Chido E.F. Matewa
Publication Date
June 30, 2002

Please see the related pages below for the Case Studies that begin this chapter, which was excerpted from "Media and the Empowerment of Communities for Social Change"

5.3 Educational and developmental communication in Zimbabwe

In-depth interviews lasting between forty-five minutes to one hour and a half with media experts and practitioners working in health education, agricultural communication and various development organisations in Zimbabwe were conducted with an aim to find out how their institutions used media to disseminate information. Interviews were also conducted with those working in media training institutions to establish to what extent the training offered prepared students for work in development communication. However, after having conducted the interviews listed below, continual analysis revealed little information emerging so further interviews with similar people was not attempted. The individuals or institutions that participated in this study are those who had managed to accommodate me earlier in the study and therefore no special sampling technique was used to select them. Lastly but not least, I conducted one observation on how Group Africa was using video to compliment their work. Group Africa is a company, which specialises in advertising non-competing commercial products in Zimbabwe. They conduct Roadshows in Growth Points, Peri-urban and Urban areas.

Table 5.9 List of interviewees from various development institutions

Bakare S. Anglican Church Bishop of the Diocese of Manicaland
Chitongo E. (a&b) Intermediate Technology Development Group Communications Officer
Deevena B. Media for Development Volunteer from Australia
Dengu E. Intermediate Technology Development Group Director
Dube G. Musasa Project Project Information Officer
Jiyane S. AGRITEX Publications Officer
Marunda Mrs. AGRITEX Principal Agriculture Specialist
Matenhabundo S. AGRITEX Librarian
Mhuriro F. Family Planning Assistant Director
Munodawafa Mr. Rural Press Project Editor-in-Chief
Musengezi C. Women and Aids Support Network Director
Nyahoda P. World Health Organisation Information Officer
Pimento P. Southern Africa Film School Director
Riber J. Media for Development Director
Tsoka Mr. (a&b) Ministry of Health and Child Welfare Health Education Officer
Wermter O. Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops' Conference Social Communications Secretary
Wheeler T. Mediae Trust Member/employee
Zunguze M. FARMESA Information Officer

The purpose of conducting these interviews was to find out which channels of communication were being widely used by the various development institutions to compliment their work, how effective the processes adopted were and the obstacles faced. I also sought to find out the type of training that was being offered at the Southern Africa Film School which was set up with assistance from UNESCO to promote development communication.

5.3.1 Film and Video in development

The Ministry of Information was the first to explore ways mobile film and later video could be used in development. A top down, mass approach was used. The assumption was that experts had the answers to all the development problems, hence the production of programmes which were prescriptive whereby audiences would be told what to do and how to do it. The films were screened to large gatherings after sunset and there was no possibility to engage the participants in a meaningful discussion.

The Ministry of Information also sourced programmes from other Ministries or government departments, which they would screen on their behalf. Mr Tsoka from the Ministry of Health and Mrs Mhuriro from Family Planning expressed divergent views on the quality and importance of services they were offered by the Ministry of Information. According to Mrs Mhuriro, mobile film screenings by the Ministry of Information enabled them to reach a wider audience.

We used to give the Ministry of Information Rural Services Branch some of our productions for screening. They would give us their itinerary. Our community based. extension officer would have that schedule and would attend the screening so that if there were any questions arising from the screening of our products, they would answer or refer. They have our materials (video programmes) but the problem now is equipment and vehicles. The process however used to be effective (Mhuriro, Interview data).

Mr Tsoka on the other hand was not particularly happy with how the programme was structured.

Once we were provided by the Ministry of Information with the facilities and people who go out into the rural areas. But, we have never been very comfortable...In most cases they were not going specifically for health issues. It was mostly government messages, promoting government in terms of what they want. (Tsoka, interview data).

Mr Tsoka however acknowledged that they were able to reach a wider audience through the mobile screenings. He however stated that the impact of this outreach was not assessed particularly in making communities adopt desirable health practices.

