A new media initiative is connecting Kandahar farmers with agricultural experts.
20 SEPTEMBER 2010 | KANDAHAR PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN
Each year, Abdul Kabir noticed his barley yield dropping from the year before. When a friend told him about a new call-in radio program where he could talk about his problem with a government expert, the farmer in the Dand District of southern Afghanistan was skeptical. He’d never heard of an agricultural extension agent, much less talked to one.
But one Tuesday evening, he sat under a tree with his transistor radio in one hand, his cell phone in the other, and tuned in to “Good Field, Good Harvest,” a new initiative by USAID’s Afghanistan Vouchers for Increased Production in Agriculture (AVIPA) Plus.
At first, hearing a radio drama in progress, he wasn’t sure if he’d found the right program. “These two people were arguing about best farming practices. And then people started calling in with questions.”
The live half-hour program opens with dramatic renderings of AVIPA Plus agricultural training manuals followed by panelists from the provincial office of the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL) and Kandahar University who field calls on topics ranging from crop diseases to irrigation techniques.
Mohammed Aref, a Kandahar MAIL Extension Agent, was one of the radio panelists fielding questions that evening. A farmer himself, he understands the difficulties farmers face, especially in outlying areas far from government resources.
“We have the information that farmers need, but most of them don’t know about us,” he said. “People get excited hearing their voice on the radio. But the real excitement is that they can get solid information and improve their farms.”
He adds that radio is the best means to disseminate information in an area where 80 percent of the population is illiterate and few have TVs.
The radio program airs twice weekly in Kandahar, one of the key target areas for AVIPA Plus stabilization initiatives. It currently reaches some 700,000 listeners in ten Kandahar districts.
“This is something we’ve needed for a long time,” said Abdul. “I don’t have time to go to a government office every time I have a farming question. Now I can just call it in.”
Abdul Kabir got the answers he needed for his next barley crop. He knows how to improve his field preparation to get a better harvest next season. He also got something more: a sense of connection to his government and the resources at his disposal.
Last updated: January 20, 2015