Radio as a tool for climate information dissemination

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Throughout the world and for centuries, radio has emerged as a tried, tested and dependable powerful medium of communication for multiple audiences, stakeholders including the broad network and a wide cross-section of farmers.

The popularity of the radio means that it is a highly effective tool of spreading information and agricultural advisory services, especially in a changing climate by connecting farmers to vital information banks designed to improve their livelihoods and resilience. In this regard, radio is there to close information gaps created by other forms of mass media and avoid dearth of information on climate change.

In terms of climate change awareness and reaching out to marginal and remote communities, radio has proved to be the most powerful and trusted medium of choice. The unique feature of a radio is that it provides services designed to help farmers overcome illiteracy barriers through broadcasting in their own languages.

As such, it empowers communities with information on how to mitigate climate change as well as information dissemination on the topic. Climate information services for farmers are paramount for food security, market opportunities, weather advisory services, agricultural diversification, environmental stewardship and interconnectedness.

Radio is a powerful way to awaken communities that have been marginalised or excluded in critical farming discourses to find their own space to speak out and contribute to the ongoing climate agenda for sustainable development. In its true nature and fashion, radio leaves no one behind. Nearly all farmers listen to and use broadcasting services to enhance their capacities and coping strategies in a changing climate. The provision of climate knowledge and market information services enables farmers to realise sustainable agricultural production and negotiate on a position of relative strength.

Besides being an empowering form of entertainment, radio communicates and educates multitudes of audiences in the comfort of their homes, cars, workplaces, mobile phones and shops, hence it is virtually everywhere all the time. Radio has never disappointed for as long as power is available. The portable nature of the radio allows farmers to take it to the fields where they can continue to receive agricultural advisory services, including weather forecasts and approaching natural disasters like cyclones, floods, strong winds, hail or locust invasion.

In developing countries, radio has proved to be a powerful and effective medium to communicate agricultural and extension services including social, economic, political and environmental awareness. While it is difficult for newspapers to penetrate the rural markets in Zimbabwe, rural farmers and traders of horticultural commodities from Mutoko, Murewa, Honde Valley, Nyamadhlovu, Lower Gweru and many other areas get their market and pricing updates on the radio. In this regard, through the use of radios, rural farmers get up-to-date information about urban markets than the information from unscrupulous middlemen.

Farmers always stay tuned to receive useful information on the radio, including new farming methods and techniques so that they stay up to date and relevant. This is important because agricultural activities, mostly food crop production, are climate and weather dependent. In terms of climate change adaptation, farmers depend on the radio for enhanced smart farming techniques and technologies, planting