Voices 60

July 2001

Workshop to support broadcasters in Africa

“Can you imagine that this is the first time I’ve worked with researchers from our national service in Uganda – at a workshop halfway across Africa, invited by an organization in Canada!”

That was the reaction of David Okidi, a producer and broadcaster in the Farm & Environment section of Radio Uganda, to a workshop sponsored in part by the Farm Radio Network last March in Accra, Ghana. The other broadcasters – representing small community stations and national public broadcasters – echoed his comments from Ghana, Mali, Cameroon and Uganda.

The workshop was the first stage of a joint project with University of Guelph (Canada) and the International Service for National Agriculture Research (based in The Netherlands). The project, supported by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), will develop a training program that will provide broadcasters and agriculture scientists the tools they need to work together for the benefit of farmers in their regions.

Linking these two groups – broadcasters and farmers – is important for the development of rural communities. Small-scale farmers and others involved in food production and processing often don’t realize the benefits of improved technologies generated by research institutions. Sometimes this is because of limited access to resources or because the improved practices are irrelevant to local circumstances. But even when the knowledge and technologies are relevant, poor communication often limits their impact on food security and poverty reduction.

Radio broadcasters who work directly with researchers have an important role to play in the sharing of local indigenous knowledge and technologies, sometimes improved by science. And well-trained, credible radio broadcasters can empower farmers to make demands on agricultural service providers, thus ensuring that research will be focused on farmers.

Local knowledge for local radio

Attracting listeners and developing a loyal audience is the work of radio broadcasters everywhere. A tested and true method is to provide interesting programs with relevant, local content. For farm radio broadcasters, programs that discuss and share indigenous knowledge work well.

What is indigenous knowledge?

Also known as traditional knowledge or local knowledge, it is the wisdom held and shared by the people in your community, and passed down from generation to generation. It can be knowledge about farming methods, medicine, technologies, the environment, the spiritual world, or anything else that is important to a particular community of people.

Some indigenous knowledge is common, and shared widely. Traditional recipes are an example of this. Sometimes it is specialized, and passed only from (for example) one traditional healer to a student.

For a long time, indigenous knowledge was ignored by modern science. It was said to be primitive, superstitious, or unscientific. Agricultural and medical science tried to replace indigenous knowledge and practices with modern practices. But recently, modern science has rediscovered the wisdom of indigenous knowledge, and found that it also has a great deal to offer.

Yet the disappearance of indigenous knowledge is a significant problem. Women and elders have an important role to play in preserving this valuable resource. For example, women possess an enormous amount of knowledge about food production and processing, medicine, child-rearing and other important survival skills. As a radio broadcaster, you can help by getting the voices of women and elders on the air and recording their experiences.

Programs about indigenous knowledge benefit your audience – and your programs.

  • Your listeners may find new confidence in their own methods, upon hearing stories about other farmers who successfully use indigenous methods.
  • Farmers who hear successful stories about traditional methods may realize they already have solutions to their problems and don’t need to rely on governments or other outside help.
  • Indigenous methods are often more appropriate for the local environment and conditions than solutions or methods suggested by outside experts.
  • Indigenous knowledge systems generally minimize risk. This is especially important for your listeners who have limited access to resources.
  • Rural people from all walks of life will learn to respect traditional ways and those who follow them.
  • Your radio programs will offer local, relevant content that other broadcasters don’t have. If you promote them, listeners will tune in at the appropriate time to hear their peers speak about issues of importance to them.

Remember to present different perspectives.
In spite of the good it has to offer, indigenous knowledge is not always beneficial. In fact, some traditional practices are harmful or inappropriate. So although it is unwise to reject tradition in a community, it is equally unwise to accept indigenous practices without careful examination. Do your research. Find out why a tradition was started in the first place, how it evolved, and how practical or useful it is today.

Your radio program can be a forum for the discussion or debate about the usefulness of indigenous practices. Invite people in the field or the studio to comment on this issue.

