The last day of the Workshop, Thursday, the 22nd of February, was devoted to Working Groups. Three Working Groups were created. Each team received its mandate and focused on one of the following subjects.
This Chapter IV includes the results (reporting) of the three working groups as well as some general recommendations from the Workshop.
Networking of Rural Community Radio and Farm Radio Broadcasting through the Internet, and Collaborative Arrangements.
Increasingly more and more networks are being created between rural radio stations in some parts of Africa, within the framework of multiple partnerships. This situation requires necessary dialogue regarding the exchange of programmes, ideas and methods, as well as the creation of a centralised purchasing system for spare parts and other equipments, illustrating the need for streamlining the initiatives and actions in the rural radio sector, maximising economies of scale, and making them viable.
Reporting by Mosotho STONE, Radio Producer, South Africa
Our Group discussed the purpose of the Network, whom it was intended to target, how to reach these end-users, and the funding strategy involved.
In terms of CONTENT, we agreed it was important to access information that would facilitate the production of content, as well as the exchange of content among the Network members, and the models to be used to exchange information.
We were uncertain about WHICH PERSONS should be in the Network apart from the producers, since the latter were dealing "on the ground" with the people. Other potential members of the Network, might of course be the national, regional and continental hubs, depending on the type of content that the Network would produce.
With regard to TRAINING, we felt that it would be determined by the content, as well as its interpretation. Hub management will also be fairly important, namely, how the Network will be managed at the hub level and what technical skills will be needed in order to make certain that it works properly. Financial management, needs assessment, and fund raising were discussed as well.
The TECHNOLOGIES that can be used for this Network are: the Internet, satellite transmissions, and other telecommunications facilities (FAX, telephone, etc.)
In terms of the LEGAL FRAMEWORK, the national policies and strategies should be thoroughly examined, and advocacy for the recognition of community radio as a partner in development should also be stressed.
The PARTNERSHIPS for the production of local content can be of great use to the persons working at the community level.
The hubs will have the responsibility of making certain that there is enough training for the local partners, as well as for themselves, and they will also guarantee that networking, archiving and fund-raising activities are carried out.
The NATIONAL HUBS, including, for example, an organisation such as mine in South Africa (NCRF), will specialise in terms of determining what types of content would go to the local stations, and will also collect, produce or package some of the information, depending on what the stations would like to receive. They will also disseminate and produce feedback regarding the progress that has been made.
The SHORT-TERM GOALS that we decided upon include producing an inventory of the existing networks and activities which AMARC can help with, and perhaps PANOS as well. Another short-term goal would be to link existing networks, and support the creation of local networks in those countries which do not have them at the present time.
With regard to MID- AND LONG-TERM GOALS, we are hoping that there will be a considerable amount of training in order to make the network function properly. There should also be sufficient evaluation of the impact of the network, to see if the problems encountered turn out to be greater than the successes achieved.
New Technological Challenges, New Contents: Food security, early warning system and global information, agro-meteorological information, information concerning market prices, World Centre for Agricultural Information.
Themes such as food security, global information and early warning system, agro-meteorological information, as well as market prices and post-harvest operations are not new topics. In 1992 for instance, CTA and the OMM organised a workshop on rural radio, and the broadcasting of agro-meteorological information. In 1996, thanks to the World Food Summit, the subject of food security was on the airwaves of number of urban as well as rural radio stations. Furthermore, assessments of information and communication needs demonstrate the importance and dominance of such issues in peoples lives. Nevertheless, how many of your radio stations devote a large percentage of their broadcasting schedules to these issues, which are of such vital importance for sustainable agricultural and rural development?
Reporting by Helen O. HAMBLY, Researcher, ISNAR, Netherlands
Our Working Group had a fairly broad mandate, to discuss new technologies that related not only to new information technologies, but also to the issue of content of agricultural information. With regard to the make-up of our Working Group, several members - at least three - were from FAO, including two from the technical divisions, four of the Group were broadcasters from national rural radio networks, and we had several international consultants as well.
The first question we were asked to deal with was to decide, in terms of priorities, what key types of information were needed for rural radio broadcasting. The first point we recognised was that information about agriculture has always existed in local environments at the rural level, everywhere in the world. In spite of the fact that agricultural information is indigenous, we now have the opportunity to enrich this information from outside the local area, particularly as new technologies are created, and new partnerships are formed.
