Inter Press Service » Radio for the 21st Century News and Views from the Global South Mon, 22 May 2017 13:06:44 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Measuring How Climate Change Affects Africa’s Food Security Wed, 15 Oct 2014 07:30:28 +0000 Xavi Fernández de Castro A young girl digs a 'zai pit' in order to improve the productivity of her family farm in Kitui County, eastern Kenya. Credit: Xavi Fernández de Castro/IPS

A young girl digs a 'zai pit' in order to improve the productivity of her family farm in Kitui County, eastern Kenya. Credit: Xavi Fernández de Castro/IPS

By Xavi Fernández de Castro
NAIROBI, Oct 15 2014 (IPS)

For the past 40 years Josephine Kakiyi, 55, has been cultivating maize, beans and vegetables on her small plot of land in the remote area of Kwa Vonza, in Kitui County, eastern Kenya.

Even though this has always been a hot and semi-arid region, over the last 15 years Kakiyi has noticed that the rainfall has reduced and become increasingly unpredictable.

She doesn’t exactly know why this is happening. The only thing she knows for sure is that “now it’s harder to say when it will rain.”

But farmers all over Kenya, and in most African countries, are facing similar problems.

Experts from around the world are certain that climate change is playing a major role in the difficulties Kakiyi and hundreds of thousands of other farmers are experiencing on the continent.

According to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), “there is strong consensus that climate change will negatively impact food security in Africa.”

The report also states that “floods, drought, shifts in the timing and amount of rainfall, and high temperatures associated with climate change could directly affect crop and livestock productivity.”

All of these phenomena, when combined, may easily create numerous crises on a continent that is expected to double its population to 2.4 billion by 2050.

The State of Food Insecurity in the World report, published this year by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the U.N. (FAO) and  International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), estimates that there is around 227 million undernourished people in Africa — a fifth of the continent’s’ population.

Even so, the prevalence of undernourishment in Africa has declined from 27.7 percent in 1990 to 20.5 percent currently.

In Kenya, food security is a great concern for at least 10.8 million people, although the prevalence has also shrunk from 33 percent to 24.3 percent over the last 25 years.

But what experts still don’t agree on is the extent to which climate change is affecting food security.

“Climate change is an exacerbating driver, not the primary cause, of food insecurity and hunger,” Randall Purcell, a senior advisor to the Recovery Unit of WFP in Kenya, tells IPS.

“The weather has always been hot and dry in large parts of Kenya, which makes the country more prone to droughts.”

However, the latest scientific data show that over the last 15 years “droughts [are] coming sooner and in a more unpredictable way,” Purcell adds. “Before, one could predict that a severe drought [would occur] every five to seven years, now it’s every three years.”

And the same applies to rainfall.

The IPCC has forecast a slight increase of rainfall in East Africa, but it also expects it to be more erratic and sporadic.

So it’s getting harder to tell when, where, and how much it will rain, as farmers like Kakiyi have noticed.

Luigi Luminari, a technical advisor to the National Drought Management Authority (NDMA), a parastatal organisation set up in 2011 to coordinate a more effective response to periodic drought episodes and dry spells in Kenya, is convinced that “climate change is affecting weather patterns, but we still need more evidence.”

A representative of FAO in Kenya, Luca Alinovi, also prefers to be cautious and explains to IPS the difficulties scientists encounter when linking climate change to its consequences.

“In most African countries the amount of solid data on weather is very [limited], so it’s very difficult to say for sure if a specific event entails a structural change or it’s only a cycle that repeats itself every few decades. Furthermore, a lot of measurements are not done with ground stations but with estimates,” Alinovi says.

Regardless of what the data may prove, the fact is that Kenya has suffered three major droughts since 2001 and the Kenyan government, in collaboration with the World Bank, the European Union and relevant stakeholders, is trying to implement a new approach to address the situation.

“The NDMA has established an early warning system at a county level to facilitate the collection of environmental and socioeconomic data so we can activate our contingency plans before the worst effects of drought have even appeared,” Luminari explains.

But detection is only half of the solution. The other half is based on prevention. “Climate change can also be an opportunity and not only a threat,” Alinovi asserts.

“Innovative agriculture offers a lot of solutions to farmers. For example, if rainfall is more erratic, you can find ways to harvest the water and use it when it suits you better; or as maize is not drought tolerant you can start planting other heat-resistant crops like sorghum or millet, which can provide good revenue as well.”

On her plot of roughly 0.3 hectares, Kakiyi has started using zai pits, an agricultural technique exported from West Africa that consists of digging holes that are two feet by two feet. In the pits she puts a mixture of soil and manure to help improve the infiltration of the run-off water from rainy seasons.

Using this technique, which is labour-intensive but cheap, Kakiyi has been able to increase the productivity of her plot by 10 times.

Edited by: Nalisha Adams

This is part of a series sponsored by the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN).


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‘Missing Melody in the Tune of Sustainable Development’ Tue, 23 Jul 2013 18:46:53 +0000 Amy Fallon Laila Mutebi, 26, is the voice of Evening Voyage, on Uganda’s 101.7 Mama FM. It claims to be Africa’s first women’s radio station. Credit: Amy Fallon/IPS

Laila Mutebi, 26, is the voice of Evening Voyage, on Uganda’s 101.7 Mama FM. It claims to be Africa’s first women’s radio station. Credit: Amy Fallon/IPS

By Amy Fallon
KAMPALA, Jul 23 2013 (IPS)

It is 10.26 am in Kampala and a Ugandan woman is airing her gripe about the opposite sex on the airwaves.

Rose, a married shop attendant who works at Kiseka market in Kampala’s suburbs, is fed up with men who flirt with “smart-looking” ladies on the street, yet ignore their own wives at home.

Her call prompts a barrage of new ones on the same issue, before Mary rings in and changes the topic completely. She has no power in her area.

Welcome to talkback radio Uganda and to 101.7 Mama FM, which founders claim is Africa’s first women’s radio station, as all its key management positions are filled by women. Mama Boda Boda, a popular show on the station, is broadcast every Monday to Thursday between 10 am and 1 pm and is hosted by Charles Kabanda, a part-time drummer.

In August 2001, Mama FM was launched by the Uganda Media Women’s Association’s (UMWA) executive director, Margaret Sentamu Masagazi, and three other women.

This was after a feasibility report showed that there was room for another radio station to provide a platform for women and other groups sidelined by the mainstream media.

UMWA describes women’s voices as the “missing melody in the tune of sustainable development”. Masagazi, who is married and has two adult children, told IPS that Mama FM was given its name “because anytime your mother is talking to you, you’ll always give her an ear.”

Yet content is not limited to women’s voices and issues, although the channel targets mostly women in the 15 to 45 age bracket.

“We said it shouldn’t be biased towards women because we’ll cause issues with men and maybe men will not listen to the station because it’s owned by women,” said Masagazi.

In fact, male presenters at the station actually outnumber women 12 to nine. And when it comes to “phone-ins”, there are more male callers than female, according to Kabanda.

“Some still shy away, but it’s important (that women have a role in the Ugandan media) because we need to hear both sexes,” he told IPS.

Abu Mukiibi, 32, who works for the United Nations African Institute for the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders (UNAFRI) and lives in Nakawa, a suburb in Kampala, told IPS that he is a huge fan of the station.

“I’ve been a fan of Mama FM for the past six years. I like Mama Boda Boda. It encourages people to work and it’s interesting.”

Combating stereotypes of women in radio and ensuring balanced coverage means training both genders, stressed Alton Grizzle, programme specialist in communication and information at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

“Research has shown that putting a woman at the head of a newsroom does not necessarily reduce masculinist perspectives,” he told IPS.

Radio is still by far the most widely used communication medium in Africa, Asia and other parts of the developing world, according to UNESCO.

The African Media Barometer Uganda 2012 study found nearly 68 percent of Ugandans received their daily news through radio. Most Ugandans own a radio, as a cheap FM set costs about 5,000 Ugandan shillings (two dollars), the report said.

Previously, women in Uganda were rarely featured on radio programmes and when they were, they were stereotyped, according to a 2009 Makerere University report involving Mama FM and two local commercial stations, Uganda Broadcasting Corporation and Central Broadcasting Service.

Mama FM, whose slogan is “The voice to listen to”, has its studios in Kisaasi, about eight km from Kampala’s city centre. It is funded by Norway’s Forum for Women and Development (FOKUS), the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD) and the International Solidarity Foundation, a Finnish NGO. Radio Orakel 99.3 FM in Oslo, Norway, which has been described as the world’s first women’s radio station, provided technical support.

Today, Mama FM spans a 400-km radius, reaching over 13 million people in central, west, southwestern and eastern Uganda. Masagazi said a 2007 Steadman Group report found about two thirds of the country knew the station existed and nearly 15 percent were tuning in.

Shows are transmitted in English and Kiswahili as well as nine Ugandan languages, including Luganda, for 18 hours a day and are mostly live, instead of pre-recorded.

Highlights include Okwerinda (Health Matters) on Saturday morning, which centres on reproductive health, hygiene and HIV/AIDS. The Sunday afternoon lineup includes Papa Mama Round Table, a debate between men and women on how to “improve gender relations.”

The most popular show is Omumuli, the sports programme, which serves up commentary and analysis of the English Premier League, African football, volleyball and swimming, among others.

Because Mama FM survives on funding, it is little wonder that presenters are not paid big salaries. But Laila Mutebi, 26, the voice of Evening Voyage, a drive-time show, views the experience as invaluable if she wants to work at a bigger station one day.

“It’s hard getting a job here in Uganda, especially if you’re female and in the entertainment industry,” she told IPS.

Masagazi, 54, a former journalism lecturer, acknowledged that the presenters were virtually “volunteers”, but said having women on air was important. The media in Uganda was a male-dominated profession, with sexual harassment being a common feature, she claimed.

“Many times when you’re looking for a job and it is a man in the chair they ask for sexual favours,” she said. “Some women give in.”

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Migrants Tune in to Community Support Thu, 02 May 2013 07:44:04 +0000 Simba Shani Kamaria Russeau A community radio station in Thailand is helping migrant workers access crucial information about their rights. Credit: Simba Shani Kamaria Russeau/IPS

A community radio station in Thailand is helping migrant workers access crucial information about their rights. Credit: Simba Shani Kamaria Russeau/IPS

By Simba Shani Kamaria Russeau
CHIANG MAI, Thailand, May 2 2013 (IPS)

At the age of 23, Gao travelled to Thailand to escape intense fighting in his native Shan State in the east of Myanmar (Burma) and possible recruitment into the Shah army.

“When I arrived in Bangkok, I started working in a garment factory. We didn’t have proper food. I was surviving on a handful of rice and a half packet of ramen noodles,” Gao told IPS.

The young boy soon fell very ill but could not afford to see a doctor. It was not until his co-workers pooled all their resources together and put him on a bus to the northern city of Chiang Mai that he managed to get a free consultation through a Shan temple.

Gao was one of the lucky ones. Isolated by language and ethnic barriers, most migrants in Thailand lead secluded lives, unable to access resources or information that would help them secure their basic rights – such as healthcare, minimum wage, or proper food – in a foreign land.

To fill the gap, a local organisation known as the Migrant Assistance Programme (MAP) has created community radio stations in Chiang Mai and Mae Sot, a town on the Thai-Burma border, which have opened the doors of communication for a silenced community.

“Most of the migrant workers in Thailand, especially from Myanmar, come from various ethnicities – including the Kayin, Kayah, Shan, Mon, Rawang, Bama and Tavoyan – and speak different languages, so (our work) is really about breaking the isolation that many face when they come to Thailand to work,” MAP Director Jackie Pollock told IPS.

The broadcasts go out in four different languages – Shan, Burmese, Thai and Northern Thai. Listeners phone in requests for their favourite songs, find out about MAP’s work or how to take advantage of current migration laws and policies.

Most of the listeners are migrant workers from Myranmar who often take up what are locally referred to as ‘3D’ jobs (dirty, dangerous and demanding), and end up working on construction sites, as domestic workers, in the agricultural and fishing industry and in garment and textile factories around the country.

Mae Sot, where one radio station is based, houses an entire industrial zone along the Thai-Burma border, where garment, textile and furniture factories swallow up scores of migrants the minute they cross the border in search of work.

Women comprise the bulk of the workers in this town and are subjected to extremely poor working conditions for far less than the minimum wage, which is currently ten dollars a day.

The radio station has penetrated this community, offering programmes on occupational health and safety, women’s rights and cultural issues.

“Last year, we did three trainings with migrants who were interested in being broadcasters, DJs or journalists,” Burmese migrant worker and MAP community broadcaster Lan Moon told IPS.

