“I will come to the office so that you can show me the right pesticide to eradicate aphids,” a caller declared to the studio team on the agriculture show on Serian FM one Saturday morning after the expert advised him to visit the County Department of Agriculture office for advice before purchasing any pesticides.

Nick Lenyakopiro, the presenter of the agriculture show, says that the station appreciate that the number of farmers listening to their programs is on the increase.  The station is able to gauge this every time the programmes air, from the number of new callers.  He adds the preference is for live programmes because the call-ins offer direct interaction with the listeners.

The partnership with the Samburu County Department of Agriculture gives the radio producers access to both agricultural content and experts to enrich programming. The Department has assigned an extension officer, Ms. Mary Lemaletyan who speaks Samburu, the local language in which the programme is broadcast, and Nick happily says she has made it easier for the producers to get appropriate content.

“We would however wish to have more officers who speak the Samburu language come to the show, especially experts in livestock production since Mary’s background is crop production,” he notes.

“This partnership has helped build our capacity and raise the station profile through quality agriculture programming that offers an interactive platform in the Samburu language which is well ‘digested’ by our listeners,” says Nick. “The feedback from our listeners has made us realize that the information in the programmes is valuable.” Nick adds that he has gained personal knowledge and is under pressure from his wife to engage in agriculture.  He adds, “These are life changing encounters with agriculture networks – thanks to the organizers of this initiative.”

PETER LEMPIRKAN

“I have already collected two programmes on the memory card from the station and we are able to listen to the programmes which we missed or need to listen to again,” says Peter Lempirikan.  Peter is the chairman of Lotupurde, one of the larger farmer groups that was split into five smaller groups of thirty members each for ease of managing meetings. Separated by a distance of approximately 3-5 kilometers from each other, it is these groups that have become the Radio Listening Groups in the five villages of Kasuut, Elmari, Tarakwa, Lokurum and Lotupurde.

Peter acknowledges that even 30 members at any one meeting is too large for a radio listening group. However, only about half the number attend the meetings due to other engagements. Although the groups consist of both men and women, more women attend the listening sessions and they are more responsive. This is because women spend more time at home compared to the men who must go out in search of pastures for their livestock. The only time they near the 100% mark in attendance is when schools close.  “When the children are back home they take over the grazing and help out with household chores, so we are able to have some free time to attend,” adds Peter, “Even now as we speak I am in the field grazing my goats.” Peter practices mixed farming in Sirata location, Samburu central. He owns a two and half acre farm on which he grows maize, beans and potatoes.  He has 21 cows and one hundred goats.

The five groups meet at a member’s residence to listen to the live interactive agriculture show recorded at Serian FM and have the chairperson call the station on behalf of the group to ask questions members of the group may have. Peter says he is grateful for the agriculture show on Serian FM; “Ndio njia ya pekee ya kupata mawaidha kuhusu kilimo,” (It is the only way we can get information on agriculture).

The radio programmes provide farmers with the opportunity to talk directly to the experts from the Deapartment of Agriculture;  ”Ni afadhali kuliko kuenda kwa ofisi ya kilimo kwa sababu ya muda na umbali” (“It is better than visiting the agriculture office because of time and distance.”) Farming is relatively new to the Samburu people and Peter has gained knowledge from the agriculture radio programmes on Serian FM that have greatly improved his farming enterprises. After listening to the programme on how to plough, plant and weed, and the use of animal manure he used the information with good results. He says that the crop currently in the farm shows signs of a better harvest than the previous one.

The programmes further provide a forum for farmers to talk directly with experts and seed companies; it is also a forum for communicating farmers’ challenges and correcting the mistakes that they make as farmers.  “Even just  from the exchange of information with other farmers we learn a lot,” says Peter, “Information liberates us and I am sure it will change the way farming is done in Samburu.”

Peter concludes by making a case for the continuation of agricultural radio programming and for assistance to farmer groups to obtain rechargeable batteries and solar energy solutions because much of Samburu County has no access to electricity.

HELLEN JENIFFER LESAMBURI

Hellen owns a one acre farm in Milimani location, Yiamo village, on which she carries out intensive farming. She grows beans, maize, and vegetables including kales, spinach, onions, green pepper and green peas. She also keeps chicken and has fruit trees – avocado and tangerine.

Hellen praises the agriculture programmes on Serian FM: “Zimetufungua macho,” she says, (They have opened our eyes). She has benefited from the programmes on conservation farming, crop rotation, seed varieties and water harvesting. Although she is an avid listener, she has never made a call to the radio station, and did not give reasons but one can only imagine the constraints she and other farmers in the county face; poor phone connections, lack of airtime, and absence of electricity which means they cannot use their phones at will.