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, 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, relevant and real time updates on issues affecting their crops and livelihoods.
Earlier this month, the Lorna Young Foundation 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 and observational capacity and its water resource impacts into the planning and operation of groundwater supplies in the Volta River Basin (Ghana and Burkina Faso). Improving 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 aim of the radio extension work is to improve the resilience of farming communities to droughts and lack of access to good quality water. Ultimately this impacts on both their health and livelihoods, through their ability to grow food crops and keep livestock.
This 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:
• improving access to ground water by promoting rain harvesting techniques, proper storage and conservation of water resources;
• improving crop yields, by providing information on drought resistant and early maturing crops in line with agricultural calendars;
• promoting sustainable land management practices which improve soil fertility and water retention on the farms, the use of organic pesticides and fertilisers as well as raising awareness on the impact of deforestation;
• improving health and nutrition by promoting high value crops such as orange fleshed potatoes (rich in Vitamin A) ensuring garden crops can be dried and conserved for periods when hunger commonly occurs and also ensuring there is information on prevention and treatment of water related diseases such as cholera.
Working with local communities and BRAVE research partners in Ghana and Burkina Faso, recent work looked to make information and training available to the most vulnerable communities affected by droughts and lack of access to water, so that 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'
The Lorna Young Foundation is a UK charity that aims to alleviate poverty around the world by improving smallholders’ crops and livelihoods. LYF is made up of business and ethical trade professionals, social entrepreneurs, and development experts. Lorna Young Foundation has extensive experience in developing and delivering farmer radio and we have shown when used alongside other interventions it helps increase yields and quality; improves farming practices; provides key market information thus guiding farmers’ investment and selling decisions, and improves social concerns of nutrition, and HIV/Aids awareness and prevention. 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.
LYF has developed programmes for smallholder farmers in Burkina Faso, Ghana, Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo and Tanzania