Originally from the south of Shan State in Myanmar, Lan Moon came to Thailand 25 years ago at the age of six with his aunt and grandmother to escape fighting between the Shan army and the Burmese government.

He believes that radio forms a kind of “lifeline” between workers who would otherwise live and labour alone and whole communities that can offer support and information or simply commiserate about long hours or reminisce about home.

According to Pollock, cultivating a community of listeners did not happen overnight. MAP spent many years conducting weekly visits to areas where migrants live and work to distribute information about health and childcare, and used word of mouth to keep migrants up to date with national policies that might affect their jobs.

Now, in addition to the radio stations, the organisation has created 19 spaces along the border specifically for women to come together. “They organise themselves, sometimes invite speakers or hold discussion groups,” Pollock added.

Currently there are an estimated 2.5 million migrant workers in Thailand. The vast majority originates from Myanmar due to confiscation of land, human rights abuses or a lack of jobs and economic opportunities back home.

Although Article 2.2 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), to which Thailand is a signatory, ensures the equality of rights between nationals and non-nationals, the majority of migrants here are subjected to poor working and living conditions, lower wages and long working hours.

Registered migrants are also eligible for state health insurance schemes and are technically allowed to avail themselves of state medical services for a low fee. However, for most foreign workers, language barriers and the constant threat of discrimination or deportation hinders access to even these most basic rights.

For people like Gao, MAP has not only been a source of relief in times of distress – providing meals, shelter and necessary documents — it has also provided him an alternate occupation.

Following a crackdown on migrants in Chiang Mai, Gao says he “started volunteering with MAP’s crisis support group”.

“We help migrants get to the hospital or gain access to health care. It’s really important that migrants are informed about how to access proper health care because if one’s health isn’t good then life isn’t good.”


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Ethiopia Leads the Bamboo Revolution Mon, 08 Apr 2013 06:11:31 +0000 Ed McKenna Ethiopia currently has the largest area - one million hectares - of commercially untapped bamboo in East Africa, making it attractive to investment partners from the bamboo industry. Ghana’s bamboo frames for bicycles are being exported to Austria. Credit: Portia Crowe/IPS

By Ed McKenna
ADDIS ABABA , Apr 8 2013 (IPS)

A combination of an abundance of bamboo and eager foreign investment is making Ethiopia a frontier for the bamboo industrial revolution in Africa, according to this country’s government.

“Ethiopia has the resources, the investment, a rapidly-developing manufacturing industry and a strong demand for our bamboo products from foreign markets. We have what we need. The expansion of Africa’s bamboo sector has begun,” Ethiopia’s State Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development Mitiku Kassa told IPS. 

Ethiopia currently has the largest area – one million hectares – of commercially untapped bamboo in East Africa, making it attractive to investment partners from the bamboo industry. However, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development told IPS that they were unwilling to disclose any figures on the bamboo economy, but added that there had been no formal bamboo economy in Ethiopia until 2012.

“The market potential of bamboo in Europe is massive. We believe that there can be a reliable and effective supply chain built here in Ethiopia to create a bamboo manufacturing industry,” said Felix Boeck, an associate engineer at Africa Bamboo PLC, a public-private partnership set up with Ethiopian partners and supported by the German Development Cooperation in 2012.

The partnership plans to invest 10 million euros over the next five years in their Ethiopia-based manufacturing operation, which will supply competitive flooring products to European and United States markets. The company plans to export 100,000 square metres of bamboo flooring products by 2014. By 2016 this figure is expected to rise to 500,000 square metres.

“The fastest-growing market in Europe for the wood industry is flooring and outdoor decking. We expect our products to play a large role in this market,” Boeck told IPS.

In comparison to soft wood trees that can take 30 years to reach maturity, bamboo is a fully mature resource after three years, making it commercially and environmentally sustainable.

Sub-Saharan Africa has three million hectares of bamboo forest, around four percent of the continent’s total forest cover. Ethiopia plans to increase its bamboo cover to two million hectares over the next five years.

Small-scale Ethiopian bamboo farmers like Ghetnet Melaku are enthusiastic to participate in the development of the bamboo sector, if investment in its expansion is inclusive of small farmers.

“I am just making enough money to subsist by producing bamboo for the local craft market and, if I had the opportunity, I would like to increase my capacity for skilled production and a better financial return,” Melaku told IPS.

The International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR) is an intergovernmental organisation that assists governments, businesses and local communities to identify innovative bamboo-based opportunities for human development.

It is helping sensitise African governments to the high potential of bamboo as a versatile and renewable resource that can generate sustainable development. According to INBAR, one billion people around the world use bamboo in their daily lives as housing material, fencing and food, and in craft production, etc.

“If properly managed, this highly versatile resource could spur economic growth in a world export market valued at two billion dollars in 2011, reduce deforestation and cut carbon emissions,” INBAR director general J. Coosje Hoogendoorn told IPS.

Deforestation has ravaged Africa’s environment – the carbon emissions from burning timber on the continent alone are expected to reach 6.7 million tonnes by 2050. As 90 percent of the population in sub-Saharan Africa use firewood or charcoal to cook, the development of an alternative resource like bamboo has become essential.

“Sourcing fuel for cooking food is integral to food security,” said Hoogendoorn. “Rice, maize and pulses all require heat to become edible. Renewable alternatives like bamboo can help minimise deforestation caused by the logging of soft timber wood for cooking fuel and house materials.”

Ethiopia’s government has prohibited the creation of charcoal from burnt wood for retail and is actively advocating sustainable alternatives such as bamboo.

“Bamboo is a major untapped resource for Ethiopia. We are pushing to grow and conserve our bamboo resources. We are starting to work with farmers and enterprises to encourage and develop this sector for the country’s economic and environmental benefit. We are working to undo unsustainable practices and advocate new alternatives,” State Minister Kassa told IPS.

Although Ethiopia has one of the highest deforestation rates in Africa, it has increased its national forest cover to seven percent from three percent a decade ago, out of an original 40 percent. Hoogendorn said that governments needed to make financial resources available to enterprises that wished to develop Africa’s bamboo industry.

“We want governments to put structures in place that offer financial support such as micro finance and that remove any hindrance for investors in the bamboo market, so that when companies want to set up a bamboo industry they have access to financial support,” he said.

High demand for Ethiopia’s agricultural output such as bamboo can drive growth and development for the country’s poor if it generates employment opportunities and remains non-exploitative towards farm workers and the land, said research fellow Steve Wiggins from the Overseas Development Institute (ODI). The ODI is the United Kingdom’s leading independent think tank on international development and humanitarian issues.

“It is good if there is another source of demand for farm produce, so long as the economics of bamboo offer decent returns to land and labour, equitable deals can be struck in the supply chain, and the crop is environmentally sustainable,” Wiggins told IPS.

While bamboo production in Asia carries connotations of unsustainable forestry practices and illegal logging, INBAR is working to share lessons learnt and bring bamboo production in Africa’s market up to the highest standards.

“Sustainable management of a country’s bamboo sector is extremely important to the future of a country’s market, especially if that country is wanting to export its products to the European market where laws stipulate conformity to high sustainability standards,” Hoogendoorn said.

As the industrial development of bamboo in Africa is in its infancy, investors have until recently been cautious about ploughing large amounts of money into a market whose dividends are relatively unknown.

“We are ready for the same industrial revolution in bamboo development that Ethiopia is currently experiencing,” Andrew Akwasi Oteng-Amoako, the chief research scientist at the Forestry Research Institute in Ghana, told IPS.

He lamented that although his West African country had an abundance of bamboo, it failed to secure the same investment as Ethiopia.

“We anticipate a revival of investment interest in Ghana’s bamboo industry in the near future thanks to Ethiopia’s success,” Oteng-Amoako said.

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Digging Deep for New Conflict Sat, 16 Mar 2013 18:55:04 +0000 Pierre Klochendler The Palestinian village Zaatara at the foot of Herodion. Credit: Pierre Klochendler/IPS.

The Palestinian village Zaatara at the foot of Herodion. Credit: Pierre Klochendler/IPS.

By Pierre Klochendler
JERUSALEM, Mar 16 2013 (IPS)

If Herod the Great was a controversial figure of his time, 2,000 years on the controversy isn’t about his legacy; it’s about who holds the rights to excavate and preserve his artefacts.

A new exhibition at the Israel Museum which, for the first time, displays the king’s relics, might serve as a great tribute to him, but is also a powerful reminder of how the history of the Holy Land and today’s conflict between Israel and the Palestinians have become intertwined.

On top of a hill “raised to a greater height by the hand of man; rounded off in the shape of a breast,” as Flavius Josephus, Jewish historian of Rome described it, the old monarch had a fortress-palace erected as memorial for himself; and named it after himself – Herodion for Herod.

Herodion, from where the bulk of the exhibition originates, is visible from Jerusalem and dominates the Judaean desert, since 1967 part of the Israeli-occupied West Bank which the Palestinians seek as part of their future state.

Herodion is in Area C, namely 62 percent of the West Bank maintained under full Israeli control since the 1993 Oslo interim peace accords. An Israeli military base protects the site.

The Holy Land changed hands time and again since Herod’s time, but at 758 metres high, the lay of the land looks unchanged – at first glance.

Dotting the surroundings, Israeli settlements and Palestinian villages vie for rights to the land.

Appointed by the Romans, Herod ruled the vassal kingdom of Judaea, part of the Palaestina province of the Roman Empire, for 33 years between 37 and 4 BCE.

“He was a cultural bridge, working on both sides, caught between the exigencies of the Roman Empire and that of Judaism,” says David Mevorah, the exhibition’s curator. “By his people he was regarded as a convert Jew; by Rome as a client king. But Judaea prospered in his time.”

Exquisite tableware from glass and fine and glossy red roman pottery; a statue of Cleopatra, the last pharaoh of Ancient Egypt; a decorated basin, a gift from his patron Emperor Augustus, whose bust is on display; his royal highness’s bath – all were found in situ.

Adorned with stucco and rare frescoes of sacred landscapes and navy battles painted with pigments on plaster, also imported from Herodion is the royal chamber.

The jewel of Herod’s crown, so to speak, is the reconstruction of his mausoleum which sheltered what archaeologists believe is the sarcophagus in which his body was placed. The man surely possessed a taste for the arts – even on his deathbed.  “He was very aware of historic memory,” comments the curator.

Here nowadays, historic memory refers mostly to competitive national quests.

Excavations at Herodion began in 1972 under Israeli archaeologist Ehud Netzer. “No one asked us or consulted us, then or now,” protests Jamal Amro, a Palestinian scholar from Bir Zeit University familiar with the site.

“The Israelis plundered Herodion,” he adds. “Israel uses archaeology to shape history and validate the country’s occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.”

After prolonged exploration, Netzer uncovered Herod’s tomb in 2007. Two years later, he died in tragic circumstances at the site.

It took three more years to move some 30 tonnes of carved masonry from Herodion to the museum. “We actually moved thousands of fragments to our laboratories, working intensively from here on restoration and reconstruction,” says Mevorah.

“We’ve performed quite an important role for world cultural heritage,” says Israel Museum director James Snyder. But the self-complimentary effusion has been short-lived.

Palestinians complain that Israeli archaeological activities in Palestinian territories are illegal. “According to international law, this is a crime,” declares Amro. “Israel must recognise the rights of the Palestinian nation to their historical sites.”

The Israeli government lists Herodion as a national heritage site. Granted full membership of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), the Palestinian Authority now wants to nominate Herodion for recognition as a world heritage site.

“The Oslo Accord makes Israel responsible for custodianship over archaeology in the West Bank until a final settlement is reached,” retorts Snyder.

A ruthless ruler who had the last lineage of the Hasmonean dynasty that ruled before him executed, including high priests, opponents, his beloved second wife and three of his children, Herod was feared by his subjects. In Christianity, he’s ‘Horrid Herod’, thought of as a serial baby killer.

At the museum, he is mostly remembered as a master builder for his colossal projects, including expansion of the Second Temple in Jerusalem revered in Judaism. Centuries later, the Haram al-Sharif or Noble Sanctuary would be edified on its ruins.

For Amro, “Herod and Herodion are important not only to Jews but to Christians and Muslims. We should be in charge.”

“We borrowed the artefacts as authorised loans; we’ll retrocede them once the exhibition wraps by year’s end,” assures Snyder.

The question is where the relics will be returned to, and to whom. “To the authority in charge of archaeology in the West Bank,” clarifies Mevorah. That is, to the ‘Civil Administration’, a well-known euphemism for Israeli military authorities in the West Bank.

“They’ll never give back the artefacts to us, forget it,” protests Amro, not sure himself whether “it” refers to the site and its treasures or to the West Bank.

