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JADE, A Network of African Journalists Specialised in Media Production and Communication for Development

By Souleymane Ouattara, Coordinator, Burkina Faso


Graduated in Modern Letters (University of Ouagadougou, Burkina), in Communication (University of Benin, Togo), and in Journalism (Bordeaux International School, Bordeaux, France; and Periscoop Multimedia, Montpellier, France).
Souleymane Ouattara has been Editor in Togo and Burkina, before becoming Coordinator for Syfia-Jade (African Journalists for Development Network), in 1996, and acquired the following experiences:

Awarded the FAO RFI Prize in Food Safety for articles and radio
Awarded the Reuters UICN 2000 prize in environmental journalism for French-speaking Africa


The African Journalists for Development network (JADE) is active in fifteen African countries. Through its program "Rural Communication and Sustainable Development" it supports rural and community radios in two regions of Burkina Faso and southern Mali.

In Mali, we are especially experimenting with the use of the Internet to enrich the contents of the Sigida Yeelen magazine on the environment, which we produce with radio Kéné and village-based local communicators.

The results obtained using the Internet - considering that it is exclusively used for electronic mail - have enabled us to enrich the subjects treated. The following phase will consist in receiving the different materials and mixing them.

JADE, a Network of African Journalists Specializing In Media Production and Communication for Development


The African Journalists for Development network (JADE) is a section of Jade Afrique, a professional association of journalists specialized in multimedia production, publishing, communication for development and training.

Jade Burkina has carried out its activities since 1994, when it was recognized as an association by the administration of Burkina Faso. The association essentially comprises journalists. However, it is in the process of opening up to other communications professionals, especially literacy agents in local languages, drawers and traditional communicators.

I - Our Activities

1.1. Media

1.2. Publishing

Jade Burkina has published the following works and reviews on behalf of a number of development agencies and projects:

1.3. Communication For Development

JADE is responsible for implementing the rural communication and sustainable development project financed by the Centre canadien de Recherche pour le Développement International, CRDI (Canadian International Development Research Center). The research pursues the following objectives.

To develop a communication strategy to foster the exchange of information and knowledge between rural communities, farmers' organizations, development agencies and local media, and to develop a synergy among such bodies. The purpose is to support local participation in development initiatives for a better management of natural resources.

  1. To strengthen the skills of development agencies, farmers' organizations and media in the field of rural communication for natural resources management.
  2. To develop contents based on local knowledge and locally adapted supports according to partners' concerns.
  3. To develop a continuous and appropriate mode of evaluation of the role of local communicators, media animators and audiovisual unit managers in development agencies.
  4. To document and disseminate data issuing from the experiment to the NGO community, farmers' associations, the media, the research world and the general public.

The methodology is based on participatory research-action. It involves the media, development agencies, farmers' organizations and grassroots communities.

The implementation of the different activities will involve all of the players, with JADE acting as facilitator and coordinator of the process. The farmers' organizations, media animators and development agencies involved come from three regions of Burkina Faso and Mali.

In order to achieve the objectives of the research, the experiment will rely on the following activities:

1.4. Fréquence Verte or New Information and Communication Technologies Servicing the Rural World in Africa

Fréquence Verte is a monthly radio magazine in French, about thirty minutes long presented by two broadcasters. It is generally composed of 2 or 3 short reports (2 to 10 minutes long), music related to the rural world, news briefs, and an African proverb.

The first Fréquence Verte program was aired in June 1996.

The magazine is produced by an international French-speaking team, animated by the network of African and French offices of the Syfia agency.

Such regional offices are located in Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso), Cotonou (Benin), Douala (Cameroon), Dakar (Senegal) and to a smaller extent Tananarive (Madagascar).

The managers in turn oversee the work of the contributors to Fréquence Verte from the countries in the region. In Montpellier (France), two journalists, one Canadian and one French, are responsible for the coordination and training of teams, mixing, and the duplication and sending of the program to about one hundred African radio stations.

Fréquence Verte has functioned according to this approach since its origin to December 2000. However, once the central coordination of production moves to Benin in January 2001, its approach is likely to change.

A Concrete Example of the Production of a Fréquence Verte Program

When a correspondent returns from the bush after a radio coverage, he listens to the material that he has recorded and drafts a script of the story he wants to narrate. He then sends the script by electronic mail to the office that broadcasts the program. The office makes adjustments and comments, and returns the corrected script to its author. The correspondent then records his voice and transfers the retained sound elements (comments, excerpts of interviews in the local language, translations in French, background sounds, and music) from his small mini-disk digital recorder to his computer. He then proceeds to the editing of the piece, from beginning to end. Once the piece has been edited, the correspondent uses a free software (RealAudio or MP3) to reduce the size of his sound archives (non-compressed sound takes up a lot of disk space) without affecting the quality of the sound. This operation is known as sound compression. The files that are still too large are split up by using another free software to make it easier to send the piece by E-mail. In Montpellier, where the final editing of Fréquence Verte takes place, these fragments of files are put together again and decompressed to be processed with a more powerful software.