The Ministry of Health, jointly with Family Planning and the Ministry of Agriculture identified shortage of films focusing specifically on health and agriculture issues for use in the mobile film units. They decided to set up production studios to facilitate the production of educational programmes. These institutions also set up independent mobile film units, which enabled them to show the films to their target rural communities. However, by 2001, due to limited financial resources, equipment and vehicles breaking down and the cost of maintaining field staff, both mobile units by the Ministry of Health, jointly with Family Planning and those by the Ministry of Agriculture, had long since been grounded. These institutions also found it to be expensive to maintain their production houses and the production crew (Mhuriro; Tsoka; Jiyane, interview data).

It is very difficult to maintain and sustain a production house. We are looking in terms of the personnel, the production people, they are so difficult to keep. In terms of salaries, we cannot afford to have a fully fledged and qualified production crew because it is expensive. Many times you have to get somebody outside to come and do a production and let them go (Tsoka, interview data).

Apart from government ministries, the relevance of video in development work seemed to have also been acknowledged by some non-governmental organisations, for example Musasa Project. Musasa Project, which focuses on issues of gender violence against women, was using video to stimulate discussion during their mobile clinics. However, due to lack of power, these were confined to areas which were electrified, as they did not have generators.

We empower women with information. For instance, if you are looking at gender violence and AID's, you may want to use a video. We also have to look at the levels of literacy of our target groups. If there are problems in the area, we find that videos work very well especially if they are in the vernacular languages (Dube, interview data).

None of the respondents interviewed had experience of using participatory video in their organisations. FARMESA was the only organisation which had attempted the use of participatory video but the concept was abandoned since it was seen as being political. The importance and advantages of community participatory video were stated during the face-to-face interviews.

There is lot of potential in community video. One, it brings the community together and brings the community to focus on issues of concern in their area. Communities also start to think of ways to solve their problems. I feel their potential and if people were to put more funds into this area, especially in the way our African communities are structured, we are used to working things together whereas the way society is progressing now, we are more individualistic. If you can bring in a methodology, which brings people to work together and focus, it could do wonders (Zunguze, interview data).

AWFT hoped to share its experiences on how communities could be involved in the process by going into partnership with government departments and other non-governmental organisations.

5.3.2 Radio in development

Based on the qualitative in-depth interviews I conducted for this study, it was evident that radio was widely being used to disseminate educational and developmental information. The Ministry of Agriculture, Health and Family Planning for example, had both realised that in spite of the general assumption that radio was readily accessible, the majority of their target groups were still without direct access. Due to the fact that most rural areas are without electricity, those with radios used either batteries or in very isolated cases solar power. Due to the high cost of batteries, some of those with radio sets would not tune in. These institutions decided to launch Radio Listeners Clubs to improve access to information among their target groups. The Ministry of Agriculture RLC Project was targeted to farmers while Family Planning targeted the youths (Jiyane; Mhuriro, interview data).

It was evident in this study that there is limited or no interaction between those who work with radio for development as the implementers of the RLC's by the Ministry of Agriculture, Health and Family Planning were not aware that the other had also initiated RLC's to improve access to radio among their rural target groups. The work of FAMWZ was largely unknown among them. The lack of or limited interaction between media practitioners meant that they were not learning from each other's experiences.

The RLC's by the Ministry of Agriculture, AGRITEX department was launched as a pilot project in 1988. It was also the same year the DTRP was launched. The RLC's by the AGRITEX department were funded by NORAD. The RLC's were set up in Swazi, Mashonaland Central, and Chinhanda in Matabeleland South. The funds from NORAD were used to buy radio sets, cassettes and solar batteries. The agricultural educational radio broadcast programmes would be recorded on tape. Communities would listen at a convenient time to them. The RLC's were supposed to create an audio library of the radio broadcast programmes which they could listen to in the future. However, due to shortage of tapes, the RLC's reused some of the tapes. When radio sets broke down, the RLC members expected extension officers to repair them. By 2001, funds from NORAD had been exhausted. The future of these RLC's was said to be uncertain. Although the majority of the radio club members were women, it was the men who generally gave feedback which was said to be cultural (Jiyane, interview data). This pilot project, it seems, had done very little if anything to empower women through giving them a voice since they generally did not give feedback. Apart from that, RLC members were mere recipients of information as the radio programmes were generated from outside.

