This best practice describes how rural Nigerian communities overcame a lack of communications infrastructure and began using radio to educate smallholder farmers on farming techniques and natural resource management. In Nigeria’s rural agricultural communities, the Smallholders Foundation (http://www.smallholdersfoundation.org) promotes sustainable agriculture and environmental conservation through educational radio programmes. The Smallholders Farmers Rural Radio station broadcasts daily programs on agricultural management, environmental conservation, and market access. Broadcasts are done in the local Igbo language, and reach over one million listeners (many of whom are illiterate) in 11 local government catchments in Imo State, Nigeria. The information shared during these broadcasts helps farmers improve the sustainability of farming practices, increase their yield, broaden their access to markets, and increase their incomes. The Foundation also broadcasts information on household hygiene, sanitation, and nutrition.
This best practice addresses Aichi Biodiversity Target One. It states that by 2020, at the latest, people are aware of the values of biodiversity and the steps they can take to conserve and use it sustainably. Steps taken towards achieving Target One facilitate the implementation of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 and the fulfillment of the other 19 Aichi Biodiversity Targets.
Over 70% of Nigeria’s 150 million citizens live in rural areas and are dependent on natural resources for their livelihoods and well-being. Agriculture is the main source of income for the vast majority of the rural population. Internet, energy and power supplies are inconsistent and unreliable in Nigeria. There are sustainable farming and natural resource management information gaps on emerging knowledge, best practices, and lessons learned. Small farmers lack access to information on the types of sustainable management techniques and farming methods makes it difficult for farmers to boost their agricultural yields, incomes or access to markets. This knowledge gap results in lower agricultural yields, accelerated food insecurity, deepening poverty and environmental degradation due to unsustainable agricultural practices.
Creation of the Smallholders Foundation The Smallholders Foundation was established in Nigeria’s Imo State as a non-governmental organization in 2003, by multi-award winning farmer, social entrepreneur and innovator Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu. The Foundation’s goal is to inform, educate and improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers across Nigeria. The Foundation assists approximately .5 million rural smallholder farmers, especially those who work less than an acre of land. Two groups, the Board of Trustees and the members, manage the Foundation’s administration. Every two years, the members elect six trustees and the Chairman of the Board. The Board of Trustees provide strategic direction and ensures that the goal and vision of the organization is carried out. Members of the organization are community farmers, as well as non-governmental organizations.
Below is a brief explanation of the programmes and initiatives successfully undertaken by the Smallholders Foundation:
Smallholders Farmers Rural Radio Broadcast Programme:
- The Smallholder Foundation uses radio programming, in the local Igbo language, to broadcast for ten hours a day. As of 2014, there are 14 broadcasters with an estimated one million listeners in 11 local government areas.
- The project objectives are to: ( 1) enable economically marginalized farmers to acquire modern agricultural and environmental management techniques, (2) share current and often daily market information, and (3 ) provide a platform where smallholders can advertise their products.
- The daily radio programs are broadcast by the Nigerian Export and Investment Promotion Councils, Farm Radio International, the Food and Agriculture Organization, the Technical Centre for Agriculture and Rural Co-operation (CTA), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Low External Input Sustainable Agriculture (LEISA), the International Trade Centre, and local and national ministries of commerce, agriculture and chambers of commerce.
- The Smallholder Farmers Rural Radio Station (FARM 98.0 FM) is funded through the sale of advertisements to willing buyers. These include individuals, large- scale farmers, agri-businesses, small and medium sized enterprises, local non-governmental organizations, government and the communities of smallholders themselves. Airtime is also sold for public service announcements, personal greeting requests, production agreements, listener subscription and program sales.
- The broadcasted programme content covers techniques in crop production, livestock rearing, biodiversity conservation, soil management, soil erosion control, farm management, food security and safety, nutrition, HIV/AIDS, malaria, fertilizer and pesticide use, rainwater harvesting, small-scale irrigation, accessing hybrid seeds, market and micro-credit access, and a question and answer service. The programming also focuses on capacity building and business skills development, including market research, cost-benefit analysis, banking and accounts management, bookkeeping, store records, and business planning.
- To enhance broadcast effectiveness, the radio station staff provides field extension services, such as hands-on demonstrations of practical sustainable farming.
Interactive radio mobile devices:
- The radio programme provides interactive radio mobile devices to farmers who are part of the ‘listener clubs.’ The devices allow the farmers to provide direct feedback on the programme.
- The devices allow the farmers to make voice recordings, which are then forwarded to the radio station via a network antenna installed at the radio station. • The mobile radio devices are free for the ‘listener clubs’ to use and provides a way for the farmers to ask practical questions.
Outreach through public radio stations – The Radio Broadcast Script Initiative:
- The Foundation uses songs, jingles, radio scripts, and drama performances to provide educational information and contemporary farming practices to rural farmers that listen to other public radio stations. This content is developed with community input.
- The content is oriented around topics such as slash-and-burn agriculture, small farm development, farm safety, storage facilities, female empowerment, youth in agriculture, public health issues, land tenure and land access, micro-credit, market access, soil management, water and sanitation, wetlands management, and environmental conservation.