“When Israel signed the Camp David peace accord with Egypt in 1979 and withdrew from Sinai,” recalls Snyder, “there was a very intelligent division of material: what related to Egyptian heritage was returned to Egypt; what related to Jewish heritage stayed with Israel.”

Would such a model be applicable to Israel and Palestine were peace to be signed between them? “I’m just a museum director, but it was well done,” says Snyder.

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Challenges Dog Community Radio, Finally on Air in El Salvador Wed, 16 Jan 2013 17:28:55 +0000 Edgardo Ayala Mario Martínez beginning broadcasts in the Radio Mangle studio in El Salvador. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

Mario Martínez beginning broadcasts in the Radio Mangle studio in El Salvador. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

By Edgardo Ayala
JIQUILISCO, El Salvador, Jan 16 2013 (IPS)

For the first time in El Salvador, a community radio is broadcasting under its own licence. The struggle continues, however, for legislative change that will give these kinds of broadcasters more airspace.

After years of challenges, Radio Mangle finally began broadcasting this week to over 200 communities in the area known as Bajo Lempa, in the municipality of Jiquilisco, in the south of the province of Usulután.

“This is a historic moment, the result of years of hard work and social pressure,” radio presenter Mario Martínez, coordinator of the Mangle Association, which developed the project, told IPS. As of Jan. 14, the radio station is broadcasting on 106.1 FM from the community of Ciudad Romero, in the El Zamorán district of Jiquilisco.

In October, the state-run General Superintendence of Electricity and Telecommunications (SIGET) awarded this frequency to a public agency, which transferred it to Radio Mangle, making it the first community radio in the country to obtain a licence. Since then, the Mangle Association has been busy preparing for its maiden broadcast.

The emergence of community radios in El Salvador dates back to 1992, at the end of the 12-year civil war, when opportunities for sharing opinions and dissent opened up. But these radios have faced issues for lacking permits; some radio stations have been closed down and violently evicted from their premises by the police.

The Telecommunications Law of 1997 tacitly allows community radio stations to operate, but they must acquire their frequencies through public auctions, putting them at a disadvantage with respect to business media groups.

“It is one of the most anti-democratic and malicious laws ever approved in this country,” Leonel Herrera, head of the El Salvador Association of Participatory Radios and Programmes (ARPAS), told IPS.

Unable to afford individual frequencies, the 18 community radios belonging to ARPAS pooled their resources and with the help of international funding purchased the frequency 92.1 FM in 1998. They split it so that each radio station could broadcast in its specific location, but this method caused interference problems.

Since 2000, Radio Mangle has broadcast on the frequency of Radio Maya Visión, a station linked with the leftwing Farabundi Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN), the government party since 2009, when President Mauricio Funes took office. Funes was a popular television journalist who began his professional career in radio.

The Radio Mangle project was born as part of the early warning system promoted by the communities of Bajo Lempa, one of the country’s most vulnerable regions. Every rainy season, floods cause fatalities and crop losses and displace the population.

But interference prevented their broadcasts from working, and the radio shut down in 2010. The Mangle Association applied to SIGET for a broadcasting licence that same year, but the application was refused even though the frequency had not been offered at auction.

In 2011 the Association tried again to obtain 98.1 FM, but a commercial company won the auction with a bid of 20,000 dollars, Martínez told IPS during an interview at the radio station.

“Some people just wait for frequencies to be offered at auction, and then they show up,” he said. “It wouldn’t be the first time that they win a frequency and then do not use it. They do this just to block us,” he said.

In order to circumvent the auctions, Radio Mangle approached the Communications Secretariat of the Presidency, which in July 2012 asked SIGET for a frequency for official use. It then transferred the frequency to ARPAS, which handed it to the Mangle Association.

In August, ARPAS, the “José Simeón Cañas” Central American University (UCA) and the Foundation for Law Enforcement Studies (FESPAD) filed a constitutional appeal at the Supreme Court against several articles of the Telecommunications Law.

They requested that auctions be revoked as the only method of acquiring radio and television frequencies, claiming that the system violates constitutional principles such as equality under the law by not allowing community radios to compete equally with business groups for frequencies.

Other articles of the constitution that guarantee freedom of expression are also being breached when radio licences are blocked, they complained.

But commercial radios counter that if frequencies are allocated to community radios, interference from these would affect programmes on already established radios.

“I don’t understand why they want to do away with auctions, when there are no spare frequencies available on the spectrum; it’s a technical problem,” Ana María Urrutia, executive director of the Salvadoran Broadcasting Association (ASDER), told IPS.

ASDER represents over 210 commercial radios in El Salvador and as such defends the interests of commercial broadcasting.

Community radio stations point out that their main purpose is not to generate profits, and so there should be a different route for them to be granted licences.

ARPAS argues that if the frequency bandwidth were divided in two, with a reduction from 400 KHz to 200 KHz, there would be twice the space to allow room for new broadcasters.

But Urrutia disagreed, saying, “Dividing the bandwidth would mean repossessing some of the frequencies that are already occupied by owners, and that cannot be.”

SIGET Superintendent Luis Méndez did not respond to IPS’s request for a statement regarding this question.

In Martínez’s view, the broadcasting association’s refusal to share the spectrum with community radios is based on ideology rather than technical or commercial considerations. They do not want people voicing thoughts and discourse different from the dominant messages on commercial radios, which are mainly in the hands of business groups, he said.

In December, ARPAS, FESPAD and UCA jointly criticised SIGET for not including alternative media and community radios on a commission set up to determine how the Salvadoran frequency spectrum will be digitalised.

The organisations say that digitalising the spectrum is an opportunity to open up the space needed by community broadcasters, but worry that on the other hand it could strengthen business groups’ current domination of the spectrum.

“The debate on digitalisation is…essentially political, because it represents an opportunity to democratise access to the frequency spectrum, or the threat of greater concentration of media ownership,” the three organisations said in a statement.

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Reaching Bolivia’s Native People on the Airwaves Fri, 07 Dec 2012 22:38:14 +0000 Franz Chavez Donato Ayma in the Atipiri radio station booth. Credit: Franz Chávez /IPS

Donato Ayma in the Atipiri radio station booth. Credit: Franz Chávez /IPS

By Franz Chávez
EL ALTO, Bolivia, Dec 7 2012 (IPS)

Every morning from 6:00 to 8:00 AM, native people in this sprawling working-class suburb of La Paz, Bolivia listen to the programme broadcast by former education minister Donato Ayma in the Aymara language.

He starts his programme every day on the local Atipiri radio station saying “Mä amuyuki, mä ch’amaki” (“with one single thought, one single force,” in Aymara).

In an interview with IPS, Ayma explains the importance of the radio to Bolivia’s predominantly indigenous rural highlands population.

Ayma, one of Bolivia’s best-known native broadcasters, says “the radio is still the most accessible and easily operated media” in this geographically diverse country of high mountains peaks, altiplano, valleys, lowlands and Amazon jungle.

He describes campesinos ploughing their steep fields in the bleak Andes highlands, where the ploughs are still pulled by oxen, accompanied by the songs on their portable radios.

“The young women prefer to hear programmes in their mother tongue – they’re bilingual, but they tend to choose music that reflects the thinking and experiences of their people,” he says, describing life in the highlands.

Electricity is often unavailable and newspapers rarely reach remote villages, where the radio is listened to “by illiterate people; people can listen to each other, using their ears.”

The Aymara academic and researcher describes his childhood in the frigid altiplano, in Toledo, a village in the western department or province of Oruro. That is where he began his career behind a microphone, in 1969, and began to develop what he calls a New Model of Communication (NUMOCOM) for Bolivia.

“I’m a radio aficionado,” he says enthusiastically, discussing his seven-month stint in the cabinet of President Carlos Mesa (2003-2005), his 15 years at the San Gabriel Radio station, and his experience now in Atapiri, a station launched to discover radio broadcasting talent among indigenous people.

Since 2006, Atipiri has been putting into practice the ideas of the Centre of Education and Communication for Indigenous Communities and Peoples, of which Ayma is a founder. Like the San Gabriel station, it broadcasts from El Alto, a city of one million in the highlands next to La Paz.

El Alto is home to many of the indigenous Bolivians who have come to La Paz, the seat of government, from rural villages.

Initiatives to keep native culture and values alive and to help indigenous people in rural areas integrate have, paradoxically, mushroomed in El Alto.

Ayma pointed out that in the 2001 census, 62 percent of the population of Bolivia identified themselves as indigenous.

That census not only asked people for the first time whether they saw themselves as belonging to an indigenous group, but it also found that the mother tongue of half of the population was an indigenous language.

Based on these and other figures, the National Statistics Institute estimates that 66 percent of the population has an indigenous “ethnolinguistic” origin.

The 2009 constitution declared Bolivia a “plurinational” state, with 36 different ethnolinguistic groups.

Ayma bases his new model of communication, NUMOCOM, on the concept of “community radio stations as instruments of communication and development” which offer programming that comes from “the deep roots of the people.”

The first commercial radio station in this country was Radio Nacional de Bolivia, which began to operate in March 1929. But broadcasting in the Aymara language – the most widely spoken indigenous tongue in Bolivia, after Quechua – only dates back to the 1960s, when a programme in that language was on the air from 5:00 to 7:00 AM.

Under the NUMOCOM model, experienced, university-educated journalists become communicators speaking in their mother tongues and producing programming tailored to their communities.

The reality these communicators address and reflect in the community radio stations is ignored by the mainstream press and broadcast media, Ayma said.

“The pages of any Latin American newspaper are full of news about the European royalty, their weddings, their pregnancies,” he says. “But we don’t see news from
Charaña (on the western border with Chile), the foothills of Anallajchi (a snow-capped mountain), the llama grazing areas, or the Amazon jungle.

“At this very moment, a herder is coming home thirsty after a long day of work, and he’s listening to us,” says Ayma, who adds that the herder complains that his life isn’t reflected in the media, which are dominated by the homogeneous popular entertainment programming of the transnational media corporations.

Ayma criticises the commercial radio stations of El Alto because they ignore traditional Bolivian Andean music, played with pan pipes, charango, guitar and drums, and only play cumbia combined with techno and rap.

He cited Bolivian journalist Luis Ramiro Beltrán, 1983 winner of the McLuhan Teleglobe Canada award for his theories on communication for development, which were predominant in Bolivia in the 1960s and 1970s.

Taking these theories as a basis, Ayma developed his NUMOCOM model of communication, incorporating other values like environmental conservation, preservation of Pachamama or Mother Earth, and the appropriate use of water for human consumption and irrigation.

He also urges people to fight the use of synthetic products that end up in garbage dumps or the water, and kill livestock.

Finally, he advocates horizontal communication, to be used in the organising and empowerment of communities, in which the communicators are part of the action.

He says, for example, that while vertical communication gives orders, like “sweep the streets,” horizontal communication gets the broadcaster involved, who joins in the task and says “let’s sweep the streets.”

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New Media Law, New Voices in Argentina Fri, 02 Nov 2012 21:54:19 +0000 Marcela Valente By Marcela Valente
BUENOS AIRES, Nov 2 2012 (IPS)

“We don’t need other people to speak for us any more. We have our own voice now,” Armando Kispe of Queta, a Kolla indigenous community, said enthusiastically at the Pachakuti radio station high on the puna plateau in the northwestern Argentine province of Jujuy.

Radio Pachakuti is the first indigenous station to be licensed under the media law that was passed by the Argentine Congress three years ago and which is designed to guarantee access to the media by all segments of society and fight the growing concentration of media ownership by limiting the number of broadcasting licenses in the hands of media giants.

Frank La Rue, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression, commented on his recent visit to Buenos Aires that the law “is a model for the continent and other regions of the world.”

But the new law was staunchly opposed by conservative opposition parties and mainstream media outlets like Clarín, which has a monopoly over subscription television in the Buenos Aires metropolitan area. The justice system has set a deadline of Dec. 7 for Clarín to present a disinvestment plan.

The new law regards communication as a public service, and provides for the distribution of licences in three equal parts: to state, private and not-for-profit broadcasters.

In particular, new actors are to be incorporated, such as native communities and national universities and other educational bodies, the law says.

In the case of not-for-profit organisations, the law does not require a competitive tendering process, but merely an application for authorisation to use the frequency.

Kispe already had some experience in radio, but he took a course given in 2011 by the Higher Institute of Radio Studies (ISER) in Abra Pampa, in the Puna highlands in Jujuy. Now he is one of Radio Pachakuti’s 12 operators and presenters.

“We’re on the air 16 hours a day, with community news programmes, education and indigenous people’s history programmes and also music – mostly Andean music but also other genres that people enjoy,” he told IPS.