The RLC's by Family Planning was launched in 1997 after a survey which showed that access to information was a problem in the rural areas.

A survey, which was done revealed that although some people had radio, there was a problem of batteries. So the youth programme took cognisance that people do not have batteries. So our youth peer educators were equipped with a radio so that when we are flighting our programme here in Harare, they could group some youth to listen at a convenient place and then hold discussions on whatever programme would be coming up. This was done in our pilot programmes (Mhuriro, interview data).

The pilot project by Family Planning on using RLC's was conducted in Nemangwe in Masvingo, Tongogara in Midlands, Rusvimbo in Mashonaland Central, Magunje in Mashonaland West, Bulawayo City, Mutare and Mapisa Growth Point in Mashonaland South.

Both RLC's initiated by the Ministry of Agriculture and Family Planning did not promote dialogue or a two-way communication. The targeted groups were treated as mere recipients of information. There was therefore a need to look at more innovative ways of using radio in development.

Whereas radio in the past has been used as a medium through which messages or warnings can be issued which relate to health, there has not been a more innovative way that has been in use. We could create something like a soap opera on a particular theme for example HIV/AIDS or malaria. This could be done in such a way that people can look forward to a particular programme (Nyahoda, interview data).

Father Wempter noted that radio had an important role to play in development and also emphasised the importance of networking among those working with radio in development communication.

I think radio could play an important role in development. It is very important that the people who are actually involved in development projects can exchange information among themselves. This is important so that projects that are going wrong can be analysed and find out why they go wrong. I think that this type of communication can be very useful because the rural people can be really very isolated. The transistor radio can become a very powerful medium of information and communication for people otherwise isolated (Father Wempter, interview data).

With radio, one could link communities and enable them to share experiences and knowledge. The question was which techniques could best achieve this? The DTRP Communication Model could be considered as an alternative approach.

5.3.3 Traditional methods of disseminating information

It was evident from the qualitative interviews that traditional methods of disseminating information were not being widely used by development organisations. The Intermediate Technology Group was the only organisation among those which participated in this study that was reviving the traditional community gatherings as a vehicle of information exchange.

Traditionally, communities used to gather during some traditional ceremonies and exchange educational, developmental and social information. One such traditional ceremony is called 'nhimbe' (work and food party). Community members would gather at one of the community member's home. Each one of them would bring something, for example seed, cows to plough and hoes. They would all work in the field of one of the members of the community after which they would be fed and given drinks. Not only was information exchanged in the process but it enabled communities to learn practically from each other on better farming or harvesting methods (Dengu, interview data).

Yes, this enables people to interact freely. This used to be practiced in the past but it disappeared because of changes in labour patterns and such beliefs as that if someone walks in one's field, they would use magic to take some of the crop and you will harvest less. By introducing field days whereby people come and hold a field day at your farm and realise that one is still in fact thriving after that, the myth is disappearing. So, having people come to one's field has brought in tremendous changes and confidence has been boosted. The empowerment process on the other hand is happening by having people exchanging information and by actually seeing what others are doing (Dengu, interview data).

Reviving such traditional practices, which were meant to make sure that every member of the community would have enough to meet their basic needs would be of great benefit to the community members. This process would enable those with limited resources like cows for ploughing and those did not have other means of securing seed to get it from other members of their community.

We have many vehicles for exchange of information which include farmer meetings, farmer exchange visits and seed shows. We introduced what we call seed fairs, exchange visits to other communities or villages and research stations. Those are the main mode of passing on information in the rural communities we work (Dengu, interview data).

