Articles

Community radio and rural communication services in Bangladesh

krishi The FAO project “Enhancing Rural Communication Services for Agricultural Development through Community Rural Radio” encouraged the participation of agricultural stakeholders in Bangladesh at the national, upazila and village level and spearheaded the establishment of Krishi Radio, the first community rural radio of the country.

Country:

Bangladesh

Organizations:

Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) and Agricultural Information Service (AIS) under the Bangladesh Ministry of Agriculture - in collaboration with College of Development Communication, University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB), and Bangladesh NGOs Network for Radio and Communication (BNNRC)

Themes:

Agriculture and Climate Change Adaptation

Overview of activities:

The project strengthened institutional capabilities in Bangladesh to provide integrated, targeted and innovative communication services in rural areas addressing agriculture, food security and climate change adaptation. It used the ComDev approach to improve access to and sharing of agricultural information and knowledge. It set up a community rural radio that interfaces with other ICTs and with a platform of national stakeholders

Methodology:

The project used the principles of Communication for Development and the Participatory Rural Communication Appraisal (PRCA) methods to encourage agricultural stakeholders' participation, networking and mutual learning in each phase of its implementation:

a) mapping institutions engaged in agricultural communication and advisory services
b) feasibility studies of Rural Communication Services (RCS) and Community Rural Radio (CRR)
c) capacity building through trainings/workshops, hands-on backstopping, face-to-face mentoring
d) facilitated dialogue and partnerships among various stakeholders
e) planning and collaboration with existing communication initiatives at the national and local level

Major outcomes/impact:

a. National Rural Communication Unit
Integrated in the AIS framework, it is in charge of coordinating and facilitating the operation of RCS and interface with the services piloted at local level

b. Krishi Radio - Community Rural Radio (CRR) in Amtali
All CRR facilities and equipment were commissioned and installed by the project, the signal is clearly received in Amtali and at more than 17km from the CRR station. Around 300 applications were submitted by community members to volunteer as CRR staff - a core group of 20 were selected, comprised of young and middle-aged local men and women, and local musicians produced the CRR station sign, jingle, program signature music and filler music.
With the slogan “My Radio, My Voice” Krishi Radio broadcasts eight hours every day, between 7am to 9pm, a wide range of programs in the local language of Barisal. Topics include agriculture, fisheries, climate change, gender issues, livestock, disaster risk reduction, health, youth programs, as well as local songs and folk stories. To encourage community participation the program “Listener’s Letter” broadcasts criticisms and suggestions from letters sent by the audience. In addition to broadcasting, Krishi Radio also hosts a youth club to educate children about different issues and involve them in the production of radio programs.

c. Listenership survey
CDC and BNNRC conducted a baseline survey to determine CRR program planning and management. The data coollected gave a picture of the target community, their information needs and their communication behavior (April-May, 2011). A later telephone survey (November 2012) revealed that within Krishi Radio’s 17 km radius, 40,000 people listen to the station daily using either a mobile phone or radio tuned to the station.

d. Capacity development at local and national levels
During a National Planning workshop (April 2011) national agricultural stakeholders were trained on ComDev planning for RCS. Morevoer, two program officers undertook a 12-day training/study tour (May-June 2011) hosted by the University of the Philippines Los Banos. They attended classes on ComDev, community radio broadcasting, programming and production, and visited several community radio stations in Manila and northern Philippines.
Staff and volunteers of Krishi Radio have been involved, along with local government (upazila) officials and agricultural technicians, in a series of training workshops on community radio broadcasting and more specifically on the topics of (a) Radio Program Planning, (b) Radio Program Production (c) Broadcast Performance, and (d) CRR Management and Sustainability.
In addition, two workshops on “Participatory Communication and Rural Learning through Participatory Radio and Farmer Field Schools (FFS)” were conducted in Amtali and Dhaka (October 2012) involving overall 40 participants from government departments, research organizations, NGOs and rural organizations at national and local level.

e. Mini-collaborative project on saline-tolerant rice
As part of a collaboration with the Emergency Cyclone Recovery and Restoration project (ECRRP), the project used PRCA to design an information and communication plan and produce broadcasts and prototype multimedia materials on improved management of saline-tolerant rice varieties, involving the groups of Farmer Field School in the Amtali area.

f. RCS web platform www.rcs.org.bd
The platform was developed by an ICT specialist who also trained CRR staff and AIS personnel on how to interface with cell phone and the RCS website

Contacts:

Mario Acunzo, Lead Technical Officer - mario.acunzo@fao.org
Zahangir Alam, National Project Director - subornoml@gmail.com
Cleofe Torres, Technical Adviser - cstorres@devcom.edu.ph

Photo credit: FAO CSDI