio Huguka network supports farmers using climate information to manage risk and improve their farming practices through programming that includes “Urubuto Ntera,” a biweekly educational program, and daily weather forecast updates. Innovative program formats such as call-in talk shows and debates support interaction and opportunity for farmers to share their experience.

Radio is an important medium for connecting communities and sharing knowledge, particularly when it supports two-way interaction. Radio is also a cost-effective way to share weather and climate information with geographically isolated farming communities.

Combining radio and agricultural extensions channels

In November 2018, a training event launched 225 Radio Listener Clubs. These clubs combine the benefits of the broadcast media and face-to-face agricultural extension channels.

Farmer Promoters, who were already trained and involved in the PICSA process, were trained to lead their village groups in weekly meetings to listen to and discuss the climate service radio programs, as well as agree on and document follow-up actions in response. To ensure equitable participation among the roughly 5,500 farmers involved in the ongoing pilot, Radio Listener Clubs participate in call-in shows and live debates with experts on a rotating basis via mobile phone. The clubs also enable farmers to influence the content by choosing the topics for future programs.

As the Rwanda experience demonstrates, broadcast media and face-to-face communication through agricultural extension are not so much alternatives, but complementary channels for delivering rural climate services. Radio Listener Clubs are integrating information at weather and climate time scales and combining the reach of broadcast media with the richness of group interaction.

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