Two districts in Cameroon are ready to host a community rural radio
For over 10 years, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) have been working together to assist the Government of Cameroon to combat poverty and improve the quality of life of its people.
As the executing agency for the Community Information, Education and Communication in the area of Reproductive Health, Cameroon Project (IEC/SR), FAO deemed it necessary to set up two community rural radio stations.
A comparative study was conducted to identify the sites that would benefit from the two rural radio stations, whose main function will be to inform the people in particular about issues relating to reproductive health and food security. The criteria used to select the sites were not only the people's information requirements but also the ability of the communities to finance and manage these structures themselves. The Eséka Health District in the Centre Province and the Mokolo Health District in the Extreme North Province were selected.
The expectations and the limitations of different sections of society in relation to the establishment of a community rural station have been identified in the Mokolo Health District. The information on these expectations and constraints have now been classified in terms of the following target groups:
Women's associations, which have emphasised the need for information to enable women to achieve self-fulfilment. They wish to give preference to broadcasts to familiarise the people with family life, mother-and-child health, the education of children and women's work. However, they feared that the radio management committee would be poorly organised or not exist at all, and that the people in charge of the daily management of the radio station might be too reluctant to pursue their commitment, and perhaps not even motivated to do it. Another problem that might arise had to do with the communities' difficulties in making a financial contribution to running the radio.
School children hoped that the Health District and even the Department would open up towards the outside world. They expected all the people in the radio catchment area to be covered and sensitised, including the most inaccessible parts. In their opinion, the radio should disseminate all the information that the community would find useful, such as births, deaths, marriages, and missing people. They also suggested that broadcasts should produced and run by young people. Space should also be given to the various languages in the zone. The young people identified possible obstacles as being the shortage of qualified personnel, non-transparent management, the poor organisation of the facilities, the lack of funding, vandalism and the lack of equipment maintenance.
Broadcasting messages on Islam, health and development were the issues of greatest interest in the Islamic religious community.
The main concern of the religious authorities was that the radio might make it possible to broadcast messages that would cause divisions in the communities. Like the group of young people, they were worried about equipment maintenance.
The administrative authorities thought that the radio installations in the District could help to mobilise the communities to hold meetings, because it would improve communication between those taking part. They also felt that the radio would provide timely information by the traditional authorities and communities regarding governmental instructions and other notices from the administrative authorities.
The political leaders of the District expected the radio to broadcast political messages.
The only obstacle that the politicians in the District could see was that certain parties might be given more favourable treatment in the programme schedules than others.
The leaders and groups questioned in the Eséka Health District in the Centre Province said that they needed information in the Bassa language on the problems of their particular community. They also wanted the chance to exchange information with other communities via the radio. The people questioned also suggested particular issues to be addressed in various fields.
With regard to health they mentioned the following: vaccination, combating AIDS, mother and child health, personal and environmental hygiene, early pregnancy, sex education, family planning, access to drinking water, and combating unsafe behaviour.
On food security, the local people emphasised the lack of information on processing cassava and palm oil, food crop production, a healthy and balanced diet, raising small ruminants and poultry, information on current prices and commodity buyers, input markets, techniques for producing different crops, weather forecasting data, and the agricultural calendar.
As far as business was concerned, the people interviewed wanted information on timber processing and sale, tourist sites, combating poverty, assistance for paying the "impôt libératoire" business tax, forestry laws, community forestry and environmental conservation.
The issues of particular interest regarding education were girls' school education, education in community life, new information technologies and their benefits, individual rights and social conflict management, the promotion of bilingualism, vocational training for young people, the open-ended debate on the different problems of daily life of young people at work and in their home environment, time management and use by school children and adults, and the management of family incomes.
In the cultural area, the people questioned said that they needed broadcasts to enhance the Bassa cultural identity, as well as religion. They wanted the radio programme schedule to include drama, sketches, poems and songs.
As for sport and recreation, people would like musical rebroadcasts, and sports events and games.
The Mokolo District has an important network of associations. Each association has very specific purposes in one or more fields.
There are five associations of NGOs: the Cellule de formation et d'appui aux actions de développement (CEFAAD), which provides training for development leaders and in IT. It is also involved in combating AIDS.
The Cellule d'appui et de formation (CAFOR) works on adult literacy. The Service d'appui aux initiatives de Développement (SAILD) helps different groups to obtain training. It also provides training to community development leaders.
The supervision of groups is undertaken by the Diocesan Development Committee (CDD) which also focuses on constructing community grain stores.
The Groupe d'organismes intervenants dans les biefs (GOIB) builds "bief" canals and wells. "Biefs" are canals created by drawing off surplus water from streams and rivers in order to return it to the ground. This preserves the water resources for times of drought and prevents the banks from breaking in periods of flooding.
NGOs and state and para-statal agencies are operating in this area, too. One important state agency is the Programme national de recherché et de vulgarisation agricole (PNRVA). This programme is responsible not only for agricultural extension and research in the small farmer area, but also organises producers and supports them with infrastructure and amenities.
Two of the state agencies only work in the extreme north of Cameroon: the Mission de Développement integer des Monts Mandaras (MIDIMA) and the Projet de Développement de la region des Mont Mandaras (PDRM). Whereas the first coordinates activities in that area, the purpose of the second is to build classrooms, wells and "bief" canals, grain stores and multipurpose halls, and to train entrepreneurs. It also provides infrastructure support.
In the Eséka District there are many different associations and groups. There are five "groupes d'initiative commune" (GICs), two NGOs and 127 associations of which 21 operate in the field of development.
During the course of the survey mission, the team worked with groups and organisations that had expressed interest in the project.
These associations included the NGO END-SIDA which is pursuing its work to combat AIDS in the town of Eséka. There are also two informal groups that have worked with the mission's agents at Eséka: the Association des cheminots du Camp Régie and the Groupe des jeunes du collčge Marie Albert.
The Rassemblement des femmes pour le development et la culture (RAFEDEC) has also expressed interest in the project.
The mission met two groups in the village of Likabo: the Association des jeunes ruraux non scolaires (AJEL) and the "common initiative group", the Association des jeunes de Likabo (GIC ALEL). The association of the traditional chiefs of Nyong and Kelle, AGTRANK, works at Eséka.
The team also met the Diocesan Committee for Social/Charitable Activities (CODASC), a structure which organises its work in different development areas, as well as the Comité de soutien et d'appui de base (COSA).
One of the prior conditions for setting up two rural radios is that the communities must give assurances that they can self-finance and manage the radio once it has been put into place. Firm guarantees in this regard were given during the meetings with all the authorities and the leaders of the various districts concerned.
The main financiers of the project at Eséka will be FAO and UNFAP, on the one hand, and the administrative authorities, municipalities, traditional chiefs and faith organisations, on the other.
FAO/UNFAP will provide financial support for implementing the project by covering the costs for the acquisition and installation of the equipment, and training the radio technical team members.
The radio station will be run by the municipality of Eséka. The traditional chiefs, particularly from the villages of Bogso and Mouanda, and the diocese of Eséka (the Presbyterian Church of Cameroon at Eséka) have undertaken to contribute towards running this radio station.
The Cameroon Government, as part of its matching funds for the project, will provide a contribution which could take the form of covering the cost of equipment acquisition.
Other forms of financing will come from notices, communiqués, announcements and advertisements, as well as voluntary contributions from a range of different community organisations, cooperatives, NGOs, and other stakeholders; gifts, donations and legacies, the technical services involved, and from special taxes levied on the regular local markets.
As for the Health District of Mokolo, FAO/UNFAP will also provide the technical equipment for the facility when it takes off. However, the rural municipalities of Mokolo, Roua and Koza will be responsible for paying the wages and salaries of the radio staff, and will also provide the premises for the station.
Secondary sources of funding will come from the Association de Développement du Mayo Tsanaga (ADEMAT) and the Development Committees. These could also take responsibility for paying the operating costs of the radio station, such as electricity, water and maintenance.
The new facility will also receive income from the announcements, communiqués and advertisements that the associations, political parties, traders, business community, religious confessions and communities.