Disaster prevention, mitigation and recovery: Story ideas for the radio

Environment and climate change

Notes to broadcasters

A variety of radio programs can be prepared to help rural people prevent, prepare for and recover from disasters. This package has covered just a few of the important issues, but there are many more that can be added to complete your programming. Following are some sample messages to convey to listeners about disaster mitigation and recovery. Included with each one is an example of a story that can be used to convey that message. We encourage you to develop other stories or dramas that illustrate these and other important messages.


Grow root crops during hurricane season

Message: By making appropriate crop choices, farmers can reduce their losses in times of disaster.
Story: Encourage farmers to grow root crops during hurricane season. Root crops can be a good security crop for people who live in regions prone to hurricanes or typhoons, because they are not so vulnerable to damage in storms. Cassava is a good example. It is also easy to propagate and grow. It is drought-resistant and can be stored in the ground until needed.
Improve food security by storing grain
Message: Emergency seed programs should be examined to make sure they are appropriate to the needs of the community. Useful initiatives such as community seed banks, or improved grain stores, can be undertaken by villagers.
: After a drought, villagers experience problems with the distribution of seed by donor agencies. There is not enough of the seed they like to plant, and too much of the seeds they don’t like. Farmers and others in the village decide there is a need to take action and have some control over relief seed supplies. They decide to create a seed bank. They discuss how much seed to store, how to distribute it, and what kind of seed to store. They consider the needs and tastes of villagers before making decisions.

Further suggestions : In a follow-up program, discuss methods of grain storage. For example, a village elder wants members of the grain bank to use the traditional method of mixing grain with a local plant to protect the grain from insects. Younger villagers don’t agree, and an argument begins. Eventually, villagers decide to experiment with different methods in order to settle the conflict.

Composting against drought

It is possible to improve the soil and sustain yields, even in times of drought, with new or improved farming practices. Composting plays an important role in soil improvement. Women are innovative farmers and are often willing to try new techniques. Women’s groups have an important role in finding solutions to farming problems.

Story: Tell your audience this true story of the Zabre’s Women Association in Burkina Faso. Soils in this region of Africa were badly degraded. There was not enough rain to produce a reliable crop of millet. The women in the Association learned to apply compost to the soil only around their planted millet seed. The compost supplied nutrients and water-holding capacity to the soil. The women didn’t have to put compost on their whole field – just directly around the planted seed. The compost benefited the millet rather than the weeds. Even in a very bad year, when other crops in the region failed completely, the women were able to harvest a normal crop of millet. This project won the United Nations Environment Programme ‘Saving the Drylands’ Award in 1998.

Source: Agro-ecological project of the Zabre Women Association “Compost against drought”.
Planting trees in pits

Message : Innovative farmers, by observing ways that nutrients and water concentrate in one place, can find new ways of growing trees. Farmers should continue to use their highly developed skills of innovation and observation to improve their land.

Story : A farmer in Burkina Faso, Mr. Yacouba Sawadogo, used zai holes, a kind of planting pit, for growing crops. He found that he could get good yields of cereals by making his pits wide and deep, and by adding manure. But then, to his surprise, he noticed that tree seedlings were also starting to grow in the pits. The tree seeds were washed into the pits by the rain and loose soil. Yacouba decided to protect the young trees. He used stalks from the previous year’s cereal crop to support the trees. Later, he started to collect seeds from other useful tree species and planted more trees. After just a few years, his barren piece of land was transformed into a small forest with many different species of trees.

Source:”Farmer innovation in Africa: A source of inspiration for agricultural development”, Edited by Chris Reij and Ann Waters-Bayer, 2001.

Protecting health in emergency situations
Message: The health of the people in your community is at greater risk following a disaster. Diarrhea, cholera and typhoid and other diseases spread quickly. People should treat their water by boiling, before drinking it.

Story : After a disaster (earthquake, hurricane, flood), an anxious mother takes her sick child to visit a nurse at an emergency shelter. The nurse explains that the child has diarrhea. She says that it is particularly important in emergency situations to pay attention to sanitation and proper hygiene, as diseases spread quickly.

Prepare yourself for an emergency with a family survival kit
>Messages: Everyone has a responsibility to protect themselves and their families in the event of disasters. Be prepared. Keep a family survival kit in your home. Include food, water, candles, and first aid supplies.

Story: Three children and their parents are trapped in their home after a disaster (flood, hurricane, earthquake). At first the father is anxious because he believes they have no food or water. He wonders how his family will survive. To his surprise and relief he finds that his wife and daughter have been very clever: they have set aside some emergency supplies – dried food, some containers of drinking water, and matches and candles – enough to last the family for one week.

Further suggestions : Follow up with a program that informs elderly people of measures they can take to protect themselves. For example, elderly people should get involved in community disaster preparedness plans, maintain contact with friends and family, get assistance to prepare their homes for an emergency, and keep adequate supplies of medication at hand.

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  • Contributed by Jennifer Pittet, Thornbury, Ontario, Canada.