Rural radio let the people be heard !
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Drame, Seydou. 1990. Rural radio let the people be heard !. Spore 25. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
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Seydou DRAME Is a Burkinabe journalist and a ClERRO (Inter-Afr can Cente for Rural Radio Studies) graduate who has devoted his working of to the promotion of agricultural information. He is a bout to publish a paper on information and the rural...
Seydou DRAME Is a Burkinabe journalist and a ClERRO (Inter-Afr can Cente for Rural Radio Studies) graduate who has devoted his working of to the promotion of agricultural information. He is a bout to publish a paper on information and the rural population, based on his eight years of experience in the field. 'Rural radio has to be learned in the field - not in an office or a classroom', says Seydou Drame, a presenter with Burkina Faso's Rural Radio Service. However he does not deny the value of his own training. Rather he feels it was because of that training that he came to understand later on that country people in Africa are too often considered as pupils, when in fact they make excellent teachers. The Burkina Faso radio clubs are dead and buried. They were born in 1975 and died in 1983. They are missed by many as an innovative method of extension work in the community and their demise is seen as a fatiure. But for me the end of the radio club was a natural event, as inevitable as a ripe fruit falling to the ground. The clubs disappeared simply because they had accomplished their mission. A short history demonstrates how this came about. When the drought was at its worst and the country's agriculture sorely needed to be put back on its feet, the authorities decided it was time to give the small farmer the education he had lacked hitherto. The radio club broadcasts took on the role of professional training, the peasant farmers became attentive pupils, and the presenters were the schoolmasters relaying the lessons to be heard in groups by the rural people. The first attempts were aimed solely at cotton growers. So successful were they in their training (work schedules, manure, pesticides, harvest, storage, etc) that yields increased and the farmers grew rich-with the help of price increases on the world market. Having a radio was one of the first signs of their increased purchasing power, so tints success brought with it an end to the communal radio classrooms. LEARNING NEW WAYS Not belonging to a radio club does not mean that the peasant farmer will no longer listen to the advice from the agricultural services. The challenge is for the presenters to devise new means of getting their message across. Thursday is the day for rural radio broadcasts in Burkina Faso. The farmer gets on his bicycle and rides off to his field with a hoe, some water and his radio which will keep him company as he works. But the farmer will not hear everything, so it's up to us to get his attention. It is all the more up to us to make an effort, since now our listeners have a free choice of station. lf we bore him he can turn to Radio Malt, Radio Benin, or Africa 1. The radio monopoly on air space is a thing of the past now, and radio communication is exactly the same for Burkina Faso as it is for the rest of the free world, so we have to be less boring and more creative. They want to hear music, everyday sounds, lively reporting, and accurate and truthful information that they can relate to their own situations. lt is no longer enough for a presenter to read the bulletins provided by the agricultural serviced; presenters must know what they are talking about. This freedom of choice has also opened up the outside world to the peasant farmer and proved that the universe no longer stops at the village boundary. The Yatenga peasant knows that there are people like him living in countries where it actually rains all the time. Radio is his ear on the outside world and we have to take advantage of this opportunity to bring him additional messages - even messages from Europe, if there is somebody there who can provide useful information in a language he can understand. ELECTRONIC PALAVER TREE As a result of this evolution, Burkina Faso is now starting to develop local radio presented by the very people it serves. With the freedom to listen came the right to speak, and it has been seized with such enthusiasm that the airwaves have become a sort of latterday 'palaver'tree.This springs out of the recognition of the value of South-South communication;we are discovering the need for a peasant-peasant dialogue. It may appear at first sight that this near take-over by the rural folk excludes outside input. On the contrary, rural radio Journalists have discovered that it is a wonderful opportunity to understand what makes the peasant farmer tick, and what kits information needs are. We must take our full part in this dialogue. How can we complain of changes which we ourselves helped to bring about? Why are we afraid of the listeners taking over the microphone? So once agate it is for us to change, to adapt, and to find a new way of addressing an audience which we have created. And then, why should the voice of the peasant farmers not be heard by his urban cousin? City-dwellers need that input in their lives as much as those who live in the country need education.' The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily those of CTA
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