Previous PageTable Of ContentsNext Page




Theme: Voices and Action

Learning Objective: To advance participants' understanding of effective communication strategies, where substantive action is sourced in the voice and perspective of the people most affected.


Information follows on the Pastoralist Communication Programme in East Africa.

One component of this description is the Process/Method adopted. After reading through the chapter, we encourage you to make some notes concerning the boxed questions in the Process/Method section. These boxes reflect on the change strategies and theories that are at the heart of this programme.


The Panos supported Pastoralist Communications Programme aims to strengthen the capacity of pastoralists to share information, debate development issues, and articulate their concerns and solutions, both among themselves and outwards to local authorities, the wider national community and policy makers. The programme combines the production of policy briefing papers, support for mass media journalists to learn and write about pastoralist issues and lives, and community radio operated by pastoralist groups.


Seventy percent of Kenya's land is arid or semi-arid and not suitable for agriculture. The 20 percent of the population (about five million people) who live on it are mostly pastoralists, and they produce a large part of the country's meat supply. Like pastoralists everywhere, they are suffering from a variety of problems including: impoverishment and reduced capacity to survive natural disasters such as drought and flood; severe competition for access to grazing land and water, often from new agricultural developments; displacement and alienation from land, more or less legal; low educational attainment; social problems such as drugs, especially among those who are settled in urban areas; frequent violent conflict (cattle rustling, shootings, rape) between different pastoralist groups, exacerbated by the ready availability of small arms; and very poor access to human and animal health services.

The community radio element of this project has focused so far on the Borana, one of six or seven different pastoralist peoples living in various parts of north and northeast Kenya. Many Borana, and most of those directly involved in this programme, are settled or semi-settled in urban areas, between four-hours and two-days drive from Nairobi.


  1. Pastoralists are marginalised in national politics and development planning.
  2. Their livelihoods are increasingly under threat and poverty is increasing.
  3. Communication among themselves and between them and national authorities is difficult, due to their mobility and remoteness, and the poorly-developed infrastructure in their areas.
  4. It is hard for them to assert their interests in the development debate, and ensure that modernisation trends benefit, rather than further marginalise them.


The programme operates at three levels: national policymakers (government and NGO), general public attitudes and opinions, and most importantly, pastoralist communities.


1. Policy level: working with local pastoralist NGO and media partners, the project produces Policy Briefing papers, carefully targeted at relevant decision makers, and outlining policy changes that are achievable and realistic.

For example, a paper titled, "The Desertification Convention, pastoralists and its implementation in Kenya", says that the degradation of Kenya's arid lands is often due to pastoralists maintaining too many livestock. They do this because of poverty and their very poor access to markets, which depresses livestock prices. The paper, aimed at Members of Parliament, calls for a national commitment to revive the infrastructure - abattoirs, roads, veterinary and certification services - so that pastoralists can better supply meat to domestic and export markets, reducing their need to maintain very large herds.

"... opinion leader theory (Katz and Lazarsfeld 1955)...says that there are two steps in information flow: from the media to opinion leaders, and from leaders to the masses. Media audiences rely on the opinions of members of their social networks rather solely or mainly on the mass media."27

Does the Pastoralist initiative conform to these principles?




2. General public level: mass media journalists are supported to produce regular media features on pastoralism, in consultation with pastoralist NGOs and Community Based Organisations (CBOs), in order to address the general public's hostility towards pastoralists. The features raise awareness of pastoralist life and issues, and present pastoralists in a positive light, as people who are addressing problems and dealing with change. They are generally based on direct visits to pastoralist communities, and include many different pastoralist voices - women and men, old and young, leaders, ordinary people, etc.

"...Communication means a process of creating and stimulating understanding as the basis for development rather than information transmission (Agunga 1997). Communication is the articulation of social relations among people. People should not be forced to adopt new practices no matter how beneficial they seem in the eyes of agencies and governments. Instead, people needed to be encouraged to participate rather than adopt new practices based on information."28

Does the approach to working with the Pastoralist communities, as outlined in this description,

a) Create and stimulate understanding as the basis for development? Why?


b) Focus on information transmission? Why?



3. Community level: Six Borana community groups (three women's groups, three youth groups), in different parts of the country, are making their own radio programs, which are broadcast on the Borana language service of the national broadcaster. After a five-day training workshop, the groups choose their own topics, conduct interviews with officials and leaders, and record music and dramas, using basic cassette recorders. Their tapes are sent to Nairobi for minimal editing, and broadcast.

The aim is to produce programmes on social and development topics that are of more interest to Borana listeners than the regular state-produced material, airing the communities' own voices, ideas and debates. The programs hope to stimulate more debate and action within the Borana community, and to strengthen their confidence to dialogue with officials, politicians and development agents.

"Participation does not always entail cooperation nor consensus. It can often mean conflict and usually poses a threat to existent structures...Rigid and general strategies for participation are neither possible nor desirable."29

Do you agree or disagree?