“Having a radio station of our own means we no longer need other people to speak for us. In other media outlets, we were censored. Now we have our own voice, and we can fight for our territory and for the environment,” Kispe said.

Training new voices

Cecilia Aguilar, a professor at ISER, told IPS what it was like to teach the introductory seminar on radio broadcasting in Abra Pampa and other indigenous communities. “We emphasised the importance of organising and managing the radio station on the basis of their own identity, language and culture,” she said.

The same seminar was offered this year in El Huecú, a village of 1,000 people in the southwestern province of Neuquén, 1,200 metres above sea level and 600 kilometres from the provincial capital. In El Huecú a heterogeneous group of representatives of the Mapuche Mañke community took an interest in training to work at the radio station authorised by the new law, Aguilar said.

The Buenos Aires-based coordinator of the courses, Sebastián Peiretti, who is director of education at ISER, told IPS that the workshops were part of a training agreement that arose as a result of the new law.

The agreement is with the new Federal Authority of Audiovisual Communication Services (AFSCA), created under the law to regulate broadcasting, promote decentralisation and open up the media to different voices. The director of AFSCA is Martín Sabbatella, the leader of the leftwing Nuevo Encuentro party.

Peiretti said the goal of the training seminars for native people was to “provide them with tools to create their own programmes and content.”

In addition to workshops for indigenous communities, he said, ISER has also taught courses in the rural areas of Argentina since the law went into force three years ago, to empower presenters and operators.

“It was unfair and inequitable that many people who had worked in radio broadcasting for years lacked the proper qualifications, so we provided a minimum amount of training and granted them their permits,” he said.

Resistance from media companies

In Sabbatella’s view, the new law, which replaced legislation dating from the 1976-1983 dictatorship, “guarantees greater diversity and plurality, restores the right to information and furthers democracy.”

This statement was at the heart of his address to a press conference with foreign correspondents called to explain details of the law in the midst of the growing confrontation between the Clarín Group and the centre-left government of President Cristina Fernández.

Since the law passed, 365 new radio stations have come into being, as well as over 40 new content producers, which are small and medium independent businesses that are creating fictional TV programming, Sabbatella said.

“In order to guarantee the right to information and freedom of expression, the tendency towards monopolies and the concentration of the media must be opposed, which is why the law sets limits on licences,” he said.

Sabbatella said that at present there are about 5,000 radio and television licences, 4,500 of which are in the hands of 2,500 licencees whose holdings are within the permitted limits. The other 500 licences are controlled by some 20 media groups that exceed the limits.

One of these consortiums is Clarín. “It is the group that is most in excess” of the limits, he said.

In fact, the law has not yet fully entered into force because of legal action brought by Clarín to avoid having to give up a large part of the over 240 radio and television licences it owns around the country.

The law, long demanded by civil society organisations and approved by a broad majority in Congress, stipulated that no group or individual could hold more than 10 open-air radio and TV licenses or 24 cable television licenses.

The various appeals accepted by lower court judges at the request of the group, which owns the flagship Clarín newspaper, have extended the deadlines for it to comply with the law, which the consortium alleges violates its right to free expression.

But the Supreme Court has now ruled that Dec. 7 is the final date for the companies to submit their disinvestment plans, making further legal manoeuvring impossible. The ruling also indicates that there is nothing in the law that affects freedom of expression.

Sabbatella said Clarín is the only group operating a large number of licences that has not shown a willingness to comply with the law by the deadline set by the Supreme Court.

If it fails to comply, the government “will not expropriate, nationalise or confiscate it,” but may auction off the licenses, while guaranteeing continuity of service and employment, he said.

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Internet Radio Powers on After Arab Spring Sat, 14 Apr 2012 00:49:00 +0000 Simba Shani Kamaria Russeau By Simba Shani Kamaria Russeau
CAIRO, Apr 14 2012 (IPS)

When an Egyptian court fined former president Hosni Mubarak and two aides a total of 90 million dollars for cutting mobile and Internet services during protests that led to his ouster, it indicated the value placed on communication services in this Arab country.

The 18-day uprising that toppled Mubarak in February 2011 was largely organised by groups creatively using social networking websites like Facebook and Internet radio. The fines were handed down three months later.

“In Egypt, if you want to start an ordinary radio station, the government demands a lot of licenses and money,” Youssef Mohamed, campaign and activities coordinator at the Egyptian Democratic Academy (EDA), told IPS. “Mubarak’s National Democratic Party controlled everything, but the Internet offered more freedom.”

EDA, a youth NGO aimed at fostering a culture of political participation, had, by 2009, established its online community-run radio station, Elma7rosa, to disseminate views gathered through community reporting, on subjects like freedom of speech, democracy, tolerance and human rights.

“In terms of Internet radio before the revolution there was Elma7rosa, and also Radio Horytna and Radio Bokra,” said Mohamed. “The relative freedom on the Internet allowed online radio stations to emerge as the voice of a new generation fighting for its place in society.”

Radio Horytna, established in 2007 by a group of young journalists as Egypt’s first Internet radio, was first on the scene during the 18-day revolt, providing uncensored news and taking controversial topics head on.

“We were open 24 hours during the revolution. We set up a tent in Tahrir Square so that those documenting the events could give us material to publish online,” Mostafa Fathi, editor-in-chief of Radio Horytna, told IPS.

“They tried to control our material, but we resisted,” recalls Fathi. “They would threaten us if we published material that wasn’t to their liking and they arrested one of our reporters, Mohammed Al Arabi, while he was covering a protest.”

Fathi said Radio Horytna managed to stay afloat “because we have a lot of partnerships with Egyptian and International non-government organisations (NGOs).”

Since the spring of 2011, the EDA has been expanding its role, conducting audio training to raise awareness on being active citizens and evaluate platforms of election candidates.

Prominent figures at EDA include Esraa Abdel Fattah, 29, who rose to prominence in 2008 as a co-founder of a Facebook group to support industrial workers. EDA’s editor-in-chief, Bassem Samir, is a prominent blogger who faced detention on several occasions.

“EDA’s ‘Political Academy’ is a programme about democracy where we teach the youth how to vote, their rights as citizens, how to be a politician, form a political party or join parliament,” Mohamed told IPS. “Another project that we initiated, ‘Free Egyptian’, offers training to women on how to participate in political life.”

Radio is seen as an important means of fostering community participation. Radio Horytna runs an array of workshops on tolerance between Christians and Muslims.

“We recently started a project called ‘Reporter’ where we gathered ten young people from all over Egypt and taught them how to use the new media tools and how to work as a digital journalist,” adds Fathi.

“Independent media is very important because it gives young people the opportunity to publish, create and broadcast their own programmes. We offer an alternative to traditional outlets like Al Masry Al Youm where it’s very difficult to get published,” Fathi said.

Banat wa Bass (Girls Only), which became the region’s first online radio station catering to the issues of Arab women when it was established in April 2008, now has a fan base of nearly five million listeners across the Arab world.

“On a daily basis, women in Egypt face a lot of harassment, violence and gender inequality,” editor-in-chief of Banat wa Bass, Amani Eltunsi, explained in an interview with IPS.

“Arab media and movies always portray women as being weak and it’s important to counter this by showing the positive side of Arab women, which also empowers us,” Eltunsi said.

“On one occasion, national security wanted to know what we were doing. I told them that I was running an Internet radio station. They didn’t understand so I showed them the website and they told me that I can’t talk about politics, sex or religion,” adds Eltunsi.

“Unlike bloggers whose material is archived online, Internet radio stations have more freedom because the officials can’t access us easily or know who our listeners are,” Eltunsi said.

Last March, Reporters sans Frontières moved Egypt from its ‘Internet enemies’ list to countries ‘under surveillance’ due to the success of the country’s uprisings.

“Before and after the revolution there was a lot of monitoring. The military council investigated us and many lives were lost. We are using our voices for Egypt. This means that we’ll do more and pay more if it means freedom,” adds Mohamed.

Citizen journalists and community media played a leading role in producing and disseminating news during the Arab uprisings as the expansion of digital technology provided innovative ways of expressing freedom.

Well before the wave of pro-democracy uprisings swept the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), Arab activists were harnessing the power of new media to circumvent the stifling of dissent by authoritarian regimes. Within MENA, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates continue to have laws regulating Internet activities.

*This story was produced with the support of UNESCO

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Community Radio Tunes Into Ad Revenues in India Fri, 06 Apr 2012 01:15:00 +0000 Malini Shankar Fishers benefit greatly from community radio.  Credit: Malini Shankar/IPS

Fishers benefit greatly from community radio. Credit: Malini Shankar/IPS

By Malini Shankar
BANGALORE, India, Apr 6 2012 (IPS)

Community Radio (CR) broadcasting in India, long bound by red tape, has received a fillip with the government announcing a hike in advertising tariffs and the auction of licenses.

“The increase in advertising tariffs will improve revenue generation for CR stations and make them sustainable,” Sajan Venniyoor, founder member of the New Delhi-based CR Broadcasters Forum, told IPS.

On Mar. 25, the Directorate of Audio Visual Publicity (DAVP) announced a quadrupling of advertising revenues for CR stations to Indian rupees 240 (4.5 dollars) per minute.

Venniyoor, who is on the expert committee of the government’s CR Broadcast Support Fund, said although CR stations have support from non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and multilateral funding, things will vastly improve once advertising revenues roll in.

“Besides, large infusions of money from government sources could prove to be a double-edged sword and completely skew the programming of a CR station,” Venniyoor said.

“As things stand CR growth has been stymied by security concerns and a telecom ministry which treats a wireless license application from a small, rural CR station in exactly the same way as it treats a mobile tower application from a telecom major, leading to a merry paper chase,” Venniyoor said.

R. Sreedhar, director of the Commonwealth Educational Media Centre for Asia (CEMCA), calculates that the new tariff will allow CR stations to more than break even, given that the average running expenditure is about 2,000 dollars per month.

CEMCA works to encourage the development and sharing of open learning, distance education knowledge, resources and technologies.

“A CR station is supposed to broadcast a minimum of eight hours, though the license is for 24 hours. Even if they manage to get advertisements for about 50 percent of the allowed time, the station becomes sustainable,” Sreedhar told IPS.

If a CR station gets advertisements for 20 minutes per day, it means it can earn about 2,838 dollars a month with enough to pay the advertisement managers, said Sreedhar, adding that advertising on CR has the potential to boost the local economy and human resources.

The reluctance of the government to allow expansion of CR can be seen from the fact it issued the first license seven years after a Supreme Court ruling in 1995 declaring airwaves to be public property.

News reporting has remained banned on CR and a new policy announced in 2006 stipulated that 50 percent of the content had to be created by and for the community.

Supporters of CR consider 2011 to be a landmark year because that was when CEMCA announced that as many as 231 licenses were in the pipeline and a CR Broadcast Support Fund was mooted.

Given the lack of ‘definition of news’, CR broadcasters fear that airing anything remotely connected to current affairs could result in the revocation of license.

Ajith Lawrence, who started Radio Alakal (Radio Waves) in 2006 on the strength of the Supreme Court ruling, came to grief after being on the air for just a few months, thanks to narrow interpretations of what constitutes news.

Lawrence said Radio Alakal was started with a view to providing fishers and their families living on the Thiruvananthapuram coastal belt with vital information such as weather conditions and the availability of catch along with music and entertainment.

Radio Alakal quickly caught on because the fishers were already sensitised to the value of timely information through having lived through the devastation of the December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

“Even the tsunami experience did not stop local officials from withdrawing the license,” Lawrence told IPS. “It is time the government woke up to the huge potential of CR in disaster management and in improving the lives of marginalised coastal communities.”

In such circumstances, CR stations have desisted from reporting even earthquakes.

Ashish Sen, president of the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMRC) in Asia Pacific says that “without definition of what comprises news, confusion reigns – the digging of a well or a marriage can be news in a small village.”

Sreedhar believes that there is now new thinking in government on CR going by a bold plan to auction FM licenses and earn revenues. In a statement on Mar. 20, the DAVP announced that it expects to earn over 341 million dollars from the auctions.

There are fears, however, that some CR stations have huge advantages over others when it comes to attracting advertisers.

Arti Jaiman, station director of Gurgaon Ki Awaaz (Voice of Gurgaon), says that the mission of his CR, to articulate the rights of marginalised communities, is not likely to attract advertisement revenue.

On the other hand Gurgaon ki Awaaz, which started broadcasting in November 2009, is located in Gurgaon which falls in the state of Haryana but has the advantage of being part of the National Capital Region of Delhi.

Other CR stations do not have such advantages of location and, given the government’s restrictions on range and power of transmitters, may not reach the kind of audiences that will attract advertisers.

“We will just have to wait and see how all this plays out,” Venniyoor said.

