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Barza meeting in Arusha

barza group photo

At the end of September, I was invited by Farm Radio International (FRI) to Arusha, Tanzania, to join the first “barza” workshop. Barza, a swahili word which means “the place where people in a village meet under a tree to talk and sort out questions concerning the community”, is an online comunity dedicated to community radio broadcasters in Africa.

The meeting was organized by FRI to gather both the users, the community radio broadcasters, and the advisory group of the community one year after the birth of this experiment.

The calendar of the three days was pretty intense:

  • Day 1 was dedicated to introduce people (most of us knew each other but never met before) and describe FRI’s activity in the past, their intention to set up the community and how people got involved in the experiment. I had a chance to introduce my idea, developed in 2003, when I dedicated the thesis of my Master in International Cooperation to the creation of an online Community for community Radio broadcasters. In the afternoon, people identified problems and difficulties in the current community both in terms of technical issues and offline collaboration and promotion.
  • Day 2 was mainly devoted to identify future options for the community to expand in terms of members and of content. The exercise was very interesting: dozens of ideas came on the table and, as usual, Internet seemed to be the Holy Graal, the “thing” that can give you an answer to all your needs, the keyword to solve all the problems, the gateway for accessing everything, everytime, everywhere… It can be true but you have to create the conditions for this to happen, otherwise a failure is just behind the corner.
  • Day 3 was dedicated to the advisory group to put order in the inputs received during the general meeting and start planning for the future. We had a franck and long conversation about our perceptions, what each one of us wants and can offer, what the problems for the future can be.

The main problem to solve now is to decide whether Barza is mainly oriented towards people OR content: barza was born as an online community which means to be devoted to create relationships among people. In addition, we live the social media era of the internet where online relationships are the KEY. BUT content is a crucial element in the life of a radio broadcaster and access to good and new content is considered the key by most of the members of barza. So the dilemma between content and people is still open.

Personally I don’t see a contrast between the two things. In my opinion, barza should be characterized as an online community of community radio broadcasters (a very clear group of people with a clear strong interest in common) and use the interaction among people to share and spread among members innovative content about different topics (mainly scripts about agriculture and nutrition but also health, education, human rights, gender issues, etc.).

Thanks FRI, Kevin, Nelly, Blythe and Bart, for the great occasion they offered me to learn more about these guys and their needs and perception of what an online community can do for them.

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Using Radios to support Rural Communication

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. 😉


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Mobile Telephony in Rural Area – Final greetings

The Forum on Mobile Telephony just ended. I think this has been a very interesting discussion, not only for the postings themselves, but mainly for the large number and value of people involved, experiences described and points of view reflected during two weeks.

To give an idea the complexity and the value of our last discussion in this thread, I used wordle to create a cloud with the words used in the last conversation. In the image below you can see the graphical result of this exercise.

complexity


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BLOG ACTION DAY: Professional football against Hunger

In the framework of the World Food Day, FAO and the European Professional Football Leagues have launched a new campaign called “Professional football against Hunger”. Roberto Baggio and Raul, two of the FAO Goodwill Ambassadors are among the promoters of the campaign.

What I think to be interesting in this attempt is the power of emotions and examples. The campaign, as the Austrian Ambassador explained, is based on the power of the emotions that football can produce in many of us. They are the levers to open the hearts and the minds of the people who are, watching the games, fascinated by the “good examples” offered by the football ambassadors and, as a consequence, pushed to replicate positive behaviors many and many times.

As a citizen and a football amateur, I really hope the campaign to be successful. As a professional, I’m reflecting on the times I’m able to work on the emotions of the people involved in KM/KS activities and the number of good examples I can find and offer to this public so as they can be stimulated to reproduce the same “positive” attitude. The 923 millions people who are actually suffering for hunger and poverty need an answer as soon as possible from all of us.

This posting sustains the Blog Action Day 2008 dedicated to Poverty.


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Writeshop on Video for development

These days FAO is hosting a very interesting writeshop about how to use Video for development. Introducing the event, the organizers declare the objective to:

document experiences and provide guidance to readers on the application of video for rural and agricultural development

So FAO, CTA, gtz and the University of Wageningen, gathering experts in Rome, want to offer a general overview of the potential use of video in development. Here is a tentative graph to define the two factors (audiences and objectives) directors keep in mind while deciding what kind of video to shoot:

With the publication of the book, the participants wish specifically to accelerate the debate on video in agricultural development.


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Impressions after the KM4DEV 2008 meeting

The meeting is finished and we are back in our offices. Obviously everything changes after 90 people gathered for few days to discuss and share what they do everyday.

Now the network is definitely enlarged, the experience is deeper, the material shared is a ton, the fun was great and, more than everything, the feeling and the trust in the group is deeper and purer than before.

A great bunch of material has been produced and shared during and after the meeting. As it’s clear from the list of impressions collected in the final session, people brought a lot of their own at this meeting.

neoluk - View my 'km4dev 2008 Lisboa' set on Flickriver

…and also on the blog: http://km4dev2008.wordpress.com/
…and on You Tube: http://www.youtube.com/km4dev
…and on Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/groups/km4dev2008/

I know I’m writing something that is so simple and logic, BUT I felt once again that “saying is something” while “experiencing is something else“, so different. So reminding these ideas can be useful.


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Km4dev 2008 started in Lisboa

The annual KM4DEV meeting just started in Lisboa today with a preliminary day dedicated to introductory activities about the group and the theme of KM. Read more in the km4dev 2008 meeting blog and more than that have a look at the pictures in the km4dev group on flickr. Pretty soon, some videos will be available as well.

Network mapping

Network mapping

Network mapping was a very interesting activity we dedicated the whole afternoon. Time is passed to blog now but still you will find many interesting info about the vent in the pages I indicated. Otherwise, come back in a couple of days and more news will be available.