Agricultural information in the Congo - achieving something lasting and linking to the outside world
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Ouenabio, Jean-Marie Samuel. 1989. Agricultural information in the Congo - achieving something lasting and linking to the outside world. Spore 22. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
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.Jean-Marie Samuel Ouenabio Jean-Marie Samuel Ouenabio Is an African Journalist who has chosen to work among the 'poor relations' of his trade: science and development. He was born in 1957, and is today in charge of the science magazine on the...
. Jean-Marie Samuel Ouenabio Jean-Marie Samuel Ouenabio Is an African Journalist who has chosen to work among the 'poor relations' of his trade: science and development. He was born in 1957, and is today in charge of the science magazine on the Congolese radio. He also edils the science page of a national daily paper, and is one of the correspondents for SYFIA (Syst? Francophone d'lnformation Agricole). The Congo is one of those countries which have known a period of prosperity from oil but which remain essentially agricultural. The media boomed overnight, but then the bubble burst. What is left today? As a specialist, Jean-Marie Samuel Ouenabio, looks at the balance sheet, and finds that - despite heavy losses - STI (scientific and technical information) is alive and well, and will continue to flourish if only it can receive regular injections of information from the outside world. Can the media establish links between the urban and the rural communities? The Congo, like most developing countries, is divided between the rural areas, where most people still live and where traditional ways predominate, and the urban centres which are open to outside influences and more advanced techniques, The Congo has a wider range of information media than elsewhere in Africa, even though these may sometimes be of doubtful quality. The field of agricultural information reflects this town-country dichotomy in the difference between the educated and the rural public, and between the traditional press and electronic media. The poor relation - the agricultural review The poorest of them all is 'Echo rural', a sporadic duplicated bulletin, edited in French by five rural development specialists. It is intended as an educational aid which will raise consciousness among rural communities and help popularize ideas and techniques. 'Echo rural' is published by the press section of the Rural Radio project, but its run has steadily decreased (from 1000 copies at the beginning to 500 today). It may now cease publication completely since Rural Radio finance has been withdrawn by the German Friedrich Naumann Foundation. Still fresh in people's memory is 'Sengo' which was launched in 1972 and ceased publication in 1979. 'Sengo' had a run of 6000 and sold for 100 francs CFA. It aimed at training people to put new agricultural techniques into practice and endeavoured to eliminate illiteracy in French, providing teaching materials for the education of the rural population. Unfortunately it ended after only seven years because of technical, financial and sociopolitical factors. Radio is the most popular medium Rural radio, which is seen as a support for educational and extension programmes among peasant communities, must involve a large measure of collaboration between radio staff and extension officers. Rural radio enjoys considerable popularity which it puts to good use when its staff venture into the country areas to set up discussions with smallholder farmers and training personnel. They also come back with a rich harvest of sound recordings. As well as these reports, rural radio - which broadcasts four hours a day at peak times in French and the two national languages - puts out a varied diet of programmes: training, education, rural promotion, and mini-programmes. In the two pilot zones of the Rural Radio project, people listen to programmes in radio clubs with a leader and a technical adviser, but now the financial backing has been withdrawn, its future is in jeopardy. Agriculture does better In the popular press Agricultural topics are regularly aired in the popular press. Unlike many African countries, the Congo considers agriculture to be of topical interest, and the powers-that-be are forever extolling the virtues of working the land. Agricultural topics receive lively coverage from specialist journalists on TV, national radio, and the daily newspaper 'Mweti'. As well as the rural radio broadcasts, a farming slot has recently been allocated on the radio and TV science magazines. Although most of this information is domestic, our journalists open their columns and their air-waves to what is happening - both good and bad - in neighbouring countries, in the Tropics in general and elsewhere. The traditional sources of information agencies, scientific press services and news releases from specialist organizations - are all put to maximum use. The journalists on 'Science Magazine' (radio and TV) have more opportunity than others to work 'on the ground'- getting first-hand material, doing interviews with scientists and meeting 'developers'. This particular broadcast receives support from the Ministry of Research and the Environment But demand for material is such that we are always on the look-out for up-to-date in-depth information, which is better suited to our audience and its needs, more objective, more regular- and more 'African'. The media also needs a bit more continuity - to be given the assurance of long-term funding. Perhaps legislation could be passed to this effect. In order to create new agricultural traditions, the Congo must have an efficient means of informing its young peasant farmers, its training personnel, its scientists and developers. This is the public it must aim to reach. Also, all possible sources of information must be exploited to the full. This means that all the services involved in development must become more open and break down barriers between one another. We must also open up to the outside world. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily those of CTA.
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