The Farmers Voice Radio (FVR) for Mount Elgon project, coordinated by ECOTRUST and supported by the Lorna Young Foundation (LYF)) with funding from Guernsey Overseas Aid and Development Commission (GOADC) and co-finance from Rainforest Alliance came to an end in September 2021.

The 12-month (August 2020 – September 2021) project aimed at strengthening the livelihoods and climate resilience of the 3,033 smallholder coffee farmers attached to the Mount Elgon Agroforestry Communities Cooperative (MEACCE), contributing to increased, better quality coffee production and protection from the worst impacts of climate change through the dissemination of short and focused 15-minute radio programmes broadcast across the region.

On a monthly basis, local coffee farmers representing a cross-section of the target communities met in groups of 12 (listener groups) within their community settings to openly exchange views, share experiences and learn more from a diversity of specialists in coffee farming, marketing, trade, sustainability, health and gender to mention but a few. More than 30 topics were discussed in the course of nine months cutting across five thematic areas; Sustainable coffee production,  coffee quality, sustainable land management, access to the coffee market and gender-sensitive cooperatives, providing a wealth of content for the radio programmes. An evaluation of the project found that there was a significant uptake of information (best practices) within the target communities and other coffee farming communities spanning the landscape.

This project was also pivotal in providing vitally important health information to rural poor farming communities which were the hardest hit by the Covid-19 pandemic. The listener groups had an opportunity to discuss coping strategies to stay healthy and supplement their livelihoods – that were heavily impacted especially by the government restrictions on movement, impeding access to markets for their farm produce.

We appreciate the efforts of the different stakeholders that brought this project to fruition; the two farmer listener groups from the North and South Bugisu zones (Lugisu-speaking) and the one group from the Sebei zone (Kupsabiny-speaking) – that were essential in generating content for the radio programmes, the two radio stations; Open Gate Radio Mbale and Elgon Radio Kapchorwa that broadcast these programmes to thousands of listeners twice a week in addition to facilitating group discussions, recording content, editing, gathering feedback and producing the programmes. The programme on Open Gate Radio Mbale was dubbed “‘Mwiko Gwe’mwanyi’ in Lugiso and ‘N’garakwec kaap mwanyinak’ in Kupsabiny, translated in both cases as ‘The Joy of Coffee,’ Local partners MEACCE (Mount Elgon Agroforestry Communities Cooperative Enterprise Ltd) that played an imperative role in mobilizing farmers and different expertise to make these discussions fruitful and enlightening, The Rainforest Alliance Uganda that provided additional technical input especially on the topics of coffee sustainability and value chains, the radio guardians who organized weekly ‘communal listening sessions’ with other coffee farmers within their villages and facilitated discussions on the topics broadcast were key in providing much needed feedback from the community perspective and The Lorna Young Foundation that provided overall project coordination, training and remote support throughout the course of this FVR project

Moving forward, ECOTRUST will streamline the FVR methodology in her community project initiatives to promote the adoption of sustainable farming practices and enhancement of rural livelihoods in Uganda.