School Gardens Initiative:
- This initiative promotes learning beyond the classroom by providing students exposure to the responsibilities of managing a farm. • Gardens are established to help youth learn how to harvest and market produce, manage costs and revenues, and rear livestock.
- Gardens are operated and managed by students outside school hours, on a voluntary basis. e) Demonstration & Education Initiative for Rural Farmers - this initiative supports farmers to increase their crop yields and utilize sustainable farming practices.
- Through demonstration sessions, farmers are taught how to cultivate their crops and livestock, create hygienic farming conditions, manage low-cost irrigation systems, harness sustainable energy, and conserve the environment.
- The Initiative provides a valuable platform for educating local farmers on ecosystem and integrated natural resource management across rainforests, wetlands, and mangroves. Topics include alternatives to slash-and-burn agriculture, and techniques to prevent soil erosion and flooding, for watershed management, for enforcing laws, for the use of drought-resistant plants to protect community streams and rivers, to restore degraded rainforests, for community afforestation, to sustainably harvest fish, and to manage agroforestry, water bird management, wildlife, and ecotourism.
Climate Change Adaptation:
- The Smallholders Foundation developed a 20-episode radio serial drama on climate change management, which was designed to help smallholders address the challenges of changing weather patterns.
- Each episode covered a specific climate risk management topic that was linked to sustainable livelihoods in Nigeria.
- Examples of episodes include: planting and using multi-purpose trees, pest and disease control in arable crops during climate change, water and soil management in the face of climate change, restoring degraded forests, new fish-farming techniques in climate change, value- added fish-farming products, reducing livestock density, mixing browsers and grazers (livestock that eat primarily leaves and grass respectively), coastal areas management, coping with extreme weather events, using renewable energy, cultivating cassava with uncertain rain, crop diversification, heat and salt tolerant crops, leading community responses and preparedness, and lobbying for government action.
Despite technological advances in the communication field, radio remains the most pervasive, accessible, affordable, and flexible mass medium available for rural communities. Local radio can successfully fill communications gaps and educate rural communities about sustainable agricultural and environmental management techniques. It can help transform rural farming communities from passive recipients of information into active participants in an ongoing dialogue on best practices. The radio broadcasts provides a platform for communities to solve their own problems and to exchange information peer-to-peer. It also provides local policy guidance regarding on-the-ground successes and challenges in biodiversity conservation and sustainable use, farming, and income-generating activities that reduce poverty. Active participation of community members in the project planning process is an excellent way to ensure their commitment, promotes the exchange of ideas, brings communities closer together, and enhances local knowledge.
Catalyzing community-led conservation
- The Foundation’s educational efforts led to the enforcement of two community laws that conserve the Sclater’s guenon monkey, also known as the ‘green world monkey’. The project involved a three-month radio drama on monkey conservation and ‘listener club discussions’ on wildlife-related topics, which spread a conservation ethic. The clubs met regularly to listen to the radio programs, discuss the topics and then provide feedback to the radio station.
- Farmers are building better product storage facilities to save genetic resources and harvest yields. The volume of agricultural outputs per acre is reported to have increased dramatically.
- Programs and extension service projects under the Foundation led to the conservation of over 23,000 hectares of rainforest.
- Through the School Gardens Project, five schools have established ‘green clubs’, where students take the lead on an extensive tree-planting program, and also plant vetiver grass on steep and sloping landscapes, which helps manage soil erosion.
- Biodiversity impacts are measured through weekly and monthly surveys. Key environmental performance indicators include: the number of smallholders adopting agricultural best practices, trees planted by communities, community biodiversity laws enacted, daily agricultural and environmental ‘lead broadcasts’, and crop output per acre of land.
- Over 65% of listeners report improved livelihoods. Household incomes have improved from USD dollar/day to USD .50 per day.
- Smallholders are adopting more productive and effective agricultural practices, which is improving local food security. Farmers reported a 50% increase in output per acre of maize, cassava, cocoyam, yam and vegetables.
- Revenue from the radio station supports the establishment of modern school gardens in community secondary schools and helps students gain practical agricultural skills and experience for gainful employment. More households are also enrolling their children in school, as parents can now afford basic school supplies and fees. Standard hygiene, sanitation and nutrition are also improving.
- Through the radio programs, farmers now have access to daily commodity prices, which enables them to make more informed decisions about which market to target and to better understand trends in supply and demand. The Foundation also supports market supply-chain development and links local producers with larger markets.
- The Foundation successfully created a forum for rural farmers to discuss the challenges of integrating development and conservation. The initiative is a vehicle of community empowerment, and gives rural farmers confidence in the value of their knowledge, and their capacity to problem-solve and be the leaders of positive change in their communities.
- The Foundation recruited eight small-hold farmers for the radio programmes and built their capacity to serve as information conduits and moderators of on-going policy dialogues.
- Ten rural radio management committee members were selected from listening communities to take charge of production, editorial responsibilities, advertising (selling airtime to advertisers). This process ensures a high standard of programming that is responsive to local needs and concerns. •
- The Foundation has established an interactive, two-way medium for the rural poor – many of whom are illiterate – to be heard, to keep informed, and to become more decisive and knowledgeable agents in their own development.
- There is an upsurge in community enacted and enforced laws for the management of watersheds, wetlands, mangroves and wildlife.