Blog by Cristina Talens, Lorna Young Foundation
Smallholders and farming communities in many parts of the world are under huge pressure. Sustained intensive cultivation, changing weather patterns, poor agricultural practises and a lack of young farmers have resulted in deforestation, worsening environmental conditions, and declining agricultural productivity.
Smallholders do not have the necessary knowledge and inputs to improve soil fertility, mitigate against climate change, and improve agricultural quality and yield. The lack of access to relevant, affordable and timely information and inputs is one of the biggest problems facing smallholders. The challenges of climate change and food security, together with increased pressure on natural resources, means that we need to urgently engage with hundreds of thousands of small farmers around the world on issues which affect their livelihoods.
Radio and SMS is arguably one of the most important and cost efficient sources of information for the majority of rural farmers in Africa. Along with farmer field listening groups and multi-stakeholder groups it addresses the training needs of smallholders by establishing a dialogue directly with rural farming populations, delivering live and relevant updates in real time on issues affecting their crops and livelihoods.
Earlier this month, the Lorna Young Foundation (LYF) travelled to Ghana and Burkina Faso to launch BRAVE’s radio extension programme. BRAVE, an exciting Walker Institute project and part of the DFID/NERC/ESRC funded UPGro Consortium is incorporating a new understanding of climate variability, observational capacity and its water resource impacts into the planning and operation of groundwater supplies in the Volta River Basin (Ghana and Burkina Faso).
The Lorna Young Foundation is a UK charity that aims to alleviate poverty around the world by improving smallholders’ crops and livelihoods. LYF’s distinctive grass roots approach opens up a two way dialogue helping to empower farmers. Content is steered by farmers through groups and consultation, including a broad range of social issues directly relevant to smallholder communities. It develops a responsive and impactful service for farmers, answering their training needs and increasing local expertise.
BRAVE aims to improve understanding of how water moves through catchments representative of the Volta River Basin. The project is combining outputs from state-of-the-art climate, land surface and groundwater models with new scientific knowledge to develop appropriate tools to support decision makers in communities and household. This is providing an essential ingredient for evidence-based mitigation and adaptation policies in sub-Saharan Africa
The LYF is improving the resilience of farming communities to droughts and lack of access to good quality water via its radio extension work. Ultimately this impacts on both their health and livelihoods, through their ability to grow food crops and keep livestock.
The radio extension programme aims to provide training and information to farming communities in drought affected areas North of Tamale (Ghana) and in the region in and around Reo (Burkina). The training will target 4 key areas to improve resilience and adaptation of these communities going forward by:
Working with local communities and BRAVE research partners in Ghana and Burkina Faso, recent work aimed to make information and training available to the most vulnerable communities affected by droughts and lack of access to water so they are better able to plan around crops, health, nutrition, and conservation of their resources.
Ultimately our aim is to increase their resilience to weather shocks. Over the next year, we will be developing short 15 minute weekly radio programmes to address problems of unsustainable land management, extreme weather events and low agricultural productivity.
In October, the LYF will return to provide further training on setting up farmer listening groups. These groups will help to develop content, communicate best practice and ensure that the programmes are aired at times which have the potential for highest impact. The programmes have been initially titled as 'Farmer and the Water'
LYF has developed programmes for smallholder farmers in Burkina Faso, Ghana, Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo and Tanzania
 kpa’ad ne koum in Kusaal (Hosted for Tariganga and Akara by Kate for URA - GBC) Pukpaana ni Kuom in Mampruli (Hosted for Samini and Jawani districts by Osman Masahudu for URA - GBC)