Author: Carly Griggs, May 19 2015 - A few months ago as I pulled into Songambele village in Dodoma region, Tanzania, a soft drizzle was setting in. I pulled my jumper on as I stepped out of the car - it was unusually chilly for September. But the village residents were not fazed, in fact they were thrilled - it was the first rain they had seen in months. For the last few years, rains have become more and more unpredictable, and many communities in Dodoma have become accustomed to one rainy season a year, compared to two in the past.

Phoibe’s story

The day I rocked up I visited Phoibe Nganasha who had changed the way she harvested maize. When Phoibe first started planting her maize seeds in elevated rows and producing organic compost, everyone laughed at her for wasting so much time. But once she harvested four times more than the year previously they started knocking at her door…

Phoibe is one of hundreds of thousands of people who claim to have taken action as a result of listening to a radio programme called Nyakati Zinabadilika (The Times Are Changing) and she is inspiring others to follow in her footsteps.

Hotter, cooler, more erratic

In 2009, BBC Media Action conducted a large body of research called Africa Talks Climate in collaboration with the British Council. The findings revealed Tanzanian communities’ to be acutely aware of changing weather patterns in recent years. These changes differed from place to place, with some areas getting hotter and others, cooler, wetter, and rainfall more erratic.

The Radio for Resilience project was designed in response to this. We worked with three community radio stations in Dodoma and Morogoro regions and twelve partner organisations to make radio programmes to help people cope better with these changes and hold their leaders to account. As the project came to an end, 747,000 people in Dodoma and Morogoro alone had listened to the programmes (nearly a third of the whole population of these two regions) and 31% of listeners claim to have taken action to build their resilience to changes in their environment as a result.

But what contributed to the success of this project?

Mentoring stations

First - good journalism. We hired trainer/mentors who spent most of their time at the partner radio stations. They were critical to the success of the project; they continually supported journalists to think about what their audiences needed, to incorporate audience feedback into future content and to strive to always produce the best content they could.

Less than £25 to make

Second - local programmes. Each of the three radio station produced a show named Nyakati Zinabadilika (Times are Changing). But while they shared a title, the shows were tailored to the individual needs of listeners in that region. Partner non-governmental organisations supplied the radio stations with information on agricultural best practice and suggested expert interviewees. But the stations maintained complete editorial control over the content they produced - and each programme cost them less than £25 to make.

Our research found the Nyakati Zinabadilika programmes effectively communicated information on how people can become resilient to the changes in their environment. Furthermore, by mixing expert voices with peoples’ everyday experiences, the programmes motivated listeners to take action.

A number of the groups took collective action; a pastoralist group decided to grow sweet potatoes to get them through the hard times, another group began bee-keeping and sold honey to increase their income and another started keeping goats for meat, milk and to sell at the local market.

Next Steps

So far, thousands of people have taken action to build their resilience to climate change as a result of this project, either by questioning their leaders, taking up a new agricultural practice, diversifying their income or forming a group. While this is a great start, there are 44 million people living in Tanzania; we can do more. Imagine if Phoibe Nganasha was not one of thousands of people taking action but of millions. Imagine what that could mean for peoples’ livelihoods in Tanzania and indeed the future of food security.

In addition to existing research, the research team will be conducting further analysis of the project findings over the next few months. Through this we hope to develop detailed audience profiles that identify the specific preferences, barriers and motivators of change as well as needs of the different listeners of Nyakati Zinabadilika. With this data, we will be in a position to further strengthen future programming in Tanzania.

All because three radio stations each produced a thirty minute weekly programme for less than £25 an episode.


Click here to access this BBC Media Action blog and related links on their work.

Image credit: BBC Media Action

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