For the last 7 years, the Walker Institute has been involved with UPGro through the BRAVE project. BRAVE aimed to improve the understanding of the management, monitoring and modelling of groundwater resources in the face of future climate change. This work involved integrating the three main areas of investigation - physical science, social science and governance. By increasing understanding at all levels of society, BRAVE was able to support behaviour change and investment into groundwater from community through to policy level. Take a look at more information about the BRAVE project here.
Radio is arguably one of the most important, cost-effective sources of information for the majority of rural farmers in Africa. The BRAVE project established farmer field listening groups and agri-educational radio programming to address the training needs of smallholders by establishing a dialogue directly with rural farming populations, delivering live, relevant and real-time updates on issues affecting their crops and livelihoods. The aim of the radio extension program was to improve the resilience of farming communities to weather shocks, lack of access to good quality water and to support conservation of resources.
By working with the Lorna Young Foundation’s well established Farmer Voice Radio (FVR) methodology, BRAVE’s work in both Burkinabe and Ghanaian communities has improved livelihoods and provided an accessible and contextually driven information source and communication channel. This aspect of the project has been fundamental in supporting ground-level changes that can improve the resilience of farmers in both countries by providing the platform for dialogical information sharing around ground and surface water management, and farming techniques that support this resource use.
Radio Programme Topics included a suite of topics chosen by the Listening Group members and supported by local extension officers. Some of these topics have included water resource management techniques such as harvesting rainfall water, water storage, groundwater use and water conservation, as well as other agricultural topics such as crop and animal disease, and agricultural techniques. Since August 2019, regular bulletins reporting rainfall levels have been included in the Radio programming from Rainwatch. Rainwatch is an open-source platform for communication of real-time monitoring data on rainfall across Africa. These climate information bulletins are an important addition to the communication channel established through Farmers Voice Radio programmes on water resource use, management, and how this can benefit farmers livelihoods.
In Burkina, the community listening groups worked alongside local radio, NGOs and district officers to record and transmit 48 different radio programmes. Similarly, in Ghana, the community listening groups recorded and broadcasted 65 radio programmes which are reported to have reached 146,600 listeners. A new addition to the radio programmes, added later in the project, was the addition of a function that enable the listeners to call in to ask further questions, creating a truly two-way communication channel for exchange of information and ideas around water use and agriculture.
Whilst the impact of the Farmer Voice Radio programmes are still being evaluated, initial findings from the monitoring data in the Ghanaian communities indicate that socially ascribed gender roles impact farmer’s access to information, but that radio remains one of the vital information sources, and information delivered through the Farmer Voice Radio continues to support livelihoods adaption and resilience. This is strongly echoed in the Burkinabe communities with initial findings from the monitoring data suggesting that communication of this information plays a vital role in enabling behaviour change that supports more effective use of water. Communicating information on rainfall, water management techniques and agricultural practices enable farmers to make their own, informed choices to increase the sustainability of their livelihoods. At this individual and community level, the combination of Farmers Voice Radio and Rainwatch are helping to build farmers adaptive capacity and resilience, to support their financial security:
“We have managed to make a difference in the use of water so we no longer consume water from our wells, so we can say that this has allowed us to have a lot of water to devote it essentially to our market gardening. When we had a lot of water, it allowed us to enlarge the surface of our gardens and thus we increased our production and thus our income. For someone who used to earn 30,000 to 35,000, today we earn 60,000 to 70,000.” (Tomo, Female Farmer)
The Farmer Voice Radio aspect of BRAVE project has not only shown how vital information is to small holder farmers and improving water resource management and livelihood adaption, but has also provided vital insight into the complex gendered dimension that underpin information access and implementation. The full findings of this data are still being analysed, but it is clear that groundwater can provide a sustainable development pathway from some of the most vulnerable people, but that there remain multiple, interconnected physical and social aspects that must be incorporated to enable it’s potential to be fully unlocked.