Lead farmer Mabel Zulu is a listening group leader, who uses a Lifeline Prime solar and wind-up radio in Dingeni Village in our Eastern Province not far from Malawi. Mabel said, “For a long time ignorance levels in women were high in Zambia. We were considered as last decision makers in almost everything. Most of the women were regarded as house-keepers, not decision makers. We were only allowed to do specific jobs, but didn’t make money. Already there was information on radio, but women had no money to buy batteries to hear it.”
How they found opportunity for radio listening for all:
Mabel further explained, “In 2013, in what we call COMACO (Community Markets for Conservation), and after seeing the challenges these women were facing (poor livelihoods, high levels of illiteracy, early marriage), the COMACO boss decided to introduce farmer radio programs. He also provided us with these loud, blue Prime radios.” COMACO distributed more than 2,000 solar and wind- Prime-radios to farmer groups for free to listen to a weekly programme called Farm Talk, which I help to produce along with Filius Charo Jere. I’m also the regular female voice on the show which COMACO produces with Filius in the lead. Just after the establishment of this programme the lives of women completely changed.
Farm Talk airs three times a week for an hour. Two times are repeats of the same programme to give listeners options in case the missed it. The show focuses on conservation farming, nutrition, gender and family planning, family business, leadership development and livestock care in a conversational, easy-to-follow format. Many farmers are interviewed and people love hearing from them directly about what has worked. It helps to showcase women farmers’ achievements, too. After learning from the radio, women are empowered with different skills like poultry production, inputs and other ways to earn incomes.
Mabel says before starting listening to Farm Talk, she was behind in knowledge. But the coming of solar radios her life has been helped especially in terms skills and practical know-how. Instead of sitting idly, she and other women are busy filling the gap of poverty. They are no longer ignorant and now practice conservation farming (use of manure, composting, tree planting for reforestation) and poultry production after learning new skills from the radio.
She said the radio is able to reach many areas of farming at the same time as you listen to complete nature’s cycle throughout the year. Mabel also reminded that, “information from the radio is trusted more than the information that is written because so many women cannot read.” From listening to the radio she indicated that they are now doing village banking and many more farming activities than ever before. “Most women are progressing well after listening to Farm Talk on the Prime radios.” Listening clubs are motivational for women especially.
As World Radio Day is celebrated on 13 February, there’s a lot of support for “radio is you” here in Eastern Zambia!
This article first appeared on Lifeline Energy: