Kenyan tea farmers on air!
‘Tugetab Kabotik ab Sireet OEP’ (‘The Sound of Farmers from Sireet OEP’) is a new radio programme funded by Twinings, made by and for smallholder tea farmers living in Nandi Hills, Kenya.
Broadcast twice weekly in the Kalenjin language on local radio station, Kass FM 91.1, the programme features the voices of 12 members of tea farmer association Sireet OEP discussing a range of topics relating to health, women’s empowerment and livelihoods. It is a unique approach to knowledge sharing that emphasises the farmers’ own experience and expertise and overcomes many of the traditional barriers to training and education—such as low literacy levels, geographical isolation, and gender inequality—by broadcasting directly into people’s homes and gardens. As Esther, one of the farmers selected to feature in the programme, says: “We should share our way of farming – the way you farm is not the way I farm, so we can exchange ideas... And we shall find that radio is the easiest way of communication: you can have the knowledge where you are; you don’t need transport or money to get knowledge.”
A community needs assessment led by Twinings with tea smallholders and workers in Nandi County showed that poor access to healthcare facilities and information was having a detrimental effect on women’s wellbeing as well as putting pressure on family finances. Since 2016, Twinings have been working with partners on health projects as a response to these findings, helping women to be healthier and also to live a more empowered life. More information on this can be found in their Sourced With Care programme. The new radio programmes complement that work, facilitating greater reach for the in-person knowledge-sharing that trained Peer Health Educators are delivering on the ground and providing a platform for farmers to have their questions answered. A baseline survey for this new project found that 88% of tea farmers in the area listen to local radio each day (with Kass FM being the most popular station), demonstrating the appropriateness of this communications medium.
Farmers’ Voice Radio Development Manager Hannah Clark travelled to Nandi Hills in June 2022 to lead a workshop in which stakeholders from across the Malawi tea sector came together to learn new skills in participatory radio and to plan the programme content that would be broadcast over the next year. Since then, 12 20-minute episodes of the programme have been recorded through monthly meetings with the farmer Programme Reference Group and broadcast on Kass FM 91.1 in weekly slots on Wednesday and Saturday evenings. Topics covered to date include good practices in tea plucking, climate change adaptation, living with diabetes and the role of men and boys in women’s empowerment – the most popular subject so far. 28 Radio Champions across the County have held communal listening sessions with friends and neighbours, creating spaces targeted particularly at women to listen to the programmes together and discuss their feedback and learning afterwards. Listeners are also encouraged to call or message with their questions and comments, which are responded to by experts in a dedicate episode at the end of each month.
In a recent interview, one of the farmer Programme Reference Group leaders talked about her experience of being involved in the programme: “My name is Anna. I am a 57-year-old farmer and a mother of six. I own 2.3 acres of land, partitioned as follows: 1.6 acres on tea, and the remaining for cow rearing, 35 beehives, kitchen gardening. This is my sole source of income. I listen to ‘Tugetab Kabotik ab Sireet OEP’ (‘The Sound of Farmers from Sireet OEP’) from my place on Wednesday evenings, with my four members of my family and three neighbours. The programmes teach about health, family matters and good farming practices. I love the jingle! I have learnt valuable information on diabetes and how to live with it. [As a result] my opinion on diabetes [has] changed… I know it is chronic, not witchcraft. I think more listeners should be encouraged to call and make comments.”
Programme Reference Group members Esther (speaking) and Anna (to her right) record their thoughts for the new radio programme
Tugetab Kabotik ab Sireet OEP will continue to be broadcast weekly on Kass FM 91.1 until September 2023. Audio recordings of all episodes are published on the programme's dedicated YouTube channel as soon as they become available so that farmers with internet enabled devices can listen to them again and again.