TOF Radio is the radio programme of The Organic Farmer (TOF), Biovision’s monthly magazine with practical information on organic farming and sustainable agriculture. The shows which are broadcasted on Kenya’s national Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC) Kiswahili Service (every Thursday from 8.15 to 8.30 pm) and on Radio Milele (every Tuesday from 8.30 to 8.45 pm) have up to 5 million listeners. We met John Cheburet who produces TOF Radio for an interview about the present and the future of his daily work.
How do your working days look like?
My first task in the morning: I have to check and answer messages. There are emails of course, but farmers mainly send SMS. From January to March 2011 we got 560 SMS, since April already 280 came in. I also spend a lot of time brainstorming ideas for the radio programme. The content needs to reflect farmers’ needs, interests and concerns. For every idea I need a farmer’s voice and the opinion of an expert, that’s the constant pattern of my coverage. Since we have a good database, it’s not that difficult to find farmers. Sometimes the meetings are slightly disappointing if I don’t get the story which I expected, but I know how to deal with such situations.
Which challenges do you face?
Agriculture is seen as an important element for Kenya’s Vision 2030. But the lack of leadership at the national level is working against the agriculture sector. Unless the government creates an enabling environment for the good work, which people and organizations are doing, the impact of their activities is limited. Right now we have big issues with maize: Farmers don’t get good prices for their maize, there are problems with inputs and not enough strategic reserves. The government needs to be more proactive in solving such problems.
Where do you see the advantages of the radio compared to other media?
The voices make the radio programme more real than print. If done well, radio creates pictures and mental visuals. That means: the programme reflects what’s happening in the farms. Meanwhile, radio also plays a complementary role to the magazine: It augments and reinforces the message of eco-friendly farming practices.
What’s the role of social media such as Twitter, Facebook or Youtube?
Our product is good information, which is independent from the medium we use for dissemination. We have to think about: How to reach as many people as people. So, we need different media because there are different target groups. Social media offers new channels which are gaining importance. We can already see how downloads of the magazine increase when we put a link on Facebook. With our Facebook fanpage we don’t reach farmers directly, but very often they have relatives who live in town and use Facebook. Still, information reaches rural areas through family bonds and inter-person links.