*This story was produced with the support of UNESCO.

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Red Tape Mutes Community Radio in India Wed, 21 Mar 2012 06:06:00 +0000 K. S. Harikrishnan A broadcast session at Radio DC, Thiruvananthapuram. Credit: K.S. Harikrishnan/IPS

A broadcast session at Radio DC, Thiruvananthapuram. Credit: K.S. Harikrishnan/IPS

By K. S. Harikrishnan

Security concerns appear to have stymied the growth of community radio (CR) in India, a vast and diverse country of 1.2 billion people, the bulk of them living in remote, rural areas.

“There are too many ministries and departments involved in the CR licensing process, and remote border states in the northeast adjacent to Burma have been left out, for example,” says Sajan Venniyoor, member of a government committee constituted to fund new stations.

- The advent of mobile phones has given a fillip to CR because even the cheapest handsets come embedded with FM capability. But K.S. Hariskrishnan reports that red tape is still hampering the establishment of new community radio stations. right-click to download

Also left out are the Kashmir valley, racked by a separatist movement, and the largely tribal states of Jharkhand and Chattisgarh in central India that have been hit by Maoist insurgency.

Radio Ujjas, licensed to the non-profit Kutch Women’s Development Organisation, became India’s first CR station close to its international border when it started broadcasting on Mar. 10, 2012. Located in Gujarat’s Bhimsar village, close to the Pakistan border, it applied for a license five years ago.

Prof. Kanchan Malik, at the department of communication, University of Hyderabad, told IPS that the processes to set up CR stations should be simplified if they are to play their mandated role of empowering marginalised communities and helping conflict resolution.

“Cumbersome licensing processes, a ban on news programmes, lack of cost-effective technology, funding restrictions, inadequate capacity building and spectrum allocation delays or denials are some of the hurdles in the way of CR stations coming up,” she said.

The campaign to give space to CR in India – in addition to commercial and public broadcasting – began in earnest after the Supreme Court ruled in February 1995 that airwaves are public property and could not be government monopoly.

But, it was not until 2004 that India’s first CR could be launched, run by the Education and Multimedia Research Centre of Anna University in southern Chennai city.

The Information and Broadcasting (I&B) ministry has so far approved 363 proposals to set up CR stations in the country and, of these, 126 stations are operational.

Of those running, 76 are owned by colleges, institutes and other educational organisations, while only 36 are run by non-governmental organisations, showing limited civil society involvement.

Existing CR policy limits the award of licenses to not-for-profit organisations with a proven track record of community service and registered for not fewer than three years. Stringent restrictions have also been placed on fundraising.

CRs may operate a 100-watt radio station, with coverage limited to a 12-km radius and antenna height to 30 metres. Fifty percent of the programmes are expected to be produced locally and in the local language or dialect.

News programmes are banned, except items concerned with sports, traffic, weather conditions, cultural events and festivals, academic events, electricity and water supply, disaster warnings and health alerts.

Five minutes of advertising per hour are allowed, but CR programmes cannot be sponsored except by the government.

According to the ‘Compendium of Community Radio Stations in India’, published in 2011 by the New Delhi-based Commonwealth Education Media Centre for Asia in association with I&B ministry, restrictions on using high power equipment present a major difficulty.

Lack of training in handling equipment and creating programmes, inability to make strong content development, competition with mainstream commercial radio stations, limitation in airing advertisements and electricity failure are other hurdles, the compendium showed.

Activists say that women, tribal people, children, students, health workers and fishers could vastly benefit from CR, going by the experience of existing stations.

“With the arrival of CR, neglected groups have an opportunity for active participation in mainstream life,” says Chennai-based rights activist Mani Verma. “There has been, visibly, a revival of local culture and an increase in literacy rates.”

“For a thickly populated, predominantly rural country like India, reaching the masses and educating them is essential, and this can be achieved fastest by utilising CR effectively,” says P. Sajikumar, head of ‘Radio DC’ in Thiruvananthapuram.

A survey conducted by the DCSMAT School of Media and Business in this city found that there was a need to create awareness about CR and its capabilities. Often, the survey found, listeners failed to differentiate between CR and commercial radio.

“People tend to compare CR with commercial channels in every aspect,” the survey said. “Participation of listeners at every stage of production can be encouraged and importance given to young talent,” it suggested.

According to Venniyoor, the advent of mobile phones has given a fillip to CR because even the cheapest handsets come embedded with FM capability. “With digitisation, it may get even better. It will certainly get more interesting because of the explosive growth of mobile telephony.”

“Right now, however, we need to concentrate on getting licenses and setting up more stations,” Venniyoor said. “The government has promised support and we will just have to wait and see about actual implementation.”

*This story was produced with the support of UNESCO.

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Lessons in Democracy on South Sudan’s Airwaves Wed, 14 Mar 2012 07:53:00 +0000 Charlton Doki By Charlton Doki
JUBA, Mar 14 2012 (IPS)

It is late afternoon and a group of men and women begin to converge under the shade of a huge mango tree in Yambio town, the capital of South Sudan’s western Equatoria state. The group is not gathering for an ethnic, political or religious meeting. They are here to listen to the radio.

A Let's Talk listening group in Madhol Village in South Sudan.  Credit:  James Amuda/NDI

A Let’s Talk listening group in Madhol Village in South Sudan. Credit: James Amuda/NDI

More specifically, they are here to listen to a community-based civic education programme on their local community station called Let’s Talk. It targets communities, and their leaders, to help promote dialogue on South Sudan’s political transition to an independent and democratic country.

And it introduces listeners to civic topics ranging from South Sudan’s transitional legal framework to strategies for combating corruption, and protecting children’s and women’s rights.
The 30-minute programme first hit the airwaves in January 2007 and uses a magazine format that includes drama, group discussions, and interviews to get its message across.

“The drama is used as a teaser segment that weaves rather complex issues or topics into the lives of characters in a fictional South Sudanese town of Jedida in a manner that is simple, humorous and more palatable to the audience. It helps ensure that the audience is entertained and informed about the topic of the day, but on a lighter note with lots of humour,” said Rehema Siama, Sudan Radio Service’s (SRS) scriptwriter for the programme.

Let’s Talk was created through a partnership between the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and SRS. It is broadcast in English, Arabic, and the two local languages of Dinka and Nuer. The programme is aired on a host of community radio stations including Sudan Radio Service, Bakhita FM, Radio Emanue, Naath FM and Nhomlau FM.

Today’s broadcast is an old one about defining free and fair elections. However, it has sparked the listeners’ apprehensions about a leader’s responsibilities. In addition to the programme, the NDI organises “listening groups” of ordinary people who gather across the country to listen to the programme and discuss its topics and themes and the impact on their communities, just like the group in Yambio.

“The session is intended to encourage democracy. If you get people together and they are able to tolerate each other’s views we believe it encourages democratic principles. We believe, in this way, people will learn to dialogue rather than to use violence to sort out issues,” said James Amuda, a programme officer at NDI.

- South Sudan is using radio to disseminate information on legislation and educate the public on civil topics. Charlton Doki reports that the community-based civic education programme, Let’s Talk, targets communities to help promote dialogue on South Sudan’s political transition to an independent and democratic country. right-click to download

After the broadcast in Yambio, James Gbakilingba, a listener in the group, talks about his concerns about the right to express one’s political views.

“For me, it is important that we talk to the people about political parties. We need to inform them what the views and objectives of each party are. And we need to inform people that the law allows anybody to belong to a party of his choice,” he said.

South Sudan is considered one of the most under-developed places in the world. And given the country’s vastness and biting poverty, coupled with its low level of literacy, radio is the surest way to reach the population.

In a country as remote as South Sudan, where there are only a few paved roads and many places can only be reached by air, and the airwaves, this community radio programme has been a hit.

“I think the Let’s Talk programme played a very instrumental role in the processes that led to the signing of the transitional constitution last July,” said Amuda. “We, as an institution working for democracy and good governance in South Sudan, realised that the process went well, but we realised that there was a lack of information among many people in the country about what was going on with the review. So we thought that it was important to inform people about what was happening with the constitutional review process in South Sudan.”

The programme is also helping disseminate information on new laws such as the Child and Land Acts. It is helping citizens to understand their roles in an independent country, Amuda said.

NDI has partnered with Free Voice Media to produce a new series of Let’s Talk. Marvis Birungi, a journalist involved in editing the features segment of the new programme, said there is still a need to address the information gap about the processes of democracy.

During last year’s review of South Sudan’s Interim Transitional Constitution, the Let’s Talk programme producers interviewed members of the technical committee to explain the review process and the role of citizens in it.

“So this programme will create awareness about the transitional constitution. Listeners will get to know the contents of that document. In addition, we know that a permanent constitutional review commission for the permanent constitution has been appointed, but the public need to know how they will participate in the review process,” Amuda said.

The new series will be piloted before the end of this month on four community radio stations: Radio Emmanuel in Eastern Equatoria state, Good News Radio in Lakes state, Radio Jonglei in Jonglei state, and Bakhita Radio in Central Equatoria state.

It will include a feature story, a short drama, a discussion segment, and a long interview with an expert or somebody who is knowledgeable about the particular topic.

“We know at the moment that the constitution contradicts certain customary laws. For example, the constitution says a woman has the right to have all the wealth of her dead husband but customary laws contradict this. So we will find someone knowledgeable about the constitution and somebody from the community with a cultural perspective, and they will discuss these issues,” said Amuda, about the new programme.

*This story was produced with the support of UNESCO.

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The Sound of Peace in Kenya’s Kibera Slum Mon, 12 Mar 2012 12:53:00 +0000 Isaiah Esipisu Nancy Mweu, of Pamoja Radio, says she has been able to change the lives of women through her radio programme. Credit: Isaiah Esipisu/IPS

Nancy Mweu, of Pamoja Radio, says she has been able to change the lives of women through her radio programme. Credit: Isaiah Esipisu/IPS

By Isaiah Esipisu
NAIROBI, Mar 12 2012 (IPS)

In a Kibera-bound mini-bus taxi, the driver changes the station just as he turns onto Ngong Road, kilometres away from the Kenyan slum. He tunes into Pamoja Radio 99.9 FM, a local community radio station that broadcasts only in Kibera.

Wacha tupate ushauri,” the driver tells the passenger next to him in Swahili. Translated it means: “Let’s get some advice.”

“Whenever I tune in to Pamoja Radio, I learn something new, a new life lesson. They discuss family issues that are familiar to most of us, they address issues of unemployment, and mostly advocate for self-employment,” said the mini-bus taxi driver, adding that on the weekend he listened as a local young man explained how he had raised himself out of poverty using a loan from a microfinance institution.

It is mid-morning so local presenter Asmani Maringa is on the air, and the song emanating from the airwaves is one of the most popular Swahili songs in the country called “Umejuaje Kama si Umbea? ” or “How do you know it’s not gossip?”

Pamoja (Swahili for ‘Together’) community radio serves the Kibera community, the biggest slum in the country. Most of the programmes are geared towards peace making at the community and family levels. right-click to download

It is from a music genre called Taarab, which is popular in Kenya and Tanzania.

As the song fades out, Maringa’s voice comes in re-introducing the theme of the day. “In case you have just tuned in, we are discussing peace in families. I want to understand why wives in some parts of the country have been battering their husbands of late,” he announced.

The topic, though emotive, leaves smiles on the faces of the passengers of the mini-bus taxi, or Matatu as they are locally called. The subject hit news headlines three weeks ago when a number of men from Nyeri in Central Province were hospitalised after their wives allegedly battered them.

“We use popular music genres to introduce subjects that promote peace among the residents of Kibera slum,” said Adam Hussein, the founder and managing director of Pamoja Radio.

“Apart from the news, all other programmes must have a theme for discussion, with a provision for listeners to contribute through phone calls, Facebook and short message services (SMS),” added the former journalist.

“Pamoja” is a Swahili word meaning “together”. The radio station was founded in 2007 to promote unity among those who live in Kibera and economically empower the youth here through education, information and entertainment.

The station is operated by nine volunteers from Kibera, and broadcasts over a radius of two kilometres.

Internews Network in Kenya, a non-governmental organisation that is dedicated to providing journalism training, has been instrumental in offering free instruction on the broadcast medium to the volunteers.

Following the post-election violence that rocked the country towards the end of 2007, the station had its work cut out for it trying to bring peace and understanding to the area. After incumbent President Mwai Kibaki won the elections, opposition candidate Raila Odinga’s supporters claimed electoral fraud. More than 1,500 people were killed in the resultant violence and over 500,000 displaced.

“Given that Kibera is in the constituency where Odinga comes from, it was one of the most volatile areas where houses were set ablaze, human beings were butchered, and properties were destroyed,” said Hussein.

