Three radios. That’s how many young Francisco Canama took apart in 1989. “I wanted to see who was inside,” he says.
Growing up as a Mozambican refugee in Malawi, the radio was a critical source of information for Francisco’s family. Today, 27 years after the end of the war, Francisco has his own family back and is back in his home country. And today, Francisco is
the man inside the radio – and he has been since 1997.
As it was to Francisco’s family in Malawi, radio is an important form of communication for his community in Ulongwe, Mozambique. The local Angonia Community radio station has almost 120,000 listeners. With agriculture a main source of income in this region, many of these listeners also happen to be smallholder farmers who are looking to improve production on their farms.
On Sundays and Tuesdays, the station hosts an agricultural extension program to spread the word about improved farming practices. From 2017-2019, the station worked with the Future Resilient Agricultural Markets Activity (RAMA-BC) to develop episodes that educated maize farmers about low cost, low input and environmentally sustainable ways to improve production. Implemented by Land O’Lakes Venture37, the RAMA-BC activity is promoting the use of legumes, like pigeon peas and lablab, to improve soil health and productivity.
They work by reducing soil erosion, raising rainfall infiltration and moisture retention, reducing weeds and repelling pests. In the face of increasing drought frequency, these crops also add a new source of nutrition and variety to local household diets.
Francisco and his colleagues regularly host listening groups with members of their audience to understand what the audience is interested in and to get feedback on how previous episodes went over. Using these insights, Francisco partnered with RAMA-BC to create episodes that were practical and relevant to the everyday needs of Ulongwe farmers.
Francisco, who also happens to be a farmer, enjoyed the conversations RAMA-BC brought to the station. “One episode was about pest control and how to prevent Fall Armyworm – an increasing problem for farmers in our area,” says Francisco. “Leguminous cover crops repel the pest, and we can plant elephant grass around the fields to draw it away from the crop. When we are open to learn and change, we will achieve progress,” he says.
RAMA-BC’s work with the Angonia Community radio station was part of the project’s goal of reaching over 125,000 farming families with effective, targeted information on resilient agricultural technologies.