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Using Radios to support Rural Communication

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During the Share Fair 09, I had the pleasure to facilitate an interesting session called  “Using Radios to support Rural Communication“. The session was about three main applications of radio in rural development contexts:

  • Rural and Community Radio,
  • Educational Radio, and
  • Radio for promoting good farming practices.

The Session, followed by some 20 people, proposed a first round of about 15 minutes of presentations of the 3 presenters, and a second part for questions and answers, characterized by an interesting conference call via Skype with Father Oswald Chansa from Zambia talking about the experience of his radio.

Riccardo del Castello, FAO senior officer responsible for Rural Radio projects, introduced the topic and the tool. Why Rural Radio? Because it is the media that allows expressing opinions and spreading the voice of rural people. Rural communities, particularly in Africa, depend on Rural Radio: essential information on markets, locations, transportation is the core of the daily transmissions, together with entertainment programmes.

Sally Berman (FAO), whose experience is particularly focused on education aspects, highlighted five major strengths of radio:

  • Support to Social Change, as radio through songs, drama and other traditional means has a very large impact,
  • Extension to every Location, allowing rural people to remain in their area and not to relocate for education or other kind of fundamental information,
  • Low Costs, as no other media can reach the same cost to distribute information,
  • Illiteracy, RR impacts also on communities with a large number of illiterates,
  • Guarantee of Respect, both for people’ problems and for local traditions.

The third presenter, Martina Spisiakova has been following for IFAD the “School on air” project which has introduced an innovative communication strategy in the Philippines. After the identification of poor farmers that own radios, the project, in consultation with the Knowledge Networking for Rural Development in Asia/Pacific Region – ENRAP programme, broadcasted sessions on agricultural topics. At the end of the schedule 130 farmers graduated.

After the participants’ and the context presentations, we tried to learn more from their experience with a series of questions.

Q: what is your message about using radios as a tool for sharing knowledge? (Luca Servo)
A: (Oswald Chansa) Rural Radio is the most effective tool for remote area with low literacy levels. It is also the most user friendly media to share information and knowledge on a number of topics:

  • market information, pricing, transportation,
  • education interactive programmes,
  • health (HIV prevention).

The impact is over more effective when radio listening groups (as it happens in several communities) are created with wind-up radios: these groups gather to discuss what they can do about a particular theme. The listeners then come to the radio stations to share their experience with the other listeners (usually the problems and the solutions). The possibility to use local language is another very important aspect.

Q: How do you measure impact? (Kevin Gallagher)
A: (Riccardo del Castello) Impact can be measured by evaluation through listening  groups.
(Eliane Najros) In southern Kivu, listeners are not linked to one radio. It is possible to verify how women’s status changes and if men do more things in the households.

Q: How are the (a) contents of the programmes defined and (b) how do you ensure that the programmes correspond to the audience’s needs? (Nadia Manning-Thomas)
A: (Riccardo del Castello) A lot of emphasis is put on “training of trainers” and on needs assessment studies. Plus, most of the communities pay for the radio’s service: so, if it is not good, they won’t be paid.
(Martina Spisiakova) In the “School on air” project, the topics were demand-driven and constant feedback was given from the farmers to the project stakeholders.
(Kevin Gallagher) It is very important to rely on the Ministry of Agriculture to avoid misinformation on certain topics.

Q: What are the links between Radio and new technologies? (Roxanne Samii)
A: (Sally Berman) An interaction exists between internet and radio: it is relevant for asking questions and to allow the public to intervene.
(Riccardo del Castello) There is integration from both the technical point of view (MP3s) and the contents side (AMARC). An example is given by the Mali experience, where emails from overseas are read on air.

Q: What did not work with radios? (Luca Servo)
A: (Riccardo del Castello) Community empowerment does not work well when funding is not provided externally.
(Martina Spisiakova) In the Philippines too many topics were covered and too many delays occurred in having feedback for lack of telephones.

Q: What allows empowerment? (Luca Servo)
A: (Riccardo del Castello) There must be preconditions:

  • the political environment (democracy),
  • a legal framework, statute, register,
  • the community must be represented in the managing board in order for the radio to serve their needs.

(Sally Berman) An enabling environment. So, the right time and the right place.

Note: Nadia Manning-Thomas, of CGIAR, took part to the session: maybe it is interesting for you to read how she “reported” about this experience. In addition, you can have a look at the image gallery of the meeting or read more about previous activities on Rural radio.

Last but not least, a special thanks to Daniele Volpe who, has you can see in the image above, was taking notes on the session while I was facilitating it. 😉

Author: Luca Servo @ talksharelearn

Passionate about social media, development projects and the world. Currently, I’m supporting the Emergency Division of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations in managing its online communication through the website, the social media and the mobile apps.

2 thoughts on “Using Radios to support Rural Communication

  1. This is fascinating! I grew up on a farm in Colorado during the sixties and seventies. I remember market reports, agriculture extension reports, news – especially Paul Harvey, and entertainment in the form of music.
    The beauty of radio is that it can be listened to in the fields, the shops, on the road, or at home. Other activity does not have to stop to hear and interact.
    I think there are wonderful opportunities!
    preston

  2. Your work looks interesting.

    As rurcal communicatorxs in Cameroon we will like to partner with you.

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