At the time, the management of Pamoja Radio dedicated most of its airtime to peace messages broadcast in the various local languages represented in Kibera.

“We managed to quell the violence to some extent. We used to invite the most furious residents who were eager to express their opinions to the public through a channel like radio. We promised to give them airtime to do so. But upon arrival at the station, we put them through a short counselling session, after which we convinced them to go on air and preach peace to the rest of the community,” said Hussein.

As a result, Pamoja Radio has since developed programmes and activities geared towards promoting peace at the community and family level.

With support from the United States Agency for International Development, the station also sponsors football tournaments in Kibera “as a means of using sports as a tool to promote unity,” said Hussein.

Apart from sports, the station focuses on issues that affect the day-to-day lives of Kibera residents.

Nancy Mweu hosts a programme called Mwanamke ni Mwangaza, which is Swahili for “a woman is a source of light.” It is a live call-in programme with guests who are renowned members of society, or who have gone through particular experiences that Mweu feels need to be shared with other residents.

“Through real life experiences in the programme, I have been able to convince women that despite their state of poverty, they can still make it in life. That family planning works, and that being HIV-positive does not mean a death sentence,” said Mweu.

Habil Esiroyo Chitwa, a radio repairer in Kibera, is one such listener. He told IPS that until he listened to a programme on HIV in December 2011, he never bothered getting tested for the virus.

“My wife had been tested when she was pregnant, and she had turned out to be negative. But one day, a couple was invited to Pamoja Radio, where we learnt that the man was HIV-positive, while the wife was negative. But they had a kid. This got me thinking and as a result I had to go for the test despite the fact that my wife had tested negative,” said Chitwa.

*This story was produced with the support of UNESCO.

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Campus Radio Turns Grassroots Voice Sun, 11 Mar 2012 09:25:00 +0000 Kara Santos By Kara Santos
MANILA, Mar 11 2012 (IPS)

Since it first hit the airwaves more than 50 years ago, the University of the Philippines (UP)’s campus radio has evolved into a community broadcaster, serving as the voice of the people.

DZUP radio's tower reaches communities outside the Philippines university campus.  Credit: Kara Santos/IPS

DZUP radio’s tower reaches communities outside the Philippines university campus. Credit: Kara Santos/IPS

DZUP 1602 Khz, the UP’s radio station, does not just air the voice of students and the academic community but also allows grassroots groups and the marginalised to use it as a platform for social change.

Josefina Santos, DZUP’s station manager, says the radio station started in 1957 as an “an experiment” of the UP’s college of engineering and the college of arts and sciences.

The station played a crucial role during the leftist unrest in the country and allowed students to voice their concerns during the years before the 1972 declaration of martial law by then president Ferdinand Marcos, cracking down on protests and agitations.

“Sometime in the late 60s until the 70s, before martial law, it really became the voice of the university and a dissenting voice of the people who really were for social change,” says Santos.

“When martial law was declared, one of the first stations that the military went after was DZUP. They destroyed all the equipment and UP went off the air,” says Santos.

In the 1980s, under the management of the UP’s college of mass communication DZUP was revived using an old transmitter borrowed from the Philippine Broadcasting Bureau.

Radio programmes focused on health, people’s rights and various other issues, provided an alternative perspective to mainstream media. There, however, were technical problems operating on a “very low-powered” transmitter.

“We didn’t have the financial support of the government at that time. It was so difficult. Sometimes just a clap of thunder would cut us off air,” recalls Santos.

“Every now and then, we had to borrow some parts from other stations just to operate DZUP… but still it became the voice of students and teachers at that time and we were able to generate support,” she adds.

When the UP was recognised as a public service university, DZUP was able to get the much needed financial support, and in 2010 it finally got a new transmitter capable of handling regular programming.

Now, broadcast communication students produce, write, and host the shows, while faculty members serve as executive producers and programme hosts.

Other departments also co-produce and air their own shows over the radio station. ‘Psych O’Clock Habit’ is a show anchored by professors from the department of psychology, while ‘That’s Entrep-tainment’ is run by the UP institute for small scale industries.

Kodao’s director, Raymund Villanueva, says it is still very difficult to overcome red tape and start a community radio station. right-click to download

Similarly, ‘Itanaong kay Engineer’ (Ask the Engineer) is co-produced by the college of engineering; and ‘Abogado ng Bayan’ (Lawyer of the People) by the law college. Other programmes deal with health matters, economics, student concerns, sports and music.

The more powerful signals and wider reach beyond the campus opened up avenues for grassroots communities to come in.

DZUP is the only radio station with public service programmes that give a voice to ordinary people such as drivers, vendors and village leaders about concerns affecting the community.

The station works with a partner, Kodao Productions, a multimedia outfit that produces radio programmes and video documentaries on social issues in the country. Kodao Productions also provides training to community broadcasters.

“We conduct training for regional and sectoral organisations interested in putting up their own community radio stations or producing radio programmes to be aired in radio stations nationwide,” says Kodao’s director Raymund Villanueva.

Kodao is a member of the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters, an alliance of about 5,000 community radio stations worldwide.

Kodao’s main public service radio programme, ‘Sali na, Bayan’ (Join us, Nation), broadcast over DZUP, Monday to Friday, from 2 to 3 pm is reserved for the marginalised sectors of society.

Villanueva says the universal challenge for community radio is financial difficulties due to its non-profit nature. Finding funds to pay for equipment, conduct training and maintain operations is a major hurdle.

Unlike other Asian countries like Indonesia and Nepal where “community radio stations define the news,” Villanueva says that the lack of legislation supporting community radio in the Philippines has been a hindrance.

“The government makes it very difficult for marginalised sectors to apply for permits to set up their own community radio stations.

“No one from the big stations generally cares for or consistently asks the marginalised sectors about what they think is happening in the country,” says Villanueva.

DZUP’s Santos agrees. “In ordinary radio stations, the masa (masses) will go there to ask for help. Here, the masa goes there to give their opinions, to give updates on what is happening in their community.”

While challenges remain for community radio, both Santos and Villanueva are optimistic that DZUP can provide a good platform for airing grassroots issues to a wider listenership.

The renovated facilities, new tower and transmitter now enable DZUP to broadcast on five kilowatts of power, expanding its reach throughout Metro Manila and nearby provinces.

The advent of the Internet has also allowed the station to expand its reach to include Filipino workers in various parts of the globe. Programmes, streamed online, are available through the Diliman Interactive Learning Centre under the UP.

“A portion of our current listeners in the United States is overseas Filipinos. We have overseas Filipino worker groups reporting from Hong Kong, Rome, Libya… They are able to listen to DZUP through live streaming,” says Villanueva.

DZUP is also turning to social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter and archiving episode for online reception.

*This story was produced with the support of UNESCO.

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JAMAICA: New Technologies Extend Life and “Mobility” of Radio Sat, 03 Mar 2012 06:29:00 +0000 Zadie Neufville The last broadcast antenna installed in Kingston in the 1990s by Power 106 FM, a subsidiary of the Jamaica Gleaner newspaper. Credit: Zadie Neufville/IPS

The last broadcast antenna installed in Kingston in the 1990s by Power 106 FM, a subsidiary of the Jamaica Gleaner newspaper. Credit: Zadie Neufville/IPS

By Zadie Neufville
KINGSTON, Mar 3 2012 (IPS)

In the last 25 years, there has been an explosion of commercial radio stations in what Jamaican broadcast professionals describe as “a revolution” that has extended the “mobility of radio”.

Radio remains the island’s most effective and fastest growing communications medium. From four stations in the late 1990s, Jamaicans today are able to access more than 70 stations – 30 of them are owned and operated on the island.

Radio Jamaica‘s (RJR) Yvonne Wilks told IPS that the rapid growth in the number of radio stations is due primarily to two events: the deregulation of the local tele-communications sector in 1999 and the simultaneous but lengthy divestment of the state-owned Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation (JBC) and its three satellite stations.

- Radio remains Jamaica’s most effective and fastest growing communications medium. From four stations in the late 1990s, Jamaicans today are able to access more than 70 stations – 30 of them are owned and operated on the island. right-click to download

The former opened the telecoms sector to competition and the rapid expansion of the mobile telecommunications and Internet sectors; and the latter gave birth in the 1980s and 1990s to new programming formats.

The more flexible licensing regime allowed programme producers to start their own radio stations and diversify their offerings. In the modern radio landscape, the stations offer a diet of music, religious broadcast, talk shows, news and information.

JBC’s original satellite stations have now evolved into KLAS FM Sports; Hot 102 FM – primarily a talk show format – and IRIE FM, a 24-hour reggae music station.

Divestment continued to stimulate the growth of radio stations in the 1990s as the original investors supplemented operational costs by “‘renting space” on their broadcast towers. This among other things, created a dynamic competitive market place by removing the costly investment needed for start-up.

Alongside the divestment, deregulation had fuelled a rapid increase in the use of cell phones in Jamaica. From 90,000 users in 1999 at the end of Cable and Wireless’s monopoly on telephone service, the number of cell phone subscribers had grown to an estimated 3.1 million active users in 2010.

After its April 2001 launch, the Irish mobile phone company Digicel grew its customer base by 100,000 in its first 100 days. Wooed by Digicel’s offerings of low-cost mobile telephones and instant connection, Jamaicans took to the new technology.

Today, the company reportedly has a customer base of more than two million active subscribers. The introduction of feature and smart phones have also revolutionised the way radio and TV are delivered.

The state-of-the-art outside broadcast (OB) units, once owned by only the richest station owners, have been replaced by a variety of tools including cell phones, laptops, wireless broadband modems, and wireless transmitters.

Obsolete too are the dedicated phone lines that were absolutely necessary if broadcasts were to be carried from locations outside the studio, and the costs associated with them, radio engineer Melvin Cummings told IPS.

“Set-up has been reduced to hours and in some cases minutes, instead of days,” the 16-year veteran of radio broadcasts noted, adding that beginning with the introduction of transistor radios, innovation has been rapid and non-stop.

Cummings agreed that the speedy pace of development in a climate created by the combination of communication technologies and equipment related to mobile phones, radio and computing often sees broadcast professionals playing catch-up.

It was RJR that first introduced mobile phones to live broadcasting. The technology helped the station to retain its number one status – usually the first to file breaking news – until the late 1990s when it was toppled by some of the very stations it enabled.

According to former broadcaster Michael Bryce, the introduction of mobile phones to live reports revolutionised broadcast radio. It enabled journalists to file reports faster and from places previously inaccessible to traditional transmission means.

Bryce, a member of the reporting team covering Nelson Mandela’s visit to Jamaica in 1991, explained that the team was able to transmit live along the entire route from the Norman Manley International Airport to the Mona Campus of the University of the West Indies via a mobile phone that had been “rigged into the mobile unit”.

The now head of Consumer and Public Affairs in the Office of Utilities Regulations further explained, “We had to say on air that we were speaking from places we wouldn’t have been able to transmit from before we got the phone.”

When RJR shut down Jamaica’s last functioning AM transmitter on Mar. 30, 2009, it completed almost two decades of transition which saw a move from the AM band to FM and digital broadcast.

RJR’s leadership in the development of local radio goes back to 1939 and the half-hour weekly wartime broadcasts made by John Grinan, via his ham radio from his home in Kingston. Radio VP5PZ – Grinan’s call sign- was renamed ZQI in 1940 and later Radio Jamaica.

Fast forward to 2001 when veteran radio talk show host Barbara Gloudon visited and beamed her show from New York, a month after the 9/11 terrorist bombing of the World Trade Centre.

Radio Jamaica’s Yvonne Wilks noted that the entire talk show was broadcast from Ground Zero via cell phone. It was, she said, an indication of how far the technologies had come and a demonstration of the continued interdependence between radio and telecommunication technologies.

“There has been a convergence of technologies that has helped to keep radio alive at a time when TV has become a dominant medium,” she noted.

Since its early beginnings, developments in tele-communications and radio broadcast have been inextricably linked. These days, it is not unusual to see live broadcasts being transmitted via a wireless broadband modem affixed to a laptop.

“Radio is no longer a box on the table,” Wilks added, pointing to the newest trends of listening to radio via cell phone, television, or Internet. Radio currently operates four (three on cable) and TV three radio stations under the banner RJR Communications Group.

But inspite of its reach and flexibility, local researchers note, that there has been a fragmentation of the markets, accompanied by a falloff in ownership of radio units and listenership.

Media specialist Marcia Forbes noted in an April 2010 article that radio has been losing its audience for years, falling from 1,763,000 in 1996 to 1,204,000 in 2000 – “almost a 30 per cent falloff over approximately 10 years”, she said.

