In the face of severe and unpredictable weather patterns, Tanzanian smallholder farmers who rely solely on rain-fed agriculture have stopped whining about the ultimate injustice of climate change, and instead have turned to radio to protect their livelihoods from the vagaries of nature.
Farmers who have had poor crop yields owing to a combination of extended dry spells, diseases, and extreme weather may now easily learn how to cope with climate change by listening to a radio broadcast.
The interactive radio show, which is broadcast twice weekly by MoshiFM from Moshi town in the East African country’s northeastern region, is designed to provide farmers in rural villages in the drought-stricken Same district with relevant weather and farming information to improve their yields and access better markets for their crops.
New farming skills
In most of Sub-Saharan Africa, climate change poses a serious threat to smallholder farmers’ food and economic security. Farmers, however, are proven excellent at learning new farming practices and skills, which have helped them build resilience and ultimately adapt to climate change, with the guidance of weather and agricultural experts.
Although collecting information about various climate-smart techniques was a challenging task for small-scale farmers in remote rural areas, experts say radio is a more effective and efficient medium for reaching farmers affected by climate change.
Interactive radio shows such as MoshiFM’s “Hekaheka vijijini,” which airs on Tuesdays and Saturdays, have been able to provide farmers with the necessary information to help them cope with changing environmental challenges.
The radio station has been working with other partners to produce specific programming on climate change adaptation.
Evans Lyatuu, the program manager of Hekaheka vijijini, said the show aimed at targeting more than 8,000 farmers who grow onions, vegetables, maize, rice, and bananas.
“Our innovative and interactive programs provide farmers with important information they need to cope with climate change, as well as agricultural techniques tailored to their specific needs,” he told Anadolu Agency.
According to him, they routinely invite agricultural experts to discuss important issues affecting farmers to minimize the amount of time they spend visiting farmers individually.
“This program is very interactive … Farmers have the opportunity to call in and ask specific questions about the challenges they are facing, such as prolonged and severe drought,” Lyatuu said.
The program has helped farmers immensely gain knowledge and adopt more sustainable farming practices, he added.
Backbone of economy
Agriculture is the backbone of Tanzania’s economy. It accounts for more than a quarter of gross domestic product (GDP), provides 85% of exports, and employs about 80% of the workforce.
The country has 29.4 million hectares of land that could be irrigated, but only some 590,000 hectares are currently farmed, according to the Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry.
Although smallholder farmers are disproportionately affected by climate change, there is the reason for optimism because farmers can simply turn on their radios and figure out new ways to adapt to the changing climate.
Every Saturday, Adelina Mbaga sits under a baobab tree, shielding herself from the scorching sun while listening to MoshiFM.
“Most of what they talk about are really relevant to what I do, and they’ve helped me know when to act whenever the weather is unpredictable,” said the 52-year-old farmer from Same’s Ruvu village.
She recalled how radio has helped her learn about the invasion of destructive desert locusts in the Kilimanjaro area and prepared herself to spray the farm with insecticide.
“Radio can be a very useful tool for alerting you about an emergency,” she explained. “That’s why I listen to MoshiFM every day.”
Christina Chuwa said the radio program taught her how to conserve water during the dry season and how to use water efficiently through drip irrigation.
“This technique is quite effective. I have earned good money by using the water to grow onions during the dry season,” she added.