Radio: still a vital voice for growth in the agricultural sector
Media plays a very vital role in the development of a nation. However, its potential has not been adequately harnessed to inform meaningful growth in PNG’s agricultural sector. This is a critical challenge for research and development agencies that need effective means of communication to reach the majority of smallholder farmers who are situated in remote, rural communities. NARI has been exploring different media platforms, over the past twenty years. The Institute primarily uses print media but has also utilized TV and radio services where necessary. Of these, radio still remains an indispensible medium despite a surge of challenging trends in recent times. In fact, a number of radio stations have approached the Institute over the past year with compelling offers to help it disseminate agricultural information to where it is most needed, in the smallholder farming sector.
Radio has existed in PNG since the colonial era and continues to be a leading voice for information and discussions about issues concerning the social, economic and political life of our young nation. The original radio network is the state owned National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC). NBC has its principal broadcasting service transmitted out of Port Moresby and about 20 satellite stations in major provincial centres around the country. Traditionally, NBC stations operated through the Shortwave and Medium-Wave transmission networks but have in recent years broadened their range through the Frequency Modulation (FM) band. This change has coincided with the renaming of their service brand from ‘NBC Kundu’ to ‘NBC real PNG’ as a ploy to keep abreast with shifts in listenership and competition trends.
NARI’s record of programmed use of radio is quite inconsistent. This has been largely due to difficulties in maintaining any long-term service fee payment regime. However since last year, three different radio stations have sought out the Institute with genuine offers to gauge its participation in their programmes. These stations include NBC Morobe, FM 100 and the recently launched Adventist HopeFM. NBC Morobe is keen to re-engage through its paid ‘Farming the Economy’ segment. NARI had previously worked with it in the ‘NARI on Air’ segment between 2006 and 2009 apart from more recent programmes like ‘Man on the Land’ and ‘Community Development’. These were weekly, paid evening segments that featured innovations that have been released since 2002 such as improved crop varieties, soil management and livestock husbandry practices.
FM 100 is looking to continue collaborations to broadcast weekly NARI news items about ongoing projects. This arrangement was initiated and undertaken from September to December last year. Some of the Institute’s major running projects such as European Union climate change resilience and solar rice mill were featured among a series of broadcasted stories. The items were aired on a weekly basis during prime hours of the evening between five and seven pm.
Adventist HopeFM has taken the onus to initiate contact and dialogue with us in January after its launching last December. It is the first Adventist radio network in the country. There is hope that such collaborations could help resolve certain constraints that currently prevent information from being effectively broadcasted to the smallholder farming sector.
There are three main reasons for this. Firstly, NARI and other community development agencies for that matter, stand to benefit greatly from HopeFM’s non-fee charging offer – a protocol it has adopted as a subsidiary of the world renowned Hope Channel International radio, of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Secondly, HopeFM will be the establishing new transmission towers around the country to expand its network into remote communities.. It is collaborating with NBC for co-location of equipment to improve radio service in PNG, as a whole.
There is also the added leverage of broadcasts being channeled via online streaming using internet radio programmes that can be accessed through mobile phones. This could greatly boost dissemination of NARI developed technologies due to increasing use of mobile phones for e-agriculture on the national, regional and global scale.
Finally, HopeFM is a faith-based ‘community radio’ whose vision to deliver information that build peoples’ hopes and livelihood capacities resonates very well with NARI’s Agriculture Research for Development mandate. This shared passion could drive ongoing efforts to forge a fruitful partnership between the two organizations to reach out and touch the lives of marginalized farming communities with the gift of life-changing messages.
The potential for NARI in using radio was demonstrated in a 2018 survey as the second most popular medium for informing people about the Institute’s Agricultural Innovations Show, after print media.
Active use of radio by NARI, and other development agencies, can transform PNG into a more resilient and productive country as farmers become better informed and technology savvy.
Photo by Samuel Toposona of a radio communications tower.