Mar(k): Travel, Hiking, and "Doing Good"

musings on our life of travel and volunteering

Women in Profile: Lydia Ajono

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Leading by Example:  Radio Journalist Lydia Ajono

By Mar Knox

(published in the March 2010 edition of The ADVOCATE)

Madam Lydia Ajono is a local radio journalist who recently won an international community radio broadcasting award after writing a script that dealt with smallholder farmer innovation.

Lydia explains that she started as a broadcaster with the Upper Regions Rural Agricultural Radio about 20 years ago in Bolgatanga.  “I was the only female who did programmes on food and nutrition, water and health education.  I produced these programmes in the local language-Gurune- and English at the GBC Regional relay station.”

“In 1987 the radio station was upgraded and fully managed by GBC, which is now GBC-URA Radio. I designed and produced women and children programmes, water and health education, and news presentation.”

“From 1991 to 1994 I was seconded to the Upper Regions Rural water project sponsored by CIDA, as the Community Radio Production Coordinator. I facilitated the production of Drama Series Radio magazines in the six local languages of the region – Gurune , Kusaal, Kasem, Buli, Dagaare, and Sissala). These series were called soap operas which ran for six months of the radio campaign on water and health.“

Education has always been very important to Lydia, and after attending Bolgatanga Girls secondary school (BOGIS), she studied at what is now known as the Navrongo UDS Campus as a community facilitator, using radio to promote agric extension services.  She attended the Ghana Broadcasting Radio School and after practicing for a number a years, she gained admission into the Ghana Institute of Journalism and did a two-year Diploma in Journalism.

Lydia is currently a volunteer with the Ghana Community Radio Network (GCRN), and supports the member community radio stations in achieving their agenda which includes:

  • Giving VOICE through advocacy, mobilization, & sensitization
  • promoting local language and the time-tested positive cultural values of COMMUNITY
  • projecting our community  as an integral part of the GLOBAL VILLAGE

It was through her work with GCRN that Lydia came to enter the scriptwriting competition, ultimately writing about a woman farmer who grows henna plants and sells them for processing into dyes and cosmetics.   As part of the process, radio professionals from across sub-Saharan Africa were encouraged to participate in a free four-month online training course in scriptwriting.   Lydia eagerly signed up, and used the opportunity to help refocus her approach to reporting.  She had originally gained some key skills through an initiative called AFRRI – the African Farm Radio Research Initiative.  The aim of AFRRI is to assess the effectiveness of farm radio on meeting the food security objectives of rural farming households in Africa.

Lydia uses community radio as a means to get information out to rural communities

Lydia uses community radio as a way to get messages to remote communities

Lydia explained how she uses the “story approach” to enable the farmer’s voice to be heard.  This involves learning to ask the “right questions” so the farmer can then share his experience and this ultimately, empowers him.  “Maybe then the farmer will talk more at the market place, at festivals and other places with other farmers”.

In order to bring the farmer into the picture, Lydia talked about how much initial research was required to successfully conduct a radio interview.  The online course helped her in learning how to conduct the interview, and determine what questions to ask.  “Traditional culture in Ghana, and even Africa, doesn’t allow us to be so focussed.  And in radio, we don’t have so much time, so we need to get the questions sorted out ahead of time!”

Farm Radio:  Reaching out to the Farmer

Even with all the recent technological advancements, community radio continues to be one of the best ways of reaching the rural poor, particularly in Africa.   Radio continues to be popular due to its affordability, accessibility and the wide range of audiences it captures.  Farmers can listen, in their own language, to local news, and stories.   This mode of communicating has given farmers their own voice; the literacy gap is bridged, and farmers can now learn from one another.  These approaches all help farmers to respond to the challenge of food security and ultimately encourage self-reliance.

In writing her script, Lydia writes in English but she says, “then we use actors to broadcast in the local language”.  So these scripts can be used in many different areas, using many different languages.  The scripts use drama, story telling and other approaches that will keep the messages interesting to the listener.

Henna as a route to Food Security

For her award winning script, Lydia decided to focus on the cultivation of zabila, or henna.  “My inspiration was feeling for women lacking lands for crop cultivation and where they get the land it was either infertile (abandoned by the men or their husbands).  But meanwhile they (the women) are the ones who are really feeding the nation.”

Lydia talked about how food insecurity is a real issue to farmers:  “sometimes the families have only one meal in a day.  It is not enough and it is not nutritious.  In the North women are more disadvantaged in ensuring food security in their households. They are also faced with low esteem when they are to culture crops such as maize, millet, rice  etc. These crops are supposed to be the preserve of the men and the women plant vegetables such as okro, pepper etc”

But in the case study that she did, Lydia demonstrated that for the woman cultivating henna, it gave her an income that she could then use to expand her farm, buy food for the family and pay her children’s school fees.  This all contributed to providing this woman and her family with food security.

Hard work pays off

The preparation of the script for this competition was very time consuming.  And Lydia had other obstacles to also overcome.  As she explained, “I am still learning ICT, the internet, so I never thought I would win!  Sometimes I would go to the internet café, but the internet was not even coming.  I worked on that online course every day for over four months!”  However, it seems that Lydia’s hard work has indeed paid off for her!

This latest success has enabled Lydia to attend a conference in November 2010 in Argentina, sponsored by the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC), where she will have the opportunity to network with other like minded radio journalists from around the world.  She is, understandably, very excited about this opportunity, “Apart from sharing my story with the other participants, I will have the opportunity to participate in the various workshops that may be organized on different topics, whereby researchers, Universities, and ICT companies make presentations that will enhance my writing skills.”

“It is when you are equipped with the right information that you will be empowered to write good motivational stories for radio or any media as a broadcaster or journalist. I therefore look forward to AMARC for learning and sharing knowledge and information.”

Lydia is indeed an inspiration to young women journalists in West Africa.  We wish her well as she continues to bring a voice to the farmers in Ghana’s rural communities.


Written by Mar(k)

April 6, 2010 at 3:58 pm

3 Responses

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  1. I want to take this opportunity to thank Lydia for her untiring eforts to uplift the plight of farmers and in the community. I’m a Ghanaian and a son of farming parents; and I know the needs, help and encouragement they needed when they were alive. To my, The needs are what Lydia is giving now. It will definitely be a great help if Farmers and communities tune in to her Radio station in Northern Ghana.

    I also appeal to organisations (Charity & individual philanthropists) to share her ideas and endevours and come to her aid if they can. Thanks to all organisations and individuals who already have contibuted or will contribute in future to her course.

    Thank you, Lydia. Ghana and the World need you!!

    Bernard Boadi

    January 8, 2011 at 12:37 am

    • thank you for your comments, Bernard! I will be sure to pass them onto Lydia. She is doing a wonderful job, and it is very heartening to know that her efforts are being noticed! thanks for reading….


      January 21, 2011 at 9:28 pm

  2. You’re welcome, Mar & Mark. Thanks again for letting out Lydia’s efforts.

    B. Boadi

    August 13, 2012 at 12:18 am

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