The radio show that changed the lives of rural Kenyan dairy farmers

bannerIn 2008, when food prices soared, donors looked for smart ideas to help vulnerable communities cope by boosting local food production and enabling them to earn enough money to buy food and save for when times are tight.

One such smart idea was in Kenya, where a EU and United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization funded radio show promoted better farming techniques amongst a dispersed rural population.  The results simply changed lives.

Piloted across 14 districts in the Rift Valley Province in Kenya, a region with high potential for dairy farming, the four-month radio series shared techniques for improving dairy farming with as wide an audience as possible, including women with children and young people.  The long term goal was to improve household incomes and living standards.

Mr. Isaac Ngetich, a farmer from Koibatek District explains, “Our region has a high potential for dairy farming which is not being fully exploited. The radio programmes have helped us.” He continues, “Through the programme I won a prize for best farmer as I moved from getting 3 litres of milk to 4, 5, 7 and 10. I have established 2 acres of pasture and have learnt the value of keeping good records to monitor performance and identify areas for improvement in animal management.”

The programmes also offered practical tips such as how to produce silage to feed livestock.   After listening to the radio programme and later seeing a demonstration of a chaff cutter (a device for cutting straw and hay), Isaac decided to make his own. “Now I am able to cut enough grass for my animals and sell what is left.”

The series was a great success, with up to 1.2 million listeners each week.  “When the radio programme started, I bought a radio and followed the programmes wherever I was. I would take notes and try to follow the guidelines given on the radio. My milk production moved from 15 litres to 36 litres,” Isaac Rotich, Chairperson of Muserechi Young Farmers says.  “I am not employed anywhere else but I am able to pay fees for my children comfortably.”

Paul Cheruiyot, Chairperson of Torongo Farmers’ Cooperative (Dairy) observes, “Since our establishment, our main challenge has been how to reduce milk rejection which has been rising over the years and in 2009 peaked at 2000 litres per day. Through the programme, our members now engage in clean milk production and at long last have reduced rejection from 2000 litres to 100 litres.”

In the internet age, the programme shows how radio still has the power to change lives on a huge scale.  “The radio programme can reach the owner, the workers and the family all at the same time,” says Cheruiyot. “As a result of this reduction in rejected milk, our members are better off.”

The improved levels of dairy production and reduced levels of rejection have meant more money in the pockets of rural farmers including women.  This has led to the establishment of a Savings and Credit Society which will help rural farmers put money aside and protects themselves better from future food price hikes.

With this pilot being such a success, another radio programme has been set up and is now running in 10 other districts across Kenya . Similar types of radio programmes are also currently being set up in arid and semi-arid areas under the EU-funded Kenya Rural Development Programme and the Kenyan government is supporting similar initiatives.

About FAO

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations that leads international efforts to defeat hunger. Achieving food security for all is at the heart of the FAO’s efforts – to make sure people have regular access to enough high-quality food to lead active, healthy lives. Visit the FAO website.

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