Whilst the fragmentation of radio markets has been in attributed in part to the growth of alternative stations, Bryce notes that the alternative listening devices like mp3 players has resulted in a more selective audience.

Some believe that in certain respects, technology has pushed Jamaica backward, to a time when “nighttime radio was a playlist on a reel- to-reel”. As stations cut costs to stay competitive, the all-night disc jockey has virtually disappeared, to be replaced by a computerised play list; stations now depend on centralised news production teams and salaries are very low.

But in the words of one veteran, mobile technology has enabled broadcasters to be more responsive to their audiences and made coverage more immediate.

*This story was produced with the support of UNESCO.

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URUGUAY: Community Radios Have Innovative Law, But Are Off the Air Wed, 29 Feb 2012 07:10:05 +0000 Ines Acosta By Inés Acosta
MONTEVIDEO, Feb 29 2012 (IPS)

Uruguay took a giant step towards more democratic media when it passed a law on community radio broadcasting in 2007. But although regulations for the law were approved in late 2010, many broadcasters are now off the air and waiting to be assigned a frequency.

Community radio operator at La Cotorra. Credit: Courtesy of La Cotorra FM

Law 18.232 on Community Radio Broadcasting Service, promoted by civil society organisations, “is innovative and is regarded as one of the best of its kind,” Gabriel Kaplún, head of the degree course in communication sciences at the state University of the Republic, told IPS.

“It establishes a community radio broadcasting sector which is assigned one-third of the radio spectrum in every frequency band,” he said. A draft decree on digital television being prepared by the government also “reserves one-third for community broadcasters.”

Martín Prats, head of the Honorary Advisory Council for Community Radio Broadcasting (CHARC) as the representative of the Ministry of Industry, told IPS the law “establishes a transparent process for assigning frequencies in different parts of the country, which is the stage we are at. It is a process that has just begun; the results will be more visible next year.”

Radios uruguayas con ley, pero fuera del aire.

right-click to download

Based on the law, a census was carried out in 2008 to assign frequencies to community radio stations that were already on the air. A total of 413 projects applied, but only 92 of them met the legal requirements.

This process ended in 2010, and it was only in 2011 that calls were opened for applications in different parts of the country to assign frequencies to radio stations that had not necessarily been on the air before.

Stations that apply – on the understanding they must not broadcast until they have been approved by the competent authorities – are scrutinised by CHARC, after which public consultations are held. If selected, they must wait to be assigned a frequency.

So far, calls for applications have been issued in five of the country’s 19 provinces, and the most headway has been made in Durazno, in the centre, Flores in the southwest and Lavalleja, in the southeast. In these provinces public hearings have already been held, and the stations are awaiting the assignment of frequencies.

“The plan is to finish the application process throughout the country this year. It’s a very gradual process,” said Prats. Only one frequency is made available in each geographic location, which “to a certain extent limits the aspirations of applicants,” but the political goal is “to regulate use of the spectrum.”

In 2013, “when the spectrum has been regulated, further calls for applications will be issued,” he said.

In March, public hearings will be held in the eastern provinces of Treinta y Tres and Cerro Largo.

José Imaz, of the Coalition for Democratic Communication and a member of the La Cotorra FM radio station in the Cerro neighbourhood of Montevideo, told IPS that “the law has set some very important precedents in terms of the democratisation of speech, which have been taken up in various decrees.”

But implementation of the application procedure “is excessively slow, and a major hurdle for future calls.”

Prats acknowledged there were administrative difficulties. “CHARC is an honorary body,” and therefore suffers from a “lack of resources,” he said.

Mega FM, a radio station in Vergara, a town of 4,000 people in the province of Treinta y Tres, had been broadcasting since 2008, one of the station’s members, Cristián Rodríguez, told IPS.

Two other community radio stations were also operating in Vergara. They all applied for frequency assignment and are awaiting a public hearing in March. “All three stations have shut down, they are all off the air,” Rodríguez said.

But “local people miss them, because Vergara is a small town and is accustomed to relying on the community radio stations,” he complained.

While it is unable to broadcast, Mega FM is posting on its web site videos of music concerts, sports events and other local activities on YouTube.

It is noteworthy that the Uruguayan law does not stipulate power limits for the frequencies, Kaplún said. “The limits will be set according to need and advisability.”

However, putting this guideline into practice raises difficulties. “The frequencies assigned in the first round are short range. Use of a 30-metre antenna and a power of 30 watts were established as general principles.”

In rural areas, where more wave bands are available and higher power is needed, “this general rule for frequency concession does not seem reasonable,” Kaplún said.

In contrast, in the capital city it is not easy to assign new frequencies on a spectrum that is overcrowded with private and public radio stations. “The spectrum should be redistributed, but this option was not chosen; instead, gaps in the spectrum are being used so as not to displace commercial and public broadcasters. This is untenable,” said Kaplún.

In Imaz’s view, the state should promote community radio stations and provide “economic aid for their installation, as well as distributing official advertising more widely to include community stations as well as commercial broadcasters.”

Prats said that in order to achieve “better implementation of the law, more economic and administrative resources should be allocated to CHARC.”

In future, he said, community radio stations “face a challenge: to be committed to playing a role in and for the community, without broadcasting political or religious propaganda.”

* This article was produced with the support of UNESCO. (END)

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Airwaves Cut Distances in Rural Peru Wed, 29 Feb 2012 04:29:23 +0000 Milagros Salazar By Milagros Salazar
LIMA, Feb 29 2012 (IPS)

The Onda Rural communication for development initiative in Peru has come up with a range of strategies to get information out to remote villages, to help them with decision-making on questions like climate change adaptation or disaster preparedness.

Radio Pachamama is a community station in the highlands region of Puno. Credit:Radio Pachamama

“Neither radio nor television will change the way of thinking or the traditional way of life in highlands communities,” Carlos Rivadeneyra, the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters’ (AMARC) representative in Peru, told IPS.

But, he added, “they can help these communities have more information, to improve their practices and handle difficult situations better.”

Since 2004, AMARC, the Latin American Association for Radio Education (ALER) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) have been carrying out activities in several countries of Latin America that include communication for rural development and policy-making – in particular the Onda Rural communication for development project.

In Peru, the work has been carried out mainly through radio programmes in three southern highlands regions, Puno, Cuzco and Arequipa, usually as part of FAO projects involving agricultural activities in emergency situations, like floods, freezing weather, or drought.

“Our contribution is aimed at connecting issues that are important for these communities with different radio networks in the country,” Rivadeneyra said.

The programmes are broadcast in Spanish, as well as Quechua and Aymara, the two indigenous languages spoken in Peru’s highlands communities, located 3,400 metres above sea level and higher.

The activities are focused on the production of short radio programmes in which local peasant farmers talk about weather events and experts explain why they occur and what can be done to prepare for and deal with each specific emergency situation.

Workshops for journalists and radio producers are also held, to promote the inclusion of these issues in radio programming.

Ondas que acortan distancias rurales en Perúright-click to download

“Normally information and news arrive after emergencies occur,” Rubén Mori, coordinator of the FAO Emergency Rehabilitation and Coordination Unit in Peru, told IPS. “The workshops are a good way to get reporters interested in these issues, so they can inform the communities about preparedness and risk management.”

AMARC and ALER have also organised workshops on climate change and environmental protection in the same regions, where they have formed a network of allies.

Claudio Orós, producer of the Sisichakunaq Pukllaynin radio programme – the name means “game of the ants” in Quechua – that is broadcast by 12 stations in Cuzco, told IPS that one of the most important aspects of the workshops is the sharing of experiences with colleagues from other towns and regions, which helps to make it possible to respond better to the needs of rural communities.

The programme addresses the question of protecting the environment by keeping traditional knowledge and customs alive. And the target audience is primary school children.

Produced by Orós’s Pukllasunchis Association, the 15-minute programmes are used as a teaching tool for teachers in rural schools in the district of Lares, in Cuzco region.

Like a story-teller, the narrator describes different situations faced by local communities, speaking in both Quechua and Spanish.

“The people of Quishuarani believe the ancient Inca still live on in the oldest ‘quiwuña’ (Polylepis) trees in the community. These trees are taller and thicker and are respected by everyone,” the radio announcer says, describing the beliefs of the community and their respect for nature.

Quishuarani is a village in Lares that basically depends on agriculture and is located along an Inca trail in an area with a large variety of wild trees. Local native traditions are very much alive in the community.

The local radio station coverage of these issues promoted by Onda Rural has used different approaches and styles.

In the city of Puno, Juan Sotomayor, the administrator of the Pachamama (mother earth) 850 AM radio station, said the training workshops have enabled the station’s team of journalists to become familiar with new technological tools and formats, and especially to adapt local questions to social and political contexts of a national scope.

Sotomayor said the radio station, which also broadcasts online, reaches the entire region, and 80 percent of its programming has an educational focus and is tailored for rural audiences.

Although the impact of these communication strategies has not been assessed, the organisations behind Onda Rural and the journalists involved say the local population is increasingly interested in the programmes, and is keen on participating.

But the effort has also run into obstacles.

Rivadeneyra said several activities have come to an end because the projects “are limited and have a modest budget.

“The state should support this kind of initiative, but it regrettably has weak participation in communication for development, and even more so in the areas of agriculture and the environment,” he said.

For that very reason, the project for an early warning system for weather events developed in highlands towns in Arequipa, Cuzco and Puno came to an end in spite of its impact and innovativeness.

Communication played a key role in that initiative: local residents trained to read the data from the weather stations set up in their villages relayed the information to the government’s national meteorology and hydrology service.

The national meteorology and hydrology service in turn processed the data and placed it on a special web page available to radio stations, which used it to produce early warning messages.

Unfortunately, the project ended in April 2009, Rivadeneyra said.

Mori explained that FAO funds have an end date, because they are principally related to emergencies. But he also said that since 2010, the United Nations agency has been working to link these initiatives with development projects that the local authorities can take control of.

While these challenges are tackled, the organisations have new projects up their sleeves.

FAO is working on a national agricultural risk management and climate change adaptation plan that will have to be disseminated among the communities, while AMARC is involved in the production of radio programmes to help indigenous people in the Amazon region of Ucayali deal better with floods.

* This article was published with support from UNESCO. (END)

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Community Radios in Colombia Tune In for Peace Thu, 23 Feb 2012 13:57:54 +0000 Helda Martinez By Helda Martínez
BOGOTÁ, Feb 23 2012 (IPS)

Cleaning up a stream that used to be a garbage dump and restocking it with fish, or helping demobilised far-right paramilitaries reintegrate into society by returning to school, are some of the early outcomes of a project involving community radio stations in a remote area of northwest Colombia.

The project is called “Con-vivencias al dial: Radios para el encuentro” (roughly, “tuning in to shared experiences: radio stations bringing people together).

These social and environmental success stories stand in stark contrast to the long history of violence in the municipality of Tierra Alta, in the province of Córdoba, which has claimed countless victims, including Sergio Restrepo, a Jesuit priest killed by paramilitaries in 1989, after whom the community radio station that is a part of the project is named.

The agreement for the demobilisation of paramilitary groups, negotiated by the government of rightwing president Álvaro Uribe (2002-2010) and paramilitary commanders, brought about an improvement of the general situation.

But “there is still tension in the local area, and it will take 10 or 12 years to eradicate it, by developing educational and employment programmes, especially for young people,” Víctor Pantoja, a member of the programming committee for the Sergio Restrepo radio station, 105.0 FM in Tierra Alta, told IPS over the telephone.

“It’s also true that the messages of ‘Con-vivencias al dial’ are beginning to have an impact,” he said enthusiastically.

Radios de Colombia sintonizan señal de paz

right-click to download

Of course, the initiative will not reach all 56,000 paramilitaries demobilised over the past decade, nor all of the victims of the armed conflict in this war-torn country.

But it is teaching radio production and broadcasting skills while producing 120 10-minute programmes that will be distributed to the radio stations participating in the project.

The plan was instigated by the Ministry of Information and Communications Technologies (MINTIC) and the Colombian Agency for Reintegration (ACR) – the government agency in charge of demobilisation and reinsertion strategies – with support from the Japanese fiduciary fund managed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

“The Japanese fund contributed 113,000 dollars, the ACR 150,000 dollars and the ministry 130,000 dollars,” María Fernanda Ardila, the deputy director of methodologies, monitoring and evaluation at MINTIC, told IPS.

“The main goal is to provide tools for community radio stations to support social reinsertion processes and play the role of mediators in bringing about peaceful coexistence,” Esmeralda Ortiz, a journalist who has worked in community radio since 1990, told IPS.

Ortiz, who works in the Ministry of Culture, has been coordinating the project, which is to last one year, since August 2011.

