Kampala, Uganda. – Florence and her family will be back on the airwaves in Uganda to educate farmers on the value of nutritious, orange-fleshed sweet potatoes. Ugandans were first introduced to Florence and her husband Rolland, as well as their neighbour Nora, in the radio drama My Children, which aired in 2013.
The success of the first season of My Children encouraged Farm Radio International, in partnership with HarvestPlus, to return to this story of love, domestic strife, money, power and, of course, orange-fleshed sweet potatoes. The second season of My Children begins January 21, 2016. Twenty-seven episodes will air on 13 radio stations across Uganda in seven local languages.
“The success of My Children radio drama has been tremendous in Uganda. Awareness for orange-fleshed sweet potato has risen dramatically, and we have observed high demand from farmers for planting material and roots to consume. The impact on family health and livelihoods is significant. HarvestPlus is excited to partner with Farm Radio and TRAC FM for a second season and look forward to further supporting Ugandan farmers growing biofortified crops,” said Sylvia Magezi, Country Manager, HarvestPlus Uganda.
More than 75% of Ugandans listen to the radio for information and entertainment, making the radio the ideal medium to promote nutrition and the production and consumption of orange-fleshed sweet potatoes. Nearly one in every three preschoolers in Uganda lacks vitamin A, and a quarter of mothers do as well. This can result in impaired immunity and eye damage leading to blindness and even death.
All of this can be minimized with a small change in the food that mothers and their children eat. Orange-fleshed sweet potatoes are rich in beta-carotene, an important source of vitamin A. And in Uganda, farmers already grow sweet potatoes.
During the first season of My Children, listeners learned about the nutritional benefits of orange-fleshed sweet potato alongside the main character, Florence. By the final episode, Florence owned her own plot of land, paid for in part by selling part of her crop of orange-fleshed sweet potato. Her children are sick less frequently and won’t eat any potato that is not orange. Florence’s relationship with Rolland has even improved, as he is impressed with her business skills.
“We were excited by the interest of the farmers we spoke to. They connected with the characters and the messages around nutrition and agricultural practices,” said Askebir Gebru, Uganda Country Director, Farm Radio International.
Listeners were encouraged by Florence’s story to try planting orange-fleshed sweet potatoes, and demand for vines outstripped supply after the radio drama aired. Thanks to a polling system developed by FRI’s partner TRAC FM (https://tracfm.org/), listeners also engaged with the storyline by participating in polls via SMS text messaging. More than 40,000 listeners sent more than 100,000 text messages as part of these polls during season 1.
“Radio drama can be an excellent way to share information with hundreds of thousands or even millions of small-scale farmers. The listener can be entertained and learn alongside the characters in the story,” says Kevin Perkins, Executive Director of Farm Radio International. “And the mobile phone revolution has only made radio better by allowing interaction between broadcaster and listeners.”
The second season will introduce new characters and new conflict, but will continue to promote the benefits of growing and consuming orange-fleshed sweet potato. A participatory radio show will accompany each episode, allowing listeners to share their thoughts on the story and take part in a discussion around the nutritious orange crop.
About Farm Radio International
Farm Radio International is a Canadian charity that harnesses the power of radio to meet the needs of small-scale farmers. We work with more than 600 radio partners in 39 African countries to fight poverty and food insecurity. FRI resources and training help African broadcasters produce and deliver practical, relevant and timely information to tens of millions of farmers. We also work with a range of partners to implement radio projects that respond to community needs.