Radio can rain information when drought strikes

Imagine you’re a farmer and the rainy season that you depend on doesn’t come. This happens again — and again. Three failed rainy seasons leave you with little to harvest and animals that are increasingly weak. You hear from a neighbour that sudden and heavy rains may also come and wipe out what you have left.

This is the situation for farmers in Ethiopia, who are experiencing the worst drought their country has seen in fifty years. While they know how to deal with fluctuations in natural cycles, recent events have stretched them to their breaking point. One of the strongest El Niño events ever recorded has turned normal weather patterns upside down. After months of drought, there is now the risk of too much rainfall when it isn’t welcome.

What would you do in this situation? Thankfully for farmers in the drought-stricken Tigray Region of Ethiopia, they can start by doing something as simple as turning on their radio.

Even before the official declaration of drought, Farm Radio International was working with Dimtsi Weyane Tigray radio station, our longest term broadcasting partner in Ethiopia, and other key partners to air a participatory radio program designed to meet farmers’ new needs. It covers weather forecasts, failed crop management, livestock health, and drought-survival techniques like water harvesting.

Hiwot TirfnehHiwot Tirfneh (left) is the leader of the women’s radio listening group in her community, which meets regularly to listen to agricultural programs aired on Dimtsi Weyane Tigray.

Equipped with a smartphone as part of a Farm Radio International impact project, the women are able to communicate directly with their station. This recently helped them get the kinds of radio broadcasts that they need to cope with severe and ongoing drought and the threat of sudden, heavy downpours.

Using their smartphone, Hiwot’s group was able to inform Dimtsi Weyane Tigray about the lack of rain they were experiencing. Soon afterward, they were listening to programs on topics such as water harvesting. This topic that they once knew next to nothing about is helping a lot. As Hiwot explains,

“We have learned that we have to save every drop we get from the rain. I am applying the techniques and I got good results. You can see a difference even between the crops where water harvesting has been practiced and not. […] I regret the water wasted previously.”

Their smartphone allows them to send audio recordings to the station to be broadcast on the air. The women have all heard themselves on the radio, which they say has increased their self-confidence as well as how much they are valued within the community. 

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