Among the other traditional methods of disseminating information which has been adopted by some of the organisations is drama. Musasa Project and Women and Law in Southern Africa use drama to stimulate discussions in areas where they cannot use video due to lack of power. Theatre groups are commissioned to perform during such outreach programmes. The organisations work with the different theatre groups to develop the story which would be presented to act as a discussion starter. Communities are therefore not involved in the production of the drama and neither does the process adopted enable them to actively participate during the drama presentations.

It was evident from the in-depth qualitative interviews that other traditional methods of communicating messages like songs and poetry were generally not perceived as vehicles that could be used to disseminate educational and developmental messages.

5.3.4 Training in Development Journalism

It emerged in this study that there is no training institution in the country which offers courses in development communication. Although the UNESCO training school also known as the Southern Africa Film School was meant to focus on development communication, from the qualitative interviews conducted, it became evident that the focus was not on development communication, a gap which it had been established to fill. UNESCO training project,

...was set up at a request from the Zimbabwe government. The government had recognised the need to train people in film and video production. By doing so, Zimbabweans could play a more active role in producing local content. During those days, Zimbabwe happened to be a destiny of other international film companies and had a well-established broadcasting station and some independent production houses. However, Zimbabweans did not have a say or influence on the final product. Government felt that the need to train local people was there so that there could be more local content. The government then approached UNESCO with that proposal. UNESCO in turn also approached Denmark and the project started in 1992. In 1995 an evaluation was done. It was felt that the Zimbabwean needs were similar to those of its neighbouring counties in the region. So the project was to continue on a sub-regional scope. Trainees were therefore to be recruited from the region, hence the term Southern Africa Film Training School. The students would be trained in creativity and after that had different choices to make. Others went for further studies, others branched into other professions and others became media professionals (Pimento, interview data).

Although the focus of the project was meant to be development orientated, this seemed not to be the case on the ground. Emphasis was more on creativity and the technical aspects of video production.

The project document puts a lot of emphasis on development. What is our perspective on development? On a personal note, I feel that UNESCO'S understanding and definition is limited. They look at the social and economic aspects without looking at the cultural, which I believe is equally very important. One can know the techniques but may not know how to use them and of what use they can be. There is therefore a fundamental contradiction between reality and document (Pimento, interview data).

However, the problem that may have faced UNESCO training project is on recruitment as the students were said not to be interested in general development issues, thus looking at development at a personal level.

The majority of our students who seek this training are not concerned with development issues as conceived by government and the development agencies. That then requires analysing and questioning. As human beings, they look at development within themselves and not in terms of infrastructure, health, roads etc, which is normally what government and development agencies are most interested in. We are mostly dealing with ordinary people and not people working in government or for development organisations (Pimento, interview data).

Problems in development communication were not only in terms of lack of trained staff but also the fact that some of the people after training went back to their institutions but failed to put their skills to use due to limited or lack of resources. Most of the institutions, whose personnel had attended the training, did not have a media strategy, hence no or very limited financial resources were allocated to the media departments. Actually, most institutions did not have a media department at all (Riber; Pimento, interview data).

We have made effort to train those in development who are closer to issues on development and would therefore know better how to use it. We have since discovered that it is not enough. The question which arises is whether they are able to put into practice what they would have learnt when they go back to their respective jobs. In most cases they go back to discover that the facilities are not there. They realise that their department or organisation has no plans to use video or film in their work. What we are saying is that it does not help to just train without taking into consideration whether conditions at the work place would enable them to apply there knowledge in their work. We have to train and find that conditions at the work place have also been created to exercise the skills. For example, there might be no camera, no editing facility, nothing. The reality is the same not only in Zimbabwe but also in the whole region. We are then left with people who will be attracted by the medium on an individual basis and who are moved by a desire to tell their own stories and not that of communities at large. That individual need enables them to do something...However those who come in from institutions they do it as a job, it is employment. It is just a job. If the institution does not create the environment to enable them to use that skill they just sit and do nothing about it. I believe there is a contradiction here. I believe that it is important that we also train management so that they are able to integrate into their development plans the conditions needed. Organisations could then decide whether they want to do in-house productions or contract media houses. As a result they would then integrate resources in the budget to either set up their own units with equipment or money to hire outside media professionals (Pimento, interview data).

