For the first session section of Day 1 at the Share Fair (13:45-15:00 Tuesday 20th January), I have decided to attend the session on ‘Using radios to support Rural Communications’ being convened in the India Room.

This sessions includes submissions on:

*Traditional technologies of distance education, radio, and presents examples of educational and community radio usage in Asia and Africa (Sally Berman-FAO)

*Rural Communications Systems (May Hani et al)

*School on-the-air: promoting good farming practices using rural radio (Robert Domoguen)

The facilitator Luca Servo has told us that the session will take the format of a ‘conversation’ around the use of radio as a medium of communication in development.

Sally-Highlighting strengths of radio (community)

  • widely available
  • low-cost
  • local languages
  • reinforces cultural expression and identities
  • successful for social change
  • respectful of local traditions
  • can include stories and drama
  • radio for education means no re-location
  • can reach a large audience
  • can address people who are illiterate

Inviting all to discuss radio as a communication tool–and not just the Internet.

Then a video was shown. The video features a radio program director- Mr. Serre-in Mali who delivers a radio program every Wednesday designated to dealing with issues of rice farmers and fishermen in a lagoon–called farmers’ corner.

 We are given a demonstration on hand-cranked radios (not needing batteries)-which can last up to about 45 minutes.

 Martina-from IFADintroduces school-on-the-air introduced in the Philippines. They chose radio as an approach because the project is based in a very ruralarea where the people do not have access to other forms of of media. Through the radio they disseminate information about various agriculturalpractices to poor farmers. It was identified through consultation withfarmers to understand their needs. Together with specialists radio sessionswere designed on various topics. They also collaborated with public and private radio stations.

The benefits from the pilot project were:

  • farmers could graduate from the courses and share what they learnt from the courses
  • 70% farmers that were trained through radio were women
  • managed to reach a wide range of poor farmers, many who live very remotely.

Father Chansa also joined the meeting via skypeand gave us his perspective on using radios for helping people. He told us that they have found the radio to be user-friendly and effective as a mechanism for sharing knowledge. They have worked closely withthe Ministry of Agriculture to share information on marketing opportunities, prices and transportation. They are working with the education sector to broadcast education programs which are interactive. The programs have become popular becausethey are useful for ruralbased schools. Also working withMinistry of Health to work on HIV transmission issues. They use radio listening groups. These are groups in various communities which have been given wind-up radios and they listen to the radio at particular times and depending on the them they discuss what they can do about the theme and send feedback and requests for more information to the station. Certain members then come later to the stations to speak on air about how their communities have tackled a particular issue based on information they received from the radio program they listened to.

Then the facilitator started a round of questions:

  1. what are the costs behind this kind of approach?

–hand-cranked radios are about $50 USD-with the costs going down

2. How can/do you measure the impact of this approach?

-formal evaluations

-listening groups

3. What do you do to ensure that the information being supplied is appropriate and is correct?

-information needs assessment

-make use of experts to deliver information

-encouraged farmers to provide feedback on the programs and information

The discussion turned to the issue of how to ensure quality of the information being broadcasted over the radio.

4. How to do you see the convergence of radio with other and newer technologies?

-a lot of integrated projects which are very successful. Problem withradio  is that it is one-way communication and cannot showcase visuals–so it is good to link up with other technologies to make the best line of communication

**what has not worked or what have been some of the challenges?

  • empowering communities
  • having the right political conditions
  • radios must be working within a legal permit
  • community need to be represented in the process and management boards–but this is not always easy
  • need to assess the situation and see what the right tool will be
  • limited coverage of radio networks
  • communicating the message over the radio -it actually requires experience and skills to transmit messages over the radio

‘Depends on it being the right time and right place-for radio to be successful!’

One of the activities proposed by the IWMI Wastewater KSinR Pilot project was the development of an interactive radio program to extend the delivery of research results and messages to target groups. The radio program was targeted at farmers, traders (market women) and caterers-all users of wastewater in various stages of food production.

A script for the radio program was first developed by deriving key messages from results of various research projects working on wastewater issues in Ghana. Once the key messages to be broadcast were developed, these were translated into Dagbani, a local language in Ghana.

The radio program was designed to be interactive, using the following format:

  • jingle
  • introduction by program host
  • traditional music
  • drama
  • talk by host or agricultural extension agent
  • question and answer session
  • panel discussions based on call-ins
  • conclusions

This interactive radio broadcasting on wastewater use messages was recently held on 14th and 20th June 2008.

According to the leader of this activity, Gordana Kranjac-Berisavljevic “it went well.”

She reported back that “we discussed basically 5 key messages for safer use of wastewater where relevant to farmers, vendors and caterers in Dagbani, as well as the recommendations that came out of the World Cafe discussions about key messages held with target groups earlier, with Mr Ghanyu adding some useful advice as facilitator.”

As this is a new approach of dissemination for many research organisations, it is interesting to look at the challenges that may occur as well. Gordana explained that “The problem we found is that everyone talks too much, it was difficult confining them to a 1 hour frame“.

Dr. Pay Dreschel, IWMI researcher and Theme Leader in the Ghana office who oversees the wastewater work and champions the KS efforts within it, responded to this time issue saying “this type of chaos is often inevitable and can be reduced by developing before-hand a clear discussion line for the program“.

This radio program has been recorded and will be shared with others who may be able to use the program itself or learn from this experience for undertaking their own radio programs.

To follow-up on this activity in order to learn from the use of this type of strategy and see whether the messages were received, remembered and used, interviews with listeners will be carried out.

According to Pay “it will be interesting to get the listener feedback. Doing this some weeks later will have merit in terms of seeing if there is any longer-term memory or behaviour change impact from the radio program“.