Uganda: Woman broadcaster scatters seeds of understanding via the radio

Sarah Adongo shaking hands with women

Mega FM broadcaster Sarah Adongo meets with villagers in Omwonya, outside Gulu town.

A car approaches Omwonya village, splashing through potholes and shuddering across the undulations of the wet and muddy road. Dozens of farmers have gathered in welcome. As they spot broadcaster Sarah Adongo in the car, women begin to ululate and dance. As she steps out of the vehicle, the men join in with rapturous applause.

Ms. Adongo is the host of Lobo pa Lupur, or A farmer’s world. The 36-year-old presents the show on Gulu’s Mega FM in the local language, Luo, every weekday from 2:20 to 3 p.m.

Ms. Adongo says: “I have an obligation to keep small-scale farmers informed and updated with relevant and reliable information. Many Ugandan farmers cannot access newspapers or watch television, so they rely on the radio.”

The program tackles a regular topic every weekday. Mondays are devoted to livestock, poultry and fish farming. On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, the program is dedicated to crop production.

Wednesdays are all about agribusiness. Ms. Adongo explains: “I record a magazine-style show including farming news … market prices, and feature interviews with farmers. I will use some of the interviews I do today on next Wednesday’s show.”

Ms. Adongo grew up in a farming family and recognizes the need to tell the stories of farmers who face adversity. She says: “I grew up appreciating farming because, right from childhood, it had been the source of my family’s income. We used the money for food, clothes, education and medical care.”

The eldest of eight children, she learned from a young age how to use a hoe and tend the family’s cotton. As she got older, cotton prices dropped and her family switched to crops such as groundnuts, sunflower, sesame and cassava.

Mrs. Adongo’s father began to produce and sell vegetables to supplement the family income. The family farm financed her school fees. Ms. Adongo was the first member of her family to finish secondary school and, ultimately, graduate from university.

Sarah Adongo on air at Mega FM

Sarah Adongo in-studio at Mega FM presenting “Lobo pa Lupur [A Farmer’s World].”

She says: “Agriculture is where I’m from; it’s part of me and it’s what has made me and my siblings the people we are today. Sincerely, if it was not because of agriculture, I would not have studied, because my parents had no salaried jobs.”

Ms. Adongo has been working at Mega FM since 2004. She has become one of the most popular radio hosts in northern Uganda. When she enters the studio and sits down in front of the microphone, farmers around Gulu district tune in their radios, eager to hear her voice.

Nicky Afa-ei is the Program Manager at Mega FM. He believes that Ms. Adongo connects with farmers because of her background. He says, “Farmers trust her. She helps them understand new trends and technologies in agriculture.”

As Ms. Adongo wraps up her last recording for the day, she walks to the car which will take her back to the studio. She says, “Radio has a multiplier effect. When farmers hear success stories they begin to try new methods. I want all of my listeners to be successful farmers.”

Published online @ Farm Radio Weekly

Adam Bemma is a journalist, humanitarian, and media consultant based in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

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