Community radio stations fight malnutrition in Malawi

Community media is one of the key strategies which Afikepo is using to disseminate nutrition messages to communities.

Every Tuesday afternoon at 4 o‘clock, a group of ten—called the Nkondezi nutrition group—gathers around a mobile phone in Nkondezi primary school hall in Nkhata Bay. They are tuned into 89.4MHz to listen to Chirundu community radio. More specifically, they tune in for Ulyelo Wamapha, a radio programme that is produced with the goal of providing listeners with nutrition knowledge.

Translated as ‘Good Eating’, Ulyelo Wamampha radio programme was developed as part of the interventions that are being implemented under the Malawi Government programme Afikepo Nutrition Programme, which is funded by the European Union (EU).  Afikepo programme activities are aimed at addressing malnutrition and target children under the age of five, adolescent girls, pregnant and lactating women, and women of childbearing age.

Community media is one of the key strategies which Afikepo is using to disseminate nutrition messages to communities within its 10 districts of implementation in order to achieve behaviour change for improved household nutrition.

In Nkhata Bay, Mkondezi nutrition radio listening club is one of the 18 radio listening clubs that have been established by Afikepo, with each of the clubs having 10 members. Listening club members not only belong to households with pregnant or lactating mothers, but also support similarly situated families with nutrition issues.

“Each time we listen to a broadcast, and then we discuss the subject,” says Hope Banda who co-chairs the listening club with Pilirani Banda. “We use the discussion time to clarify where things are misunderstood so that everyone has the right information and can then spread the messages to community members.”

Empowered with new knowledge, listening club members who each support between 8-12 households, actively share what they have learnt with their communities, following up to ensure adoption of practices that support better nutrition.

Regarding the relevance of community radio within Nkhata Bay, Station Manager for Chirundu community radio station, Innocent Manda says, “Community radio is a good way for getting out important messages because we are able to reach people in their own language, using media that is sensitive to the local culture, with content that is relevant to their specific location. People are receptive to programmes and messages, which strike a chord especially because they talk about and recognize their way of life.”

Chirundu broadcasts all of its programmes in Chitonga—the main spoken language in Nkhata Bay—and has over 85 % coverage across the Nkhata Bay district.

Staff at the radio station underwent training, which equipped them with a deeper understanding of nutrition and led to the production of programmes on topics  such as nutrition sensitive agriculture and diversified diets for pregnant women. Following initial broadcast, the station will continue to re-run the programmes to ensure that they reach all of their listeners.

The radio programme development was supported by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) under the nutrition sensitive agriculture component of the wider Afikepo programme. Afikepo is being implemented in the districts of Chitipa, Karonga, Mzimba, Nkhata Bay, Nkhotakota, Kasungu, Salima, Chiradzulu, Thyolo and Mulanje.

Written by
Towela Munthali
Senior Communications Officer
UN entities involved in this initiative
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations