Almost ready to the start of the second FSCA Regional Workshop here in Monrovia, Liberia. During the third day I will spend the morning introducing Communication for Development and Knowledge Sharing to the tens of people working in the seven countries (Senegal, The Gambia, Mali, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea, Guinea Bissau) involved in the projects and the Inter-Country Coordination project.
I recently found this article and I think it’s worth reading it. Written by Seth Godin, it’s called “How to make money using the Internet“. As you can understand from the title, the article is meant for a business audience and not directly for people involved in development projects.
Nonetheless, I see interesting prods about how we can use the Internet to stimulate interaction, collaboration and knowledge sharing among people/organizations/networks/institutions interested in development activities. In all the quoted examples, the authors highlighted the ability to connect a certain kind of demand with a certain kind of offer, matching and satisfying the two counterparts: using the Web makes find the two faces of the same coin easier.
“Matching” was one of the keyword for us, at FAO, during the Meeting on Rural radio last April. Participants were invited to prepare two lists, one of demands and one of offers, and the meeting focused on putting them together. We considered, as a prerequisite for an effective action, an accurate definition of the target group and a correct identification of their needs. I’m really convinced following this approach is the key to have good results.
In the same perspectiva, talking about tools, it seems interesting to adopt an appropriate selection and a balanced mix of them to stimulate every audience through the most effective levarege. So doing, we go back again to the concept of convergence of: Intenet, rural and community radio and mobile phones.
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Mary explains how the CELAC (Collecting & Exchange of Local Agricultural Content) project enables farmers to voice record their own innovative techniques and how they disseminate their experiences with radio/CD players during group sessions. Here are some of the factors that Mary considers fundamental in this experience:
- using people’s local languages
- people’s sense of pride for being considered expert of a certain subject
- trust towards content prepared by colleagues
- help by the researchers to rationalize the local knowledge and spread it
- pride of producing audio files
- support by CELAC to distribute the CDs with the farmers’ voices recorded and stimulate groups of conversation about the topics
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.
- 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. 😉