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Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu

Ikegwuonu believes that climate change information must come from farming communities themselves (© Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu)
Ikegwuonu believes that climate change information must come from farming communities themselves
© Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu

Climate change on air

Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu is the Executive Director of The Smallholders Foundation in Nigeria, a non-governmental organisation that promotes sustainable agricultural development and environmental conservation beneficial to poor small farmers, through educational radio programmes and on-field practical demonstrations. He also promotes the 'Climate Change on Air' project, a farmer-produced radio broadcast that provides relevant information about climate change to smallholders in the remote communities of south eastern Nigeria.

More than ten million illiterate smallholders, living in remote and poor communities in south eastern Nigeria, have no access to climate change mitigation and adaptation information. This is alarming because the climate is changing rapidly in this region, unsettling the familiar seasonal cycle and natural water supply systems. With local crop production highly dependent on rainfall, farmers in this area - many of whom are women - desperately need information to help them adapt their farming systems. The Climate Change on Air project, run by The Smallholders Foundation, is aiming to provide that information in the most relevant and accessible form possible: farmer-produced radio broadcasts.

Normally the rainy season in this part of Nigeria commences in February or March but presently the start of the rainy season cannot be predicted. This has led to uncertainties regarding the onset of the farming season, resulting in late harvests, harvest failure and ultimately to food shortages. Smallholders are facing rising daily temperatures, which are posing a challenge to livestock production and reproduction. The rainforest is scorched and retreating, exacerbated by local farming practices. Periodic torrential rainfall is eroding valuable soil nutrients through massive surface runoff, and acres of farmland are on the verge of being destroyed by extensive gully erosion.

Smallholders in this region can only prepare for and adapt to the negative effects of climate change if they fully understand it and know its impacts. While there is a great deal of information available on climate change, most is not aimed at this farming audience. Our goal, at The Smallholders Foundation, is to ensure that the communities we work with understand climate change messages and find them relevant. Part of our strategy to achieve this is to broadcast messages that actually come from farming communities, rather than scientists and journalists. We also believe radio is the most effective way to reach smallholders in the most remote communities and to allow them to communicate their knowledge and experience.

Reaching farmers

In 2009, we entered the World Bank Development Marketplace Competition on Climate Change Adaptation to implement a project titled Climate Change on Air. We won funding to produce a 20 episode radio serial drama, which will strengthen the climate risk management capacity of smallholder farmers and stimulate them to develop and adopt indigenous techniques to secure their livelihood.

Implementation began in late 2010, conducting baseline surveys in 95 local government areas in five states (Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo), to benchmark farmers' existing knowledge of climate change. Working with farmer cooperatives in these 95 areas, we have established Farmer Listener Clubs and supplied them with project materials, including solar powered radios, mobile phones and evaluation forms. Listener Clubs have also been taught how to send SMS feedback following listening to the radio serial drama.

150 farmers were subsequently selected from these clubs to hold focus group discussions and thereby develop the radio drama scripts. In April and May 2011, these farmers were trained in the techniques of producing and recording the 20 episode climate change drama. Each 30 minute episode covers a specific climate risk management strategy, such as water and soil management; pest and disease control; livestock management and restoring degraded forests.

Since October 2011, these episodes have been broadcast simultaneously on a weekly basis by five state radio stations: Heartland FM (Imo State), Coal City FM (Enugu), Pacesetter FM (Abia), Unity FM (Ebonyi) and Anambra Broadcasting service (Anambra). The episodes are also being heard by communities in four neighbouring states, reaching an estimated audience of 15 million listeners every week.

Challenges and ambitions

The cost of paying for airtime, increased by the commercialisation of state-wide radio, has proved a challenge. However, we have tackled this through partnerships with the state government Ministries of Information and the radio stations. As a result, a 75 per cent discount has been granted from the existing airtime rate. We also earn revenue to support the project from advertisements included in our programmes; 80 per cent of this revenue goes to the project, with 20 per cent going to the radio stations. Managing the project across five states was also a challenge, but the Foundation has eight years working experience in these states and has been able to gain support and goodwill thanks to its previous work.

Building on the success of Climate Change on Air, we are presently looking for support to translate this entertaining drama into different languages and produce local language comics for each episode. Beyond that, we are ambitious to extend the project within the next year to six more states in the south of Nigeria, reaching an additional 20 million listeners in eight local languages. A Yoruba version of the drama would then be extended to a further six states in the south western region. Beyond that, we aim to extend to northern zones of Nigeria by 2014, and potentially reach out to other parts of West and Central Africa. Ultimately we will be providing more than a 100 million small farmers with timely and well adapted climate risk management information.

This article was produced with support from the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN)

Date published: May 2012

 

Have your say

Great Work Nnaemeka! I was from Kenya when we interacted at... (posted by: Mercy)

Great project right here Nnaemeka. Thanks for working this h... (posted by: Musa Masilela)

 

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