On the question of whether there is such a thing as 'training in development journalism', Pimento argues that there isn't and wonders why one should be created for Africa.

We are meant to be training in development video. My argument is that nowhere in the world will you find an institute which is called development communication. Why should one be created in Africa? (Pimento, interview data).

Incorporating development journalism into the curriculum should not be dismissed. What has been happening among development institutions in the country is a lack of media practitioners who are able to come up with practical and effective media programmes to complement their work. This, I believe could also be attributed to a deficiency in the training which has to be addressed. There is a need for a needs assessment to find out what are the requirements in the region in development communication. This information could be used in the design of the training courses. It was my observation while studying in Europe that the media training courses focus mainly on content and technology, in Africa, the question of access has to be looked at more critically, thus producing media practitioners who are aware of their working environment which enables them to come up with innovative media strategies to address development issues.

5.3.5 Community Participation

The qualitative interviews revealed that community participation in development communication was not being widely used. The top down approach was therefore the dominant method used in disseminating educational and developmental information. However, the benefits of adopting participatory approaches in development communication were acknowledged by some of the interviewees. The use of the participatory approach could enable the identification of simpler answers to development problems (Nyahoda; Dengu, interview data).

In the case of malaria for example, the community affected may know whether it is the drainage where the mosquito's are breeding, or whether the problem is due to their promiximity to a river or other source of water. You might have decided that spraying is the answer but the communities might suggest that if they were allowed to let their cattle graze in the state land the mosquito's will have no breeding areas or if they were allowed to use the water to irrigate their crops from the dam near their area, the problem could be resolved. So, if communities are involved, they start to think of solutions within their reach which are practical and which could actually be integrated to deal with the problem (Nyahoda, interview data).

Participatory approaches would not only involve communities but they would enable the communities to identify themselves with the project. This process would most likely stimulate development that starts from within which uses locally available resources, including time, more effectively (Nyahoda, interview data).

The benefits of adopting participatory approaches in this case in video production was also stressed in the literature.

One of the other important aspects of participatory video is that the project staff itself may learn a lot. When people have to formulate what their own conditions, problems and possible solutions are, they tend to come up with very surprising points which the project staff may not have thought about before. This is a very valuable aspect of participatory video, since it helps a communication activity walk the two-way road: both parties, the communicators and the target group learn from the experiences. Participatory video can be done in several ways to serve several purposes (de Vreede No8:50).

From the above, the importance and benefits that accrue by the adoption of the participatory approach in development communication cannot be overemphasised.

5.3.6 Conclusion

From information based on the qualitative interviews of respondents, it emerged that the traditional top down approach is still dominantly used in development communication in spite of developments both in practice and theory. Radio, television and the print media were the main channels of disseminating educational and developmental information. However, the interviewees acknowledged that access to radio, television and the print media was limited in the rural areas. It was also evident that there was very limited use of both video and traditional media. It emerged that the Southern Africa Film School had been established with the assistance of UNESCO to promote the use of video in development through training of journalists in development communication. It was evident in this study that the focus was not on development communication. Development communication was not perceived as an area of study. The institution seemed to have a problem of defining what development communication was. There is therefore a need for research to assess the needs of the stakeholders in development communication. The stakeholders comprise non-governmental organisations, government development orientated departments and prospective individual beneficiaries within the non-governmental organisations and government development orientated departments. This information should be used in the production of training manuals, designing the courses, identification of possible training resources, persons and training beneficiaries.

It also emerged that when adopting Information Communication Technology for use in development, not only human resources but also the material resources are required. Funds for the latter seem to be always limited. There is therefore a need for media practitioners to show how effective media can be a tool for the advancement and empowerment of communities for social change so that more funds could be allocated to it.

For the full text of this thesis, please contact the author.