In the case of the Pastoralist programme, reviewing the whole of this document (including the following sections), do you think that the participatory elements sought consensus or conflict?


What is the approach within your initiatives?




  1. Policy level: pastoralist representatives and advocates, national policy makers. (Members of Parliament, etc.)
  2. General public level: pastoralist organisations and individuals who provide stories and information to journalists; journalists who have developed understanding, knowledge and interest in pastoralist issues; people who are willing to travel to remote areas to gather material for stories; editors who publish the features because they appreciate their quality of research, on-the-ground knowledge and human interest.
  3. Community level: the trained members of the community groups who are making radio programmes, and a few local leaders and mobilisers who are involved with, or supportive of the community groups.


1. Policy level: No briefing has yet been completed. The process of thinking through the policy-change targets, and how best to communicate with them, has been valuable. This process needs to be documented and disseminated among relevant advocacy groups.

2. General public level: Print media features have been produced monthly for over three years. Nearly every one has been published in at least one of the four main daily papers (three in English, one in Swahili). They are varied and of good quality, and editors like them.

The impact has so far only been assessed informally, through talking to the authors of the features themselves. The journalists are known and respected by concerned officials and NGOs, and state that: urban newspaper readers are struck by and interested in the features, which describe issues outside their experience; pastoralist communities appreciate the way their concerns have been reported, at least occasionally; some pastoralist CBOs have acquired the habit of contacting a sympathetic journalist with other stories - for instance, returning a girl to school when her parents have withdrawn her for early marriage; officials sometimes react to exposure of inadequacies - for instance, the national veterinary service sent an official to investigate allegations of improper sale of veterinary medicines, which should have been provided for free. In another case, the national museum sent out officials to study a weed that was newly invading pasture lands, following an article which pointed out that they were taking no action to control this threat.

3. Community radio programmes: The three women's groups have been very enthusiastic, producing tapes regularly for over a year. The youth groups have found it more difficult to organise themselves for the work involved. All the groups were pre-existing, and two of them are music and drama groups.

Topics covered so far include land rights and access, livestock health and marketing, education particularly of girls, AIDS, girls' rights and early marriage, and conflict. Topics selected by the six groups to cover in the next phase are conflict, AIDS and the environment.

In this next phase, the groups will receive some training from a conflict resolution specialist, so that they can produce a series of more focussed and effective programmes on conflict prevention, based on better analysis of the causes of conflicts, and more refined thinking about effective conflict-prevention strategies. The programme is likely to move towards more coordinated planning by the six groups about topics and messages, to avoid repetition, and to develop further depth of analysis. As with conflict prevention, training might be offered on other topics, if the groups wish it, to strengthen their access to information, and skills in developing messages.

Data on impact has come mainly from the groups themselves, during a mid-project review workshop. They say they are proud to be educating their communities, and they are willing to overcome considerable difficulties to do so (e.g. husbands who object to their wives moving around among the community interviewing strangers.)

Some anecdotes show that impact on audiences is starting to emerge. For instance: "One of the radio programmes on HIV-AIDS made a local leader in Kula-Mawe, a location in Isiolo, declare his HIV status in a public baraza. When the chief was later asked why he took that bold step, he said the HIV-AIDS pandemic is no longer a secret, but an issue of national concern. He said he had listened keenly to a program on the radio on the issue, and said even the rural populace needs to be warned. He said the first step is to accept one's status, and stop the disease from spreading further by educating the community." (Spontaneous testimony given by a trainee researcher during the training workshop for the audience survey).

Another indicator of success is that a major NGO working with pastoralists all over Kenya, is planning to adopt the methodology as part of its national work on AIDS and conflict.

An audience survey was carried out in March, 2001, to assess the size of listenership among the Borana. Three hundred questionnaires were conducted with a random sample in three separate Borana areas. An initial look at the results suggests a very large proportion have listened to the programs. The biggest constraint seems to be the very poor state of the national broadcaster's transmission facilities, which are badly in need of renovation.

This project is far from being self-sustaining. The six groups involved at present need support from a full-time coordinator, with some additional outside inputs for radio-skills training. There is also technical editing/broadcasting input from Kenya Broadcasting Corporation. (Borana Service)

Outside input on the topics the groups choose to cover might also be desirable - the groups' capacity to access information themselves is limited, as many of them are illiterate, few have a high level of education, and they are fairly remote from sources of information.

Considering the Theme and Learning Objectives for this experience please list one or more lessons you think are important for your own work. Please list these on the chart in "Drawing Your Own Conclusions" p89.


Silvio Waisbord Family Tree of Theories, Methodologies and Strategies in Development Communication: Convergences and Differences. Prepared for the Rockefeller Foundation 2001. Available on The Communication Initiative website at

Kitty Warnock. Note for The Communication Initiative. Panos, London May 15th 2001.

Previous PageTop Of PageNext Page