13 June 2009

Communicating research findings to rural people

The DFID-supported Research Into Use Programme (RIU) has published a collection of stories (PDF format) that show how information information about new ways of doing things is communicated to rural people in developing countries.

The authors argue that these success stories demonstrate the importance of having an appropriate strategy. "In each case, the people who had a message they wanted to communicate carefully ... They painted a clear picture of their target audience and found out, often by doing research, who or what they listened to, looked at, read and trusted. They also looked for communication professionals who could help craft messages that would 'push the right buttons' with the audience ... They realised that they would need a variety of partners, and looked around to find and team up with them."

This last issue - partnership and a recognition of the role of various intermediaries - is indeed critical and is picked up again by the authors in the conclusion to their introductory article:

"Above all, communication is a partnership. The role of researchers and extension workers is mainly to provide information or 'content' in the first place and be there to reply to questions and requests for more information. Researchers and extension workers need partners who are journalists,broadcasters, science writers, communication experts, or even actors or singers, to craft messages from the content they provide. They need partners in the public and private sectors to construct and manage TV and radio infrastructure, telecentres, mobile phone networks, newspapers and other communication channels to get the messages out. Success comes from getting partners with different talents together around a common objective."

Unfortunately, to see the contents and read the different stories, readers need to download the entire PDF document. How much better could our access have been if the publishers gave us direct html access to each story, on a wiki or blog perhaps.

Anyway, to give a flavour of the contents, here are some of the stories:
  • Pop radio harnesses donkey 'boy racers' - Pop radio programme makes donkeys more productive in Kenya.
  • 'Barnaamijka Xoolaha' - Radio broadcasts coupled with informal learning groups boost the knowledge and skills of Somali livestock farmers.
  • Breeze FM private radio broadcasts extension messages - Balancing commercial needs with a public-community mission, a private radio station in Zambia teams up with NGOs and government agencies to boost rural production.
  • 'Makutano Junction' TV soap encourages small farmers to make silage - A TV soap opera broadcast widely in East Africa is an important forum for a wide variety of environmental, health and development issues.
  • Working with ICTs (internet kiosks, telecentres, mobile phone) - E-Choupal kiosks catalyse rural transformation. One of the very few ICT projects in India that lets rural people get the information they need to rise out of poverty.
  • Songhai Community Telecentres nurture entrepreneurs - Songhai Telecentres are hotspots of innovation in rural and semi-urban communities in Benin.
  • First Mile creates links, builds market chains - Through First Mile, farmers in Tanzania are getting real-time crop and market information by mobile phone.
  • Esoko (TradeNet) expands and exploits new markets - Farmers in West Africa get accurate and timely market information by SMS.
  • EpiSurveyor transforms professional knowledge and service - Mobile technology in Kenya, Sierra Leone and Zambia "dramatically increased" how field workers in the three countries both update their knowledge and collect information.
  • Ndere Troupe fights banana wilt and other problems - In Uganda, drama delivers information in a cultural form farmers can absorb and enjoy.
  • Farmer Field Schools reinvented - In Nepal, older girls and out-of-school youth learn eco-friendly farming techniques that boost family incomes at NGO farmer field schools.
  • Voices from the Field help the media understand export horticulture - Workshops and field visits encourage accurate media coverage of agricultural practices to boost smallholder export horticulture in Kenya.
  • Wambui teaches parents through children - Cartoon books for children indirectly educate parents in Kenya on improved farming practices.
  • Rainwater harvesting transfers from country to country - Face-to-face interaction between researchers in Tanzania and Nigeria proves its value.

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