“The Ministry of Culture’s mission is to create contents that are consistent with the social reality of the specific cultural contexts in the different regions, and programming that strengthens nationality, identity, social participation and democracy,” said Ortiz.

To develop the plan, 20 municipalities were selected out of 1,067 studied, with a particularly violent history resulting from the forced displacement of persons and later mass demobilisation, in the context of the decades-long war in Colombia between leftwing guerrillas and government forces and their paramilitary allies.

The municipalities are located in the provinces of Atlántico, Bolívar, César and Magdalena, in the northern Caribbean region; Antioquía, Córdoba, Sucre and Santander, in the centre and northwest; and Casanare, Huila, Meta, Cundinamarca and Tolima, in the east, centre and west of the country.

Participants in these 20 municipalities are developing their skills and capabilities, in order to produce the radio programmes on their own in the future.

In the municipalities of Soledad and Planadas, in Atlántico and Tolima provinces, respectively, the main goal is to discourage young people from joining illegal armed groups.

The community radio station participating in the project in Soledad is Madrigal 88.1 FM Stereo, and in Planadas it is Musicalia Stereo 106.0 FM.

“The radio programme has been very, very, very useful. The skills training courses are very interesting,” Efrén Silva, an observer for the NGO Cruzada Social (Social Crusade) in Planadas, told IPS over the phone.

“This project is like a light for us, because we have been living in the midst of war here since 1940, and we have been perpetually afraid of saying anything,” Silva said.

Planadas is in the south of the western province of Tolima, near the Cañón de Las Hermosas, a remote river canyon taken over by the insurgent Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). It was in this area that the Colombian army killed the top FARC commander, known as “Alfonso Cano”, in a military operation in November 2011.

“I would say that 60 percent of the population of about 40,000 people has come together because of the project. Women, children, teachers are all participating, and many musicians come here once a week to make music and entertain people,” said Silva.

“People are so keen on the project that one member of a community action group walks for two hours to get to Planadas, because, he says, he is convinced of the importance of the work that can be done through the radio station,” said Ortiz, the coordinator.

“I am surprised by the mass participation of young people in most of the municipalities. But the thing is that local people want not only music, but also to know what is happening in the country, and to find out about ways of solving their problems without violence and with respect for different ways of thinking and doing things, and there is a great deal to be done in that area,” she said.

Once the radio programmes are made, in addition to distributing them to the community stations, “we will take them to be broadcast by the national police radio station, university stations, and as many other stations as possible,” said Ortiz.

“We have so many stories to tell about people who used to be armed combatants, but who are now working for the community,” she said.

“For example, in Montes de María (a mountain range in the northern provinces of Sucre and Bolívar) former combatants are clearing minefields, and demobilised women are now running soup kitchens for the elderly,” she added.

* This story was produced with the support of UNESCO.

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FM Radio Spells Change, Success for Mideast Women Wed, 22 Feb 2012 21:28:43 +0000 Jillian Kestler-DAmours By Jillian Kestler-D'Amours
RAMALLAH, Feb 22 2012 (IPS)

Nisreen Awwad moves closer to the microphone as she signs off to her listeners, the words “Nisaa FM: music, change, success” displayed prominently over her left shoulder.

Nisaa FM radio’s morning show host Nisreen Awwad. Credit:Jillian Kestler-D’Amours/IPS

“The thing I love (most) in my programme is when I interview simple women from the villages, because they are successful and (are doing) something different in their society,” the 31-year-old radio producer, a native of the Qalandiya refugee camp in the occupied West Bank, tells IPS.

Host of the daily morning show on Nisaa (Women in Arabic) FM, Awwad explains that positively influencing the roles women play in Palestinian society, and changing the way Palestinian women view themselves, is what she strives for.

“I got involved here because I believe in the message of the radio station, and I wanted to make (a difference for) women in our society. Nisaa FM, I think, it’s something different,” Awwad said. “I like how my work in Nisaa FM makes me involved more in women’s issues.”

Launched in June 2010, Nisaa FM is an almost entirely female-run Palestinian radio station based in Ramallah, West Bank and the only radio station in the Middle East devoted solely to women’s issues. Its director Maysoun Odeh Gangat says that the station aims to inform, inspire and empower local women.

“Through the positive role that the women are playing in the society that we portray, we believe that we can empower women economically and then socially and politically. It could be any woman from the rural areas or the refugee camp, or a woman parliamentarian or minister,” Gangat told IPS.

In addition to suffering from a myriad of human rights abuses stemming from Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and siege of Gaza, Palestinian women face challenges from within their own society.

According to a 2009 report released by the Palestinian Women’s Information and Media Centre (PWIC) in Gaza, 77 percent of the women in Gaza had experienced some form of violence; 53 percent had been exposed to physical violence and 15 percent to sexual abuse.

In 2008, the Ramallah-based Arab World for Research and Development (AWRD) research centre found that 74 percent of survey respondents did not know of any organisation working on women’s rights. Some 77 percent of respondents also said that they supported enacting laws to protect women from domestic violence.

- Nisaa FM is an almost entirely female-run Palestinian radio station based in Ramallah, West Bank and the only radio station in the Middle East devoted solely to women’s issues. Jillian Kestler-D’Amours asks director Maysoun Odeh Gangat what the radio station aims to achieve.

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“This is a patriarchal society. This is a male-dominated society, so the change should come by addressing males, as well,” Gangat said, explaining that engaging Palestinian men on women’s issues is important to the station.

She added that talking about difficult issues – such as polygamy, divorce, abuse, early marriage, and poverty – and the ways in which women can assert their rights in these areas, is necessary for change to occur.

“Women were inspired by the fact that we bring some people or experts on issues that are contentious and negative. We’ve had some women calling and asking us, ‘Which organisation did you interview?’” Gangat said.

With hundreds of permanent and flying Israeli checkpoints throughout the West Bank, and with the Gaza Strip almost entirely sealed off, Palestinians are forced to deal with restrictions on their freedom of movement every day.

This difficult reality, combined with social and economic limitations within Palestinian society itself, makes radio stations like Nisaa that much more important, Gangat said.

“Radio can be accessible to all women in remote areas and it’s a very cheap and simple medium. I believe when women talk about their experiences in the Gaza Strip, they can pass it on to the women sitting in the West Bank, and vice versa,” she explained.

“Nisaa FM connects them together. Through the airwaves, we connect them together and they have a voice, a platform, which they can share and they can talk about their experiences.”

Today, the station’s impact is starting to be felt on the ground.

“(We) have been receiving hundreds of calls from workers who ask for clarifications about their rights after hearing the discussion on the radio,” wrote U’nwan Al-A’amel (“The Worker’s Address”), a Jenin-based organisation that protects Palestinian workers’ rights, in a press release.

“This only shows the great efficiency of media, and the speed and ease it offers in delivering information to a targeted group,” said the press release published in the Al Quds newspaper earlier this month.

In recent months, U’nwan Al-A’amel representatives have been invited to discuss issues related to workers’ rights under Israeli laws during Nisaa FM’s morning show.

“The working women in the agricultural branch in the Jordan Valley have also started to organise in groups and create committees that care to defend their usurped rights,” the group’s statement continued.

Presently, Nisaa broadcasts online and can be heard on the radio in the northern West Bank, Ramallah and Bethlehem. Finding a frequency to reach Hebron, the rest of the southern West Bank and the Gaza Strip, is the station’s next priority.

In the meantime, however, morning show host Awwad said the main focus remains changing local perceptions, and breaking through gender-based stereotypes in Palestinian society.

“Every day I interview unique and successful women. (In) the feedback, we always hear something nice, something different. We always hear, ‘Oh my God. You talk about these women… where (did) you find them?’” Awwad told IPS.

“Most of the time (women) are strong, (and) they can make the change. That’s what I hope.”

*This story was produced with the support of UNESCO

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INDONESIA: Community Radio Helps Revive Forests Tue, 21 Feb 2012 10:55:58 +0000 Kanis Dursin By Kanis Dursin
JAKARTA, Feb 21 2012 (IPS)

Irman Meilandi unhesitatingly attributes the return of birds, wildlife and the forests around his hilly village of Mandalamekar in West Java province to conservation advice streaming in over community radio.

“Thanks to Radio Ruyuk (meaning scrubland), the people of Mandalamekar have adopted a campaign to replant deforested areas and conserve forests around the village,” says Meilandi, referring to the yet to be licensed community radio station that specialises on environmental issues.

Broadcasting on FM 107.8 megahertz, Radio Ruyuk goes on air at 6 p.m. and signs off at 11 p.m. Its programmes discuss organic farming, herbal plants and medicines and village infrastructure, all in the local Sundanese dialect.

“Radio Ruyuk was designed to encourage local people to pay attention to the condition of the village’s forests and wildlife,” says Meilandi, co-founder of the Mitra Alam Munggaran (Nature’s First Partner) or MAM, a social movement concerned with shrinking water supply in Mandalamekar, a seven-hour drive from Jakarta.

Established in 2002 by a dozen local residents, the MAM movement started out by organising public discussions, distributing leaflets and putting up posters, urging people to protect the forests around the village.

Radio Ruyuk hosts a talk show on various environmental issues. Kanis Dursin reports on how farmers and small traders use community radio to save Indonesian forests.

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While MAM was able to get local officials to ban the harvesting of rattan, hunting, and cutting down trees in protected forests, cooperation from local people was initially missing. Many were involved in tree felling and cultivation on lands designated as water-catchment areas.

Radio Ruyuk has been organising, on Sunday evenings, a live talk show from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on various environmental issues confronting the 718-hectare village. The hosts and participants are mostly farmers and small traders, working voluntarily.

The issues discussed include tree-planting activities, with MAM activists occasionally joining in to explain local policies or provide updates on the status of Indonesia’s forests.

Indonesia, one of the world’s most densely forested countries along with Brazil and the Democratic Republic of Congro, saw extensive deforestation through the last century. Its estimated forest cover of 170 million hectares in 1900 was halved by the beginning of this century.

“The MAM programme aims to raise local people’s awareness and stimulate a sense of responsibility toward the environment,” says village chief Yana Noviadi. “We wanted more people to be aware of the dangers of deforestation and to participate in replanting.”

Radio Ruyuk, which hit the airwaves for the first time in October 2008, is run by the Mandalamekar Community Broadcasting Council, which manages the radio station with Meilandi serving as its secretary.

“In the beginning, Radio Ruyuk focused on environmental issues, the link between the shrinking of river waters and deforestation in the area and also local forest-related policies,” says Noviadi.

In 2008, a year after he was elected village chief, Noviadi declared forest conservation as one of his official programmes, further boosting people’s participation in tree-planting activities.

By 2011, Mandalamekar had replanted a total of 118 hectares of deforested area, including some 40 hectares located around water sources, and before long the volume of water flowing into the village’s rivers had increased.

“Paddy fields that once lay fallow are now irrigated and farmers grow paddy all year round,” says Meilandi, adding that Mandalamekar has 34 hectares of irrigated paddy fields.

“More importantly, stories of local residents picketing water irrigation structures or quarrelling over water resources are unheard off now,” Meilandi says.

Noviadi concurs with Meilandi, saying that he had heard stories of farmers setting up traps to discourage people trying to divert water. “While these are now told in a joking manner, they were disturbing,” Noviadi says.

Since 2008, local officials have made it a policy to ask every visitor to the village to plant trees in designated areas. “We want their support for our programme. The idea is to instill environment awareness among visitors so they can do the same in their villages,” Noviadi says.

By law, community radio is limited to a radius of two-and-a-half km, but Radio Ruyuk is received in six districts with a combined population of more than 10,000 people.

“A neighbouring district head once phoned in with a request for a talk on steps that can be taken at the grassroots level to conserve forests. When we asked where he was calling from, he replied that he was at a gathering of village heads in his district who were waiting to hear us over the radio,” Noviadi said.

Mandalamekar’s conservation efforts have not gone unnoticed. For two consecutive years, in 2009 and 2010, it won the prize for the best self-financed village forest management programme at the regional level. It was also runner-up at the provincial level in 2010.

“To the best of our knowledge, the regional government never made any assessment of our forest management, but I guess they listen to Radio Ruyuk,” Meilandi says.

Meilandi himself claimed the 2011 Seacology Prize for his efforts to preserve the environment and culture of Mandalamekar. “They told me that I was chosen from among candidates in 46 countries,” Meilandi says.

Seacology, a non-profit with headquarters in Berkeley, California, focuses on preserving island ecosystems and cultures around the world.

“Winning awards has never been our goal,” Meilandi said. “We take pride in the fact that we were able to replant deforested areas with our own resources, without external help,” he says.

*This story was produced with the support of UNESCO


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