Use your program to educate people about traditional or local methods. Indigenous knowledge is the basis for the survival of many of the people in your audience. Farmers with small plots of land often struggle to put food on the table. They have developed effective methods of producing, harvesting and storing food that have survived and proven useful over time.

Some of these technologies are described in our radio scripts in this package – for example, an indigenous grinding method from Nepal and trench gardening in South Africa. But this is just a small sampling of indigenous practices.

In your community, you can find hundreds of other methods to be encouraged and validated on your radio programs. Your programs about indigenous knowledge are an important way to empower small-scale farmers and their families.

Indigenous knowledge protects biodiversity

Indigenous knowledge plays a key role in protecting biological diversity. In 1992, the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development declared that: “Governments …should recognise and foster the traditional methods and knowledge of indigenous people and their communities, emphasising the particular role of women, relevant to the conservation of biological diversity and the sustainable use of biological resources, and ensure the opportunity for participation of those groups in economic and commercial benefits derived from the use of such traditional methods and knowledge”

Broadcaster beware

People have used biotechnology for centuries, and have protected their seeds, methods, and medicines for most of human history. For example the Egyptians used yeasts in bread and wine-making around 4000 B.C. In recent years however, many companies, organizations and individuals have sought commercial patents for inventions based on indigenous knowledge and practices. In many cases, these patented products are almost identical to those which have been used for years or even centuries in traditional cultures.

Patents provide the patent holder with exclusive rights to profits from sales of their product. They stop anyone else from using, making or selling, their product in the country where that patent was issued, without permission of the patent holder. The patent holder can license, sell or otherwise negotiate with others who want to use the invention. The original holders of the indigenous knowledge often receive nothing.

Here’s one example. A company received a patent in the United States to use turmeric, an Indian spice and medicinal plant, to promote the healing of wounds. The patent was granted despite the fact that turmeric has been used for centuries to heal wounds in India, because this information was not properly presented to the patent examiners. This patent was challenged and subsequently revoked.

When you broadcast programs about indigenous practices, you may unintentionally help companies to research and perhaps eventually patent products based on these practices, especially if it is difficult to find previous documentation about them.

Here are some ways that you can prevent this abuse of indigenous knowledge.

  1. Don’t broadcast information without asking permission from the person or people who shared it with you.
  2. Credit local people by name (with their permission) when broadcasting information about their knowledge and practices. Include information about where they live and the date you spoke with them.
  3. Keep written records of the information you broadcast including the date and source. Keep these records accessible.
  4. Help local people to document their information, to become authors themselves.
  5. Always tell local people that you may share their knowledge on the radio.

Be aware that there are many organizations actively opposing the patenting of this kind of information. Others believe that responsible use of intellectual property protection could benefit indigenous communities. The following organizations can provide more information.

Rural Advancement Fund International
110 Osborne St., Suite 202
Winnipeg MB, R3L 1Y5, Canada
Tel: (204) 453-5259
Fax: (204) 925-8034
E-mail: rafi@rafi.org
and duggan@rafi.org
Web site: www.rafi.org

Third World Network
228, Macalister Road, 10400
Penang, Malaysia
E-mail: twn@igc.apc.org
and twnet@po.jaring.my
Web site: https://www.twn.my

Indigenous Peoples Coalition Against Biocolonialism
PO Box 818, Wadsworth, Nevada
89424 USA
E-mail: ipcb@ipcb.org
Web site: www.ipcb.org

Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology
A 60, Hauz Khas, New Delhi – 110016 INDIA.
Tel: 91-11-6868077 & 6853772
Fax: 91-11-6856795.

