web 2.0 for development


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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Prodding from the Share Fair 09

Thanks to Nadia Manning-Thomas, my friend in the KM4DEV list, for this interview to Geoff Parcell, who opened the Share Fair 09 with his keynote.

When asked about the highlights of the Fair, Geoff, who is in charge of the knowledge management for the WHO, UNDP, the World Bank and the Swiss Development Agency, noted:

An additionally exciting part of the event for me was being able to witness the overall chaos and energy in the Atrium.”

I felt exactly the same. It is definitely true that there was a wind of emotion and energy across the “Atrium” of FAO. This place, a very large hall with a glass cover and lots of plants, is usually silent and not living. There are occasions across the year, with the Committee on  Forestry, Fishery or Agriculture, when life comes to the Atrium but still, it does not become vital. It’s just movement, passing by, crossing the space with no or few occasions for real INTERACTION: to meet, sit together, talk and share.

For sure people have energy also in those occasions BUT is not easy to show off. Maybe, because people are very much willing to say or show something, rather then to meet someone or hear something. Geoff’s interview was titled “Time to make connections – not collections” and this can make us reflect!

Geoff’s interpretation of the future for international organizations, like FAO and the other Rome-based UN Agencies, is another good point to reflect:

All of the organizations involved in this Share Fair can no longer think of themselves as the authority on food and agriculture. People will get information wherever they can. And especially with new and advancing technologies, information is now available in many more ways than it has been before.

Regarding this, last November, when the Cultural Change Team initiative was launched at FAO, I wrote some notes on the problem of “Changing”. Now, I see Geoff’s position and mine are very similar, at least when we both agree that International Organizations have to get into a new perspective, where facilitation of international projects is a key point and becomes a powerful condition.

Essentially knowledge management is an attitude change from ‘we are the experts, telling others what to do’ to ‘let’s look at what’s going on and see how to support those efforts.’ The problem is that people feel threatened by change.

What they don’t realize is that it can be a very powerful thing to facilitate processes rather than dictating or leading them.

The point for us now is to find the way to spread this message and help people not to feel threatened by this occasion and future perspective.

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Share Fair 09 Session Report on “Mobile Telephony in Rural Areas”

On January 21, 2009, during the Share Fair 09 I was calle as panel expert at this interesting session on Mobile Telephony in Rural Areas“. The session is the follow up of the Online discussion on the same topic that I facilitated in November ’08.

In this report you can read more about the topics discussed during the session.

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Share Fair 09 just started

The Fair is started at the end after so much preparation and it’s seems to be quite successful until now. The official ceremony was full of people and the atrium at FAO is a great place to meet people and talk.

I’m confident the event can be interesting even if many people in the buildings are not giving enough attention to this occasuion as very busy in the everyday job.

More details about the Opening plenary and keynote speech in the Share fair blog and on twitter.

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Preparing for the Share Fair ’09

Oh yes, I’m back and I’m very much involved in the preparation activities of the Share Fair 09 that’s going to being held at FAO next week. I’ll blog soon about it.


My schedule foreseen:

  • the facilitation of the session called “Using Radios to support Rural Communication“,
  • the participation to the session on “Mobile telephony in rural areas” strictly connected with the forum on the topic held in November last year,
  • the facilitation of five technical sessions non “blogging and micro-blogging“, podcasting and photosharing between Wednesday and Thursday, and
  • the participation to the session called “Making networks work within institutions” introducing the experience of the bluebar communicators list.

Everyone is welcome, of course!


Share Fair 2009

A nice briefing session started today the “public” activities of the Share Fair 2009 that the Rome based UN organizations (FAO, IFAD, WFP, CGIAR, ICT-KM Program and Bioversity International) are preparing for late January 2009.

Gauri and Steve introduced the event, the basic principles and the collaborative spirit that are behind it. Now all departments and divisions of FAO and the other organizations are really welcome to propose topics for discussions and question to be treated in the open spaces which will take place for three days.

One intervention focused on the importance of exchanging the “common good sense” many of us use daily to solve problems. This is a crucial point to me: it can help people to understand the deep value of their “common good sense”, with a potential multiplier effect on the awareness of the important of their experience and capacity of doing things.

To put the accent on this spirit of sharing and interaction, various online tools have been set-up using to keep everyone informed about what’s going on:

The Call for proposal document is ready to be downloaded to present these ideas before October 31st.