At a time when Kenya is struggling to feed its population following
severe droughts, radio programs are educating listeners on better
farming techniques in a bid to improve food security.
Kenya is on the brink of possibly one of its worst
droughts in 60 years, according to the UN
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Aid groups
have issued their largest-ever
appeal for food aid for parts of Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia.
The food shortage resulting from this year’s drought is not
uncommon in Kenya, although this year it is particularly severe. For
decades, Kenya has suffered frequent acute food shortages.
Paradoxically, it is believed that close to 80 percent of the
population engages in farming. While Kenya’s food shortages are
caused by a complex set of circumstances – drought, high global
food prices, and political instability -- the poor farming techniques
practiced by Kenya’s majority small holder farmers have been
singled out as a major factor.
To remedy this problem, some radio stations in Kenya are broadcasting
programs to educate farmers about successful agricultural techniques.
The goal is to promote food security for the region by helping small
holder farmers increase their yield.At the same time that its population is growing,
Kenya’s agricultural production and performance has been declining,
according to the Sustainable Agriculture Center for Research and Development in Africa (SACRED). Some of this drop in output is due to financial constraints
that keep farmers from using higher yield seeds and fertilizer
Yet the lack of up-to-date knowledge about farming methods is
considered a significant obstacle to success for small holder
farmers. This stems in part from the government’s decision to stop
hiring agricultural extension specialists, a valuable source of
agricultural expertise. SACRED points out that farmers are missing
out on the advice these specialists dispense, like where to find
suppliers of certified seeds, techniques for applying chemicals, how
to deal with pesticides and crop diseases, and which are the right
crops or animals to keep.Leveraging the popularity and accessibility of radio,
radio programs have sprouted up around the country that combine both
research and extension services. Projects like the Farmers
Voice Radio (FVR) Initiative are delivering farming advice in
Swahili, English, and several vernacular languages through national
and community radio stations.