The information that FAO can offer, whether though portals such as WAICENT, or from its technical divisions (the agro-meteorological group, and the market information group are examples), can contribute very important information for the future of agriculture, in continents such as Africa. Other international agencies, such as the CGIAR institutes, as well as ACMAD, can also contribute to this process.
The information from our agencies that is available on the Internet is frequently at a fairly general level, and national and local interpretation of this information is usually needed. The journalists themselves are often unaware that this information even exists, and that they can have access to the Internet web sites, if they wish. In addition, information is often posted on the Internet that may or may not be of good quality, since we do not know whose needs this information is expected to respond to.
Our Group also addressed the question: "Are radio broadcasters really assessing farmers' needs?" The answer we came up with was that perhaps they are, but very informally, and the difficulty is, that a systematic approach to assessing needs is missing, and is sorely needed, in order to understand where we are at the present time, and where we are heading in the future.
Often, vulnerable social groups, such as women and children, are not included in our needs assessment, unless we plan to conduct this needs assessment with their requirements in mind.
Our Group confirmed that market and weather information is a top priority, that inputs for agriculture was a second area of need among the radio broadcasters in our Group, particularly in Uganda and Ethiopia, and that pest and disease control was among the key information needed.
The kinds of information needed may not necessarily exist in global data bases at the present time. It would have to be researched, and broadcast from the field.
Building national capacity, our Group decided, was the most important objective to be attained.
Apparently, Working Group I also dealt with several of the points our Group discussed, including the idea of national hubs, which we referred to as "country-level teams of technical and communications specialists". These teams would maintain contact with the local level, collecting and helping to interpret needs. They would also help in the interpretation of highly technical information, and the packaging of this information for radio, possibly involving the sorting out of scientific knowledge in local languages.
Once this process is under way, distribution could be made in a number of different ways, namely, through the Internet, through systems like World Space, through e-mail between scientists and communicators, or simply by bus, or even mule or donkey.
The national team would essentially be charged with the responsibility or role of being an information hub. It would also be accountable to the district level, where capacity and partnerships are going to be vital. This is why the link to local radio stations cannot be too far away from the work of the national hub, or team.
The local radio stations are really the central information points and problem solvers, since they work in the local languages, and are aware of the local context and environment. Frequently, they are able to bring in knowledgeable community members who are not agriculturalists, such as nurses, health workers, and local teachers in primary and secondary schools.
Finally, our Group recommended that FAO utilise the inputs from all the other partners, including radio stations, donor agencies and international agencies, to create a "Global Help Desk for Rural Radio".
The Global Help Desk would be a centre for key technical information to be broadcast through rural radio, and would offer a "tool kit" including many of the tools that have been discussed at the Workshop (needs assessment and evaluation instruments, for example).
The Help Desk would also have a map of the rural radio partnerships that presently exist, since there are some countries which have not been represented at this First International Farm Radio Workshop, and about which we know very little. We must know, for example, whether countries such as Angola, Mozambique and Kenya have rural radio stations, and whether they are public or commercial.
Activities with regard to North/South and South/South cooperation
By launching a new era of cooperation and collaboration with farm radio broadcasters in North America, there is an opportunity for South/North dialogue: exchanging and sharing experiences, and reflecting on the effects and consequences of globalisation on rural radio stations. In addition, the impact of the Internet on rural and/or agricultural radio provides additional impetus for farmers throughout the world to share problems and concerns on sustainable agricultural and rural development. Finally, it has to be noted that a number of American radio farm broadcasters are willing to collaborate with their African counterparts.
The group was composed of approximately twenty persons, including :
The Group began by formulating a global objective, summarising the needs of radio stations.
The objective is to improve the quality and flow of information and communication of rural radio stations and the communities they serve.
This formulation summarises the two expectations that were expressed by the representatives from the African radio stations:
At the end of the session, a consensus was reached containing the following recommendations:
We recommend a mobilization of funds, not managed by governments, to provide projects that have been brought about through collaboration between organisations such as CIERRO, the SADC Communication Centre, AMARC, and the National Association of Farm Radio Broadcasters (NAFB, United States).
These projects could include training, equipment, scholarships and exchanges.
The proposals regarding the gathering of funds should be set forth indicating precise objectives.
The Group arrived at a consensus with regard to the following proposals:
a. Creating a Network Linking the African Rural Radio Stations with the American Farm Radio Stations
The idea of creating this type of network was suggested by the American delegation, and refers to an association which already exists in the United States, namely, the NAFB (National Farm Radio Broadcasting Association). Membership in this association allows radio broadcasters to improve their professional skills, by sharing their experience, and attending seminars and training courses in the technique of conducting interviews, etc.