At present, four out of the five Syfia offices in Africa work according to this approach.

Sending the sound by Internet also makes it possible to air the program from different countries. In turn and over a period of 3 months, each African office is responsible for animating Fréquence Verte. For example, the journalists whose stories will be broadcast send their texts by electronic mail to Crépin Hilaire Dadjo and Bernard Kaboré, the two speakers in Burkina Faso. They themselves prepare a text, which they will read to introduce such stories. As occurs with Syfia's written stories, adjustments to this text are made by the Montpellier bureau. The speakers then record their voices, digitalize them and send them by Internet in order for them to be integrated into the final editing with the jingles.

Each edition of Fréquence Verte also features a news briefs bulletin, that is, a rapid overview of current events in the African countryside. This part of the program is also entrusted, each month, to an African office which collects by electronic mail the texts and sounds of other regional teams and records the bulletin.

In Montpellier, all of these elements (stories, animation, news briefs) are mixed on a dozen tracks. The program is then copied on "standard" tapes, and it is sent to its African recipients by...good old mail.

Fréquence Verte relies on journalists who for the most part do not have any radio broadcasting background. It is a magazine and at the same time a school, where in addition to producing information that is useful to African radios, teams are also trained, which in turn will be able to recruit other journalists and produce their own programs.

Prior to the advent and the development of new information and communication technologies, it would have been practically impossible to make Fréquence Verte in its present form. Since the journalists of Fréquence Verte work thousands of kilometers away from each other, the slowness of traditional mail and the exorbitant costs of international telephone communication made this an extremely complicated adventure.

Three years ago, with very few exceptions, none of the correspondents knew anything about electronic mail or the making of a radio magazine, the animation of a program or digital audio editing.

Today, we make full use of communication technologies (E-mail, Internet telephone communication, FTP protocol file transfer, instant mailing, sharing of applications to access a remote computer, etc.) to prepare as a team the themes of the programs, discuss the topics of the stories, comment on the introductory texts, provide on-line training to the journalists on radio magazines and information technology tools, exchange sounds, solve certain information technology problems on-line and edit the program. To our knowledge, this method of work and of distance training is unique in Africa.

Internet thus offers major advantages to the international Fréquence Verte team: quick communication and low communication costs, decentralized production, team work and a feeling of proximity despite distance. Ever since Fréquence Verte has been available on its site, the Internet has also enabled us in the North, to become direct broadcasters, without depending on general interest radios that take little interest in Africa on a day-to-day basis.

II - Short-term Prospects

As mentioned previously, this system worked until last year. Now, within the framework of its 2000-2005 action plan, Syfia envisages the following activities:

In the course of the year, each office will work with 1 or 2 radio stations selected according to their motivation and impact. In addition to co-producing reports with a journalist from such radios whose work will be overseen from beginning to end, Syfia's offices will help radio or program managers to conceive programs or magazines.

Partner radios will primarily broadcast material produced according to this approach. The material will also be recorded on a tape which will be reproduced locally and sent to other radio stations that broadcast in the same language. According to the interest expressed by other regions or countries in the subjects treated, a tape or a digital audio broadcast will be provided, accompanied by a script in the French language.

At the end of the year, an evaluation of the activities carried out will be made with partner radios. The hard core of Syfia International's radio production will consist of ready-to-broadcast material in French. It will be available to all radio stations in the South and North, according to modes which will depend upon their equipment.

"Subscriber" radios equipped with adequate technological media will be provided with a code enabling them to freely access the site and download the material they need. The other radio stations will receive the programs on tapes duplicated locally in Syfia's African bureaus, together with local production teams.

Relations will be established with other operators, especially the Digital Audio Center (DAC). DAC, a project conceived by AIF (Agence Intergouvernementale de la Francophonie), was implemented two years ago by CIERRO (Inter-African Center for Rural Broadcasting Studies of Ouagadougou). It is a forum bringing together skills in training (Internet and digital audio). It is also a program database which gives priority to the use of national languages (especially transnational languages) in programs. DAC especially targets rural and local radio stations, with which it is also involved in co-production and post-production work. Finally, DAC provides the possibility to purchase radio equipment at a lower cost (even at half the price, according to specific conditions).


Certainly, New Information and Communication Technologies will diversify the offer of programs within rural radios. But don't they risk transforming such structures into mere consumers of products coming from other sources, even if they do participate in an exchange?

It seems to me that the first challenge of rural radio is to ensure the participation of rural producers in the conception, implementation and execution of such programs. To what extent will the Internet foster the fulfillment of this legitimate expectation?

The other question refers to the profusion of information and proximity. Hasn't the time come to define priorities which will ensure the real participation of listeners in program scheduling?

Recourse to the Internet will be an extra asset, rather than a fad which everybody seems to be embracing blindly.

Ouagadougou, 28 December 2000


1 Centre d'études économiques et sociales d'Afrique de l'Ouest
2 Projet d'appui au développement local au Sahel
3 Comité inter-état de lutte contre la sécheresse au Sahel


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