A network of rural radio stations in Bangladesh called “Opukoler Kotha” or “Voice of the People” has been addressing climate resilience among small farmers in southern coastal areas of the country. Composed of Krishi Radio, Radio Nalta, Radio Sundarban, and Radio Lokobetar, the network has established 100 listener clubs with at least 25 members each in their coverage areas.
Using transistor radio units and their mobile phones, members of the listener clubs learn and share agricultural technologies that enable them to cope with impacts of climate change. The areas are highly prone to increased salinity and more frequent floods and cyclone. The technologies shared include the use of saline tolerant crop varieties, organic fertilizers, floating cultivation, sarjan method, vegetable production along fences of fishponds, crop management during winter, and tree plantation in saline soil. The network regularly airs a 30-minute magazine program twice a week with replays also twice a week at 7:30 or 8:30 in the evening.
Supplementing the regular radio broadcasts are other communication media such as posters, leaflets, field demonstrations, visits, dialogue, and Facebook.
Members of the listener clubs give opinion and feedback via mobile text or call to ensure that radio addresses their information needs. They listen and sit together to critically assess the strengths and weaknesses of the radio programs. They also get involved in program production and broadcasting, hence, they have been trained on how to become an effective leader, communicator, broadcast producer and presenter.
The clubs assist in social mobilization campaigns to create awareness of the radio programs, increase listenership, and form new listener clubs in coverage areas of the station. Furthermore, they arrange and organize social development activities designed to address the common issues affecting them. Each listener club has a focal person who coordinates and monitors its activities that support the network of community radio. The radio stations for their part conduct quiz and essay competitions with modest prizes as a mechanism for sustaining and monitoring listenership and probable radio program impact.
Based on the preliminary evaluation of the project conducted last April, listeners found the program content motivating and useful. Among the benefits gained, they value their being able to use their idle or fallow lands because of the availability of saline tolerant variety and green manure they learned from radio listening. There was, however, a still very low access to social media such as Facebook, and familiarity with youtube was almost nil.
The ‘Voice of Coastal People’ program is being implemented under the Rural Radio Initiative of the Coastal Climate Resilient Infrastructure Project of IFAD, the Local Government Engineering Department through the Agriculture Information Service of the Ministry of Agriculture, Bangladesh, and the College of Development Communication-UP Los Baños in the Philippines. The Voice of the People started airing in March 2016.