Once a week, the community of Sare Konco in the south of Senegal gathers together to listen to ‘Kongol Ndémobé’, a weekly radio programme on Bamtaare Dowri FM.

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Yaye Siga Traoré, hosting a radio show on Bamtaare Dowri FM. © FRI

Kongol Ndémobé means ‘The Voice of Farmers’ in Pulaar, the language of the broadcasts. It is a continuation of the programme Kongol Réwbé, or ‘The Voice of Women’. Both programmes are supported by Farm Radio International, an NGO that works with broadcasters to develop interactive radio programming aimed at small-scale farmers and rural people.

Listening to the radio to engage the community

Kongol Ndémobé is an engaging programme. The topics cover issues like deforestation, the weather and gardening. The community enjoys listening together, as a ‘community listening group’.

Radio is a unique and often underused way of reaching remote and rural communities with information. Accessible, widespread, and inexpensive radio is wildly popular. For communities that are often illiterate and who speak local dialects and languages it is a key way of accessing information about the wider world.

’Listening together allows us to complement each other,’ says Aminata Baldé, a member of the community listening group. ‘It allows us to help each other understand everything.’

The group spends time discussing the topics of the show after it ends, deciding what is applicable to their farming practices or how they might implement the things they learn. The listening groups are set up by the radio station in partnership with Farm Radio International, to encourage communities to listen to the educational radio programming.

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Soulymane Dia, Community Leader, explaining how to use phone. © FRI

Sare Konco is located not far from Velingara, in the Kolda Region, close to the border with the Gambia. The community is surrounded by field after field of cotton, rice, maize and vegetables.

It’s dry. And though December is the dry season, those in Sare Konco say it’s been drier than normal in recent years. They point to deforestation and changing rains as a cause.

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‘The rains have changed a lot,’ says Soulymane Diao, a local farmer. ’In years before, it began to rain in May, or June, but now it’s in July or August.’

The 42-year-old heads the community listening group. He is a subsistence farmer, growing a variety of crops to feed his family of five. Farming is his only livelihood, he says, and the land that in the past was able to grow more than enough, has gotten more and more difficult to farm.

He’s not alone in the region in seeing these changes. As much as 70 per cent of agriculture is rain-fed in Senegal. Even the smallest changes in rainfall can mean disaster for small-scale and subsistence farmers.

‘The land is tired,’ says Soulymane. ‘When we work on our fields, we can’t reach our objectives. We work hard, hectare after hectare, but we only get little in return. Previously you only needed small parcels of land to get a lot of harvest. Those days are behind us.’

Involve farmers and women to make sure their voice are heard

Funded by Enabel, under the Wehubit programme, the Kongol Ndémobé broadcasts are part of the Scaling Up Climate Smart Agriculture project (SUCSA project). Farm Radio International is working with three radio stations in the Kolda Region, farmers, men as well as women, and other local stakeholders, like farming or women’s organisations, and local NGOs, to design and produce interactive radio programmes for small-scale farmers to help them in adopting climate-smart farming practices. Working with local partners allows the project to provide contacts for radio stations so that they have experts to call, and to ensure the information is locally relevant and contextual. Through Bamtaare Dowri FM in Velingara, Radio Djimara in Medina Yoro Foula, and Nafooré FM in Kolda, the radio programmes are set to reach an estimated 250,000 farmers throughout the region.

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M.Diallo, one of the women of the Community of Sare Demba Diéo, listening to the FRI programmes. © FRI

The first set of programmes addressed bush fires, deforestation, soil erosion and other relevant issues focusing on how to support farmers affected by the changing weather, but also on how to keep from exacerbating climate change. They also spend time looking at the gender dynamics of such issues, and boost the voices of women as leaders in their own communities.

Farm Radio International works hard to make the traditionally one-way device interactive. Using mobile phones and the Uliza suite of digital services (Uliza is Farm Radio’s suite of services that combines radio, mobile phones and an Interactive Voice Response system) allow listeners to communicate and exchange information with their radio station quickly, easily and free of charge. Through the suite, Farmers are able to have a say in the programmes as they are broadcast and are able to ask questions and voice their concerns, and offer their own solutions, broadcast on air.

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Women of the Community of Sare-Faramba. © FRI

As part of previous programmes, Soulymane has already called in, both to answer polling questions, and to raise his own questions about the topics aired — topics that were later addressed on the series itself. He’s also been busy teaching women in his community to use the programme as well.

Soulymane says that his goal is to become a great farmer, to become a professional in his field.

’Radio can help us, because when we listen to information that is very good, that can help guide us on what to do now to succeed,’ says Soulymane.