Under close supervision from WrenMedia and Periscoop, the journalists assembled the material for the resource packs, on topics selected by CTA from a list of requests sent in by radio stations.
"There were strong benefits for the journalists who took part. They were given training, with a series of courses paid for by CTA. We paid them for the work they were doing, so they were motivated to cover agricultural stories, and they were being funded to go into the field and record practical interviews," said Mike Davison, who coordinated the journalists on behalf of WrenMedia.
The courses designed for the journalists had a practical focus, with advice on how to improve interview techniques and tips on how to conduct walkabout interviews. Trainees were divided into groups to research and produce items on a given theme, such as agroforestry or poultry production.
Wambi Michael was one of several Ugandan journalists trained by Wrenmedia. He went on to interview farmers, extension officers and researchers for resource packs on topics that included cassava diseases, traditional vegetables and biological pest control.
"I greatly benefited as a journalist because my involvement exposed me to many news sources in the agriculture sector and also the rural farmers and researchers who voices I would record," he said. "Many of the farmers who used to listen to the programmes also benefited. Some had the opportunity to share their experiences with other farmers, thereby filling the gap of a rural farmer working without an extension agent."
Ismaila Senghore, from The Gambia, worked with the RRRP programme from the beginning and lists capacity building, job satisfaction, networking, skill improvement and income revenue as some of the benefits it brought him. He remembers the issue of using DDT to combat the malarial mosquito and the production of stove briquettes from groundnut shells as among the most memorable packs he worked on.
Malawian journalist Excello Zidana attributes much of his current success in producing agricultural radio programmes for farmers to the experience he gained working on the RRRP programme.
"Our listening audience has now doubled because of the way interviews are being conducted and programmes produced based on the skills gained from contributing to the RRRPs," said Zidana, who makes programmes for the Malawi extension service, targeting farmers in remote rural areas. "The RRRPs gave rural communities a rare opportunity of getting the right information they need produced in a manner that farmers could easily understand."
A broadcast on ginger processing for export sticks in the mind of Ghanaian journalist Kofi Domfeh, who says training when he worked for the RRRP project greatly helped to sharpen his reporting skills.
"That broadcast made a huge impact on the industry," he recalls. "The story opened up new opportunities for the smallholder farmers to venture into ginger production due to the ready market for the produce. The processors were also excited at the exposure to increase export capacity."
Kenyan journalist Eric Kadenge was involved with the RRRP programme from start to finish and says that the mentoring and training workshops gave him valuable guidance for his career. Today, he works for Trans World Radio and teaches communication and journalism at a local university.
"I experienced a lot of growth," he said. "As journalists from different countries, we also got to interact and learn from each other, increasing our exposure in rural radio reporting, as well as in agriculture, the environment and science as a whole.
"For the farmers, it offered very detailed and accurate information on a subject that was close to their hearts. Besides, it allowed the farmers themselves to participate in knowledge exchange. The programmes took over from where the underfunded and overstretched agricultural extension workers left off."