"Our new international network" would be able to rely on two support systems which already exist, namely, the NAFB, which links American farm radio stations, and AMARC, the World Association of Community Radio Stations.
This new network, linking African rural radio stations with American farm radio stations, would begin its operations by establishing an electronic list of its members, and would then distribute information to each of them concerning existing training courses, exchange programmes, study grants, etc.
b. Obtaining the Support of International Bodies which already Exist, and which are Specialised in Rural Radio.
There is no need for us to re-invent the wheel. The golden rule of international cooperation is to utilise structures that already exist, rather than creating new structures.
There are international structures that already exist, such as the NAFB and AMARC, as we have mentioned above, as well as training institutions such as SADC and CIERRO, which we shall discuss in detail later on.
c. Gathering Funds not Managed by Governments
The gathering of funds is essential for North-South collaboration.
In line with the request made by one of the participants, it was agreed that these funds should not be managed by governments, in order to avoid any form of political obstacle. It was proposed that the funds be managed by an international organisation.
The actual funding sources can either be private or public.
d. Favouring Exchanges and Training Courses
The working group proposed a new method that would allow Africans to reinforce their technical abilities in radio broadcasting in general, and in the rural radio domain in particular. The BBC, for example, might accept English-speaking trainees, and Radio France might open its doors to French-speaking Africans.
In their discussions, Working Group III emphasized the question of training, in particular.
a. Training Targets and Objectives
According to the participants, there is a vital need for improving the quality of the programming made by the radio stations.
The Working Group began by setting out the following objective: "To train those persons in charge of the African national networks in the use of the Internet".
During the course of the discussions, it became very clear that training in rural radio, as it is presently being carried out by CIERRO, is no longer the exclusive domain of the public networks, and tends now to be opening up to the private radio stations.
When the discussions were at an end, it was obvious that the targets and objectives had been considerably broadened. The gathering of funds would make it possible, in the following order of priority, to:
b. Training Contents
The participants called for training that would be centred upon the new technologies, the use of the Internet, and researching information.
"With regard to the question of training on ICTs, we should emphasize the information and methods that a journalist would need in order to communicate with rural communities. As regards content and the Internet, would it not be worthwhile to plan training centred upon the treatment of content, the researching of information on the Internet, as well as knowing what the FAO sites and those of other institutions contain, so that radio broadcasters would have the necessary information available for them to communicate to their listeners".
Although everyone present agreed that long-term training in journalism would be valuable, this proposal did not appear to be very realistic. Training of this nature would be long, namely, two to three years, and the African rural radio stations would generally be unable to offer themselves the "luxury" of having one of their staff members follow this type of training.
c. Form of Training
For the same financial reasons, training must be very specialised, and of very short duration.
"We would prefer training that would be short and selective, and that would provide precise and rapid specialisation".
In the same manner, USDA Radio proposed to offer training modules that would be very specialised, compact and very brief, and would be concentrated over a period of three to four days.
Another Fundamental Point was that Priority should be Given to the Training of Trainers.
This is an economic solution, as it would allow the stations to send one of their staff to follow a quality training course in an institution such as CIERRO or SADC, after which this staff member could "condense" this training, and share it with his colleagues on the radio station, or in the country. This proposal that was made by the radio broadcasters was fully supported by the institutions in question.
"We at SADC do not in any way have as our objective to expand to the point where we would be an enormous training centre for all of Africa, but rather to train trainers, who would then be able to relay this training to others in their country".
We should therefore make full use of the Southern institutions, and help them to train more of the rural radio station personnel in :
It is therefore a question of South-South collaboration, and in particular the sharing of experience between CIERRO and SADC.
The French-speaking African countries have an advantage with regard to rural radio training, thanks to the enormous amount of work that has been done by CIERRO since 1978. The objective is to : "create closer collaboration between SADC-CDC and CIERRO, by sharing methods and personnel, in order to allow English-speaking Africa to profit from the wider experience that the French-speaking countries have had in this domain. The ties in question already exist, since the needs were identified in a study that had previously been carried out by these institutions. The recommendations have been made. We must now determine the actions to be taken together, namely, exchanging training personnel, teaching material, etc".
North-South Collaboration should help in the Mobilization of Funds.
The mobilization of funds is obviously necessary in order to be able to carry out not only the above-mentioned Action Plan, but the training of additional personnel, as well.
"Before beginning to discuss South-South collaboration, we, the private rural radio stations within the French-speaking community, do not have access to CIERRO training, because CIERRO gears its training courses to the public radio stations primarily. These training courses are expensive, and the private radio stations cannot afford them".
CIERRO replied to this criticism by admitting that it did gear its training courses to private radio stations, and that such training was indeed costly. The Group recommended that funds should therefore gathered by approaching the American and European partners.
The conclusion, then, was as follows: Funding should be obtained in the North, and training should be provided in the South.
Although Americans, Europeans and the international institutions are in full agreement about supporting these initiatives, their expectations with regard to partnerships differ enormously.
On the American side, one of the radio broadcasters expressed the following view: In order to make a profit, it might be possible to extend his farm radio network to Africa. A European journalist followed by warning the Africans about accepting this type of offer. The Africans replied : "If you would like to extend your operations to Africa, we could help you set up a station in our country. But if your sole objective is to earn money by doing publicity, or selling your products, I don't believe you would succeed, because our farmers are poor".
Another American radio broadcaster made a proposal that was more widely accepted : "The market we're dealing with is becoming global. What interests us, is obtaining information that might be useful to our target audience, the farmers. What you plant and produce may have an impact on our agriculture and industry, just as what we plant and produce could very well threaten your agriculture. As a result, if each of us knows what the other is doing, we can collaborate better, and both our sides could make a profit". On the other hand, to cite one example, "if everyone plants cotton, we are all worse off". A participant from Mali agreed : "We grow many crops like cotton, where we have no control over the price. Now, the Northern countries want to fix market prices at home. The sponsors in the North are the ones who need information about our harvests, and what we can export to them...You (the Northern countries) fix world market prices, with all of the information you send to us".
On the European side, the representative of the French Ministry for Foreign Affairs suggested the following : that no "pre-set solutions" be proposed, but rather that the needs of the different peoples be kept in mind, and that the goals should be clear, before going into detail regarding the means to be used. "We are listening to these discussions with great interest, and we will provide our support, once the questions have been identified, and linked to the radio projects. We would like to have the participants structure some concrete radio projects, and present them in terms of objectives, and needs. We will then provide assistance, not only in terms of budgets and funding, but also in terms of training, exchanges, facilitating the transfer of skills, and collaboration...".
USAID, an international institution, had a similar reaction :
"We must first identify exactly what the needs are, before we can propose any solutions", and then "before we can fund a training project, we want to make certain that this training corresponds to a real need. Since we don't know what the African context really is, it is hardly up to us to decide what you must do. It would be far more preferable for you to let us know what your needs are".
An African association indicated its agreement, and illustrated its view as follows : "In Nigeria, the local rural radio stations did not have access to the Internet. Computers were then delivered to the radio station. Six months later, the boxes had still not been opened, because no one knew how the computers should be connected, and no one had been trained at the ICTs".
As a result of the afore-mentioned reactions with regard to the lack of an appropriate methodology, the group decided to add the following clarification to the first part of its recommendations :
"The proposals with regard to the gathering of funds should include precise objectives".
On the other hand, the idea of commissioning a survey on the rural radio stations' needs with regard to training did not obtain a consensus among the group. The Americans felt that actions rather than surveys were needed. The Africans felt that a survey of this sort had already been carried out (see Christopher Kamlongera's paper), and that it was time to carry out the conclusions and recommendations produced by this survey.
Although the questions of methodology and communication hampered the group's progress (solutions being proposed before needs were identified, and the difficulty of listening to the other side's views), the working group's discussions were at least as valuable as the recommendations that were made.
The group did experience a sort of "cultural shock". Americans, Europeans and Africans were able to speak to one another openly and frankly, and everyone present seemed to become more aware of the realities that existed on the other side of the planet.
To conclude with the view expressed by an American radio broadcaster :
"No matter what the commercial reasons were that brought me here, I plan to continue travelling as an "international reporter", in order to learn more about Africa. This working group has been a perfect example of North-South and South-South collaboration, and I hope we can repeat it. This is only the beginning. New ideas have emerged, and I feel as this Workshop has only begun".
A final word (and a witty one) from a Nigerian woman participant, who confirmed that all of us should work together, because "the world of rural radio is a small world, a sort of global village, if you will".