Southeast Asian Regional Institute for Community Education (SEARICE)
Unit 331, Eagle Court Condominium
26 Matalino Street, Quezon City, Philippines
Tel: (63-2) 433-7182 & (63-2) 433-2067
Fax: (63-2) 922-6780
Contact person: Loret Palmaera

Genetic Resources Action International (GRAIN)
Calle San Jose 1423
CP 11100, Montivideo, Uruguay
Tel: (598) 2902 42 01,
E-mail: grain@chasque.apc.org
Web site: www.grain.org/

South and Meso American Indian Rights Center
PO Box 7829, Oakland, CA 94601
Tel: (510) 534 4882
Fax: (510) 834 4264
E-mail: indian@igc.org
Web site: www.saiic.nativeweb.org

Graduates of ViSCA Radio DYAC School on the Air initiate farm projects

Radio DYAC, a five-kilowatt AM station with a frequency of 1449 kilohertz, is an educational radio station owned and operated by the Visayas State College of Agriculture (ViSCA) in Baybay, Leyte, Philippines. The station serves as the extension arm of the college by providing broadcast support to all its extension activities.

For almost twenty years now the station has produced a radio School on the Air (SOA) for farmers. Listeners are officially enrolled in the courses of their choice and tune in regularly for classes. More than a thousand students have graduated from this program.

But what happens after graduation? Recently, farmer graduates of the school formed the DYAC SOA Alumni Association. Through the Association they are establishing livelihood projects making use of the technologies they have learned on the radio. For example, one group of association members is engaged in tree farming. Farmers have planted a communal tree farm with local pioneer tree species such as lauan, apitong, dao and the so-called Philippine mahoganies, along with fruit trees such as lanzones, rambutan, durian, and mangosteen.

Another group of SOA graduates who studied dairy buffalo production on the radio are now keeping water buffalo. In fact the top ten students of the school’s water buffalo course received buffaloes once they had completed the program and established a proper pasture and shed for the animals.

Welcome Claudio Ruiz

We extend a warm welcome to Claudio Ruiz, the Network’s new Program Assistant, who joined our Toronto staff team in April. Claudio will be your contact for general correspondence about your activities, record updates, etc.

He will also record your comments about our programs, and your suggestions or ideas for future services, so please let him know what you think! We use your letters and e-mails to plan our program. You can also write to Claudio to request additional information for a radio program that you are researching.

Claudio has a strong interest in sustainable development and the promotion of equality and social justice. His background in international development and politics has given him a keen understanding of the importance of strong connections to share information effectively. He says, “There is always useful information that springs up from different sources and which could positively affect the lives of many people.

“However, this information won’t make an impact without an effort to make it available to others. I want to promote frequent communication among our partners, to encourage the sharing of ideas, concerns, opinions and suggestions.”

Claudio is eager to learn more about the people around the world who are part of our Network. He is committed to strengthening our links with you to better understand how our scripts and other services are used and their potential for the future. He looks forward to hearing from you.

Claudio can be reached by e-mail at: cruiz@farmradio.org.

George Atkins Communications Award – Call for nominations

The George Atkins Communications Award was established in 1991 to recognize the outstanding achievements of members of Developing Countries Farm Radio Network. This year’s winner will receive a cash prize of US$250.00.

We are looking for candidates who demonstrate:

  • excellence in radio broadcasting for agricultural and rural development
  • innovative participatory approaches to communication
  • community involvement

Nominate yourself, your organization or other Network members. Submit a statement (up to 1000 words) about why you think this member should receive the award. Include any relevant photographs with your nomination.

Nominations must be submitted to the Toronto office by: November 30, 2001.

The George Atkins Communications Award is named for Dr. George S. Atkins, Founding Director of Developing Countries Farm Radio Network.

Resources on the Internet

Sound Effects
‘Hearwaves,’ a list of clever ideas about how to produce your own sound effects.

‘Women on line,’ a project of the World Association of Community Broadcasters (AMARC), has developed a training kit for women on how to use the Internet.

Indigenous Knowledge

Recording and using indigenous knowledge
A manual produced by the International Institute for Rural Reconstruction (IIRR) in the Philippines.

Indigenous knowledge: A resource kit for sustainable development researchers in dryland Africa.

Indigenous knowledge pages of the Netherlands Organization for International Cooperation in Higher Education.

World Bank database of indigenous knowledge and practices.