This week marks the launch of My Children, a radio drama series that aims to convince Ugandan farmers to replace traditional varieties of white and yellow sweet potato with a more nutritious, orange alternative. Vitamin A deficiency (VAD) is a major public health concern in poorer countries and accounts for more than 600,000 deaths a year among children under five years of age.
Uganda is among the African countries reported to be at high risk, with 28% of children and 23% of women estimated to be vitamin A deficient. VAD can impair immunity and cause eye damage that can lead to blindness and even death. Orange sweet potato (OSP) is packed with beta-carotene, an important source of vitamin A. One small, 150-gram serving of OSP can meet a five-year-old child’s daily requirement of vitamin A.
“Sweet potatoes are a staple crop for many farming families,” notes Kevin Perkins, Executive Director of Farm Radio International (FRI), which is launching the radio drama. Nevertheless, in rural Uganda, the new potato’s superpowers are still relatively unknown. “Radio is the best tool to reach rural communities across Africa,” Perkins says. “And the mobile phone revolution has only made radio better by allowing interaction between broadcaster and listeners.”
Cue the radio drama. FRI, working with HarvestPlus, an international program that is disseminating OSP in Uganda, has produced a radio drama for Ugandan farming families. The thirty-episode series, My Children, combines health and agricultural education with an entertaining plot. The drama is a story about love, domestic strife, money, power, and, of course, orange sweet potatoes. Florence, the heroine of the series, struggles to grow enough nutritious food to feed her family, and knows that her children are not as healthy as they could be. She reluctantly decides to give OSP a try. But first she has to stop her money-obsessed husband from selling the family farming plot to fund a foolish “business idea.”
After each five-minute episode is aired, participating radio stations provide follow-up information and use interactive telephone voting systems provided by TRAC FM to measure how much people learn from it. FRI conducted research with farmers to inform messaging and plot development. The research produced anecdotal evidence suggesting that farmers who have already chosen to include OSP in their fields and diets have seen improvements in the health of their families.
The mini-series, the first of its kind for FRI, will be broadcast in six languages by ten radio stations in Uganda. FRI expects the project will contribute to increased knowledge of the nutrition, preparation, and consumption of OSP in the up to 350,000 households in 13 districts that have access to My Children.
About Farm Radio International
Farm Radio International is a Canadian charity working with more than 460 radio broadcasters in 38 African countries to fight poverty and food insecurity. We help African broadcasters meet the needs of local small-scale farmers and their families in rural communities by providing broadcaster resources that address specific development challenges such as soil erosion and banana bacterial wilt. For more information, please visit www.farmradio.org Contact : Kevin Perkins, Executive Director, Farm Radio International, [email protected] Tel: 1-613-203-4443, 1-613-761-3658, or 1-800-267-8699 x3658