James Hansen is a Senior Research Scientist at the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI) at Columbia University. His research focuses on climate risk management for agriculture. Contact: [email protected]
Radio listener clubs empower Rwandan farmers to manage climate risk
November 19, 2019
The Rwanda Climate Services for Agriculture project, funded by USAID, has been supporting farmers to use weather and climate information through participatory group processes and innovative radio programming. Radio Listener Clubs now combine the reach of radio with the richness of face-to-face discussion.
Climate services through agricultural extension
In eastern Rwanda, Ntambara Theogene has been trained to use weather and climate information to improve his farming practices. He has more than doubled his crop yields by adjusting crop variety, planting dates and fertilizer application according to weather and climate information. With increased income from his improved practices, he is able to pay his children’s school fees, diversify his family’s diet, and expand the area he cultivates.
More than 1,800 agricultural extension workers have been trained in the Participatory Integrated Climate Services for Agriculture (PICSA) approach through the Rwanda Climate Services for Agriculture project.
A volunteer ‘Farmer Promoter’ within Rwanda’s Twigire Muhinzi(1) agricultural extension service, Ntambara is one of more than 1,800 agricultural extension workers that the Rwanda Climate Services for Agriculture project trained in the Participatory Integrated Climate Services for Agriculture (PICSA) approach. These trained extension workers have in turn trained and helped about 112,000 of Rwanda’s farmers to access, understand, and incorporate climate information into their management decisions. The project also partnered with four local faith-based NGOs to facilitate training and support implementation in farming communities in their respective provinces.
Climate services through radio
A parallel effort involved training journalists and working with a community radio network to develop climate service programming.
With the project’s support, the Radio Huguka network supports farmers using climate information to manage risk and improve their farming practices through programming that includes “Urubuto Ntera,” a biweekly educational program, and daily weather forecast updates. Innovative program formats such as call-in talk shows and debates support interaction and opportunity for farmers to share their experience.
Radio is an important medium for connecting communities and sharing knowledge, particularly when it supports two-way interaction. Radio is also a cost-effective way to share weather and climate information with geographically isolated farming communities.
Combining radio and agricultural extensions channels
In November 2018, a training event launched 225 Radio Listener Clubs. These clubs combine the benefits of the broadcast media and face-to-face agricultural extension channels.
Farmer Promoters, who were already trained and involved in the PICSA process, were trained to lead their village groups in weekly meetings to listen to and discuss the climate service radio programs, as well as agree on and document follow-up actions in response. To ensure equitable participation among the roughly 5,500 farmers involved in the ongoing pilot, Radio Listener Clubs participate in call-in shows and live debates with experts on a rotating basis via mobile phone. The clubs also enable farmers to influence the content by choosing the topics for future programs.
As the Rwanda experience demonstrates, broadcast media and face-to-face communication through agricultural extension are not so much alternatives, but complementary channels for delivering rural climate services. Radio Listener Clubs are integrating information at weather and climate time scales and combining the reach of broadcast media with the richness of group interaction.
 Twigire Muhinzi is a ‘home-grown solution’ agricultural extension model to ensure that all farmers in Rwanda have access to advisory services. The model is based on two farmer-to-farmer extension approaches: the Farmer Promoter approach and the Farmer Field School approach. Twigire Muhinzi has been used to communicate weather and climate information through PICSA to more than 130,000 farmers in Rwanda.
Jacquelyn Turner is a visual storyteller specialist at the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI); and Communications Officer for the CGIAR research program on Climate Change, Agriculture, and Food Security (CCAF). Contact: [email protected]
Gloriose Nsengiyumva is a Coordinator for Outcome 1: Climate Services for Farmers, for the Rwanda Climate Services for Agriculture project, based at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT). Contact: [email protected]
Desire Kagabo is a Scientist at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT); and Coordinator of the Rwanda Climate Services for Agriculture project. His research focuses on climate services and farming systems. Contact: [email protected]