This study investigates how community radio can meet the agricultural information needs of small-scale farmers. It focuses specifically on the Mchinji Community Radio, and explores the ways in which it can adapt its programming to meet the agricultural information needs of the small-scale farmers of the Mchinji district in Malawi. A literature review discusses the benefits and limitations of using radio as a medium to communicate information to small-scale farmers, and how community radio has been used to meet the agricultural information needs of small-scale farmers in developing countries.
An appropriate methodology extracted primary data on the special agricultural information needs and the special features of the information-seeking behaviour of the small-scale farmers in the Mchinji District. Twenty-five small-scale farmers from Gomani 2 Village in Mchinji district were interviewed, and open-ended interviews were conducted with four key staff members of the Mchinji Community Radio. Personal observation provided another source of data, and was used for triangulation purposes.
The key findings are that the majority of the small-scale farmers make little use of the latest ICTs, such as mobile phones, television, and the Internet. The most popular sources of agricultural information are the extension officers and the radio. Most of the farmers prefer agricultural information in the local Chichewa language, and only a few contribute their views, skills, and expertise to the radio station. They specifically need information on training, maize production, weather reports, current global agricultural affairs, and cultural programmes that involve agriculture.
The study proposes a strategy for the Mchinji Community Radio that combines programming and communication planning, partnerships, sustainability planning, and quality checks. The implementation of this strategy will ensure that Mchinji Community Radio meets the agricultural information needs of the small-scale farmers of Malawi’s Mchinji district.