Amanda and I have just returned from Dar es Salaam. We were on the road with Freedom Fone.

Last Tuesday it was 9 degrees at 9am in orderly Johannesburg and 28 degrees with sweat inducing humidity at 7pm in chaotic Dar. After negotiating the jam-packed arrivals hall we smiled in relief when we discovered John holding up a torn piece of cardboard with Freedom Fone scribbled on it. We couldn’t speak Swahili and he couldn’t speak English but we made our greetings and jumped into his car for the ride of our life to a lodge off the Old Bagamoyo Road in Michokeni B.

Dar was thrillingly alive, jumping with activity of all kinds. Flashing past us . . .

Two guys on a bicycle. One of them had a goat draped over his knees. A beggar with buckled legs dragged himself through an intersection, craning his neck to ask for money from people in cars. He wore slip slops on his hands. The storm water drains on the sides of the roads were full of water breeding malaria and other diseases. Little boys’ trawled homemade fishing lines through the muddy ditch water hoping for a catch. We saw a young man fill a water bottle from the litter-strewn canal, and we hoped that he wasn’t going to drink it.

The next day we met up with Bart, Margaret and Lilian the Farm Radio International (FRI) crew who we’d come to train to use the Freedom Fone software.

FRI is a Canadian-based, not-for-profit organization working with about 300 radio broadcasters in 39 African countries to fight poverty and food insecurity. FRI has partnered with Freedom Fone to engage our software in the support of small scale farmers in Tanzania. FRI have established 5 listening communities attached to 5 community radio stations in varied locations in Tanzania. These community radio stations broadcast programmes that assist farmers in achieving better yields as well as helping answer questions related to the various agricultural challenges they might be experiencing. FRI is currently exploring the use of information communication technologies to complement and extend the usefulness of radio broadcast programmes.

They selected Radio Maria, a Christian radio station based in Dar es Salaam, to deploy Freedom Fone. Three main reasons influenced their decision to do this:

- Radio Maria is a well-resourced radio station both in terms of human resources with high technical skills and experience, and equipment/infrastructure.
- Radio Maria broadcasts some of FRI’s agricultural programmes.
- Radio Maria has very wide coverage in Tanzania.

FRI’s listening groups with Radio Maria have expressed a particular desire for information about raising chickens. Local chickens are an excellent income source for small-scale farmers, as they have low input costs and high demand and a ready market. However, many farmers experience high chicken loss due to poor management: not keeping the chickens safely, feeding them properly or looking after their hygiene sufficiently. Better information helps farmers lose fewer chickens, and thus make more money out of them. FRI’s Freedom Fone deployment will draw on this desire for more information about chicken management, and their broadcast programme called, Heka Heka Vijijini (Busy Busy in the Village), will be adapted into short segment audio programmes using Freedom Fone software.

FRI also intends to use Freedom Fone in Ghana . . . stay tuned!

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Lilian, the presenter of Heka Heka Vijijini (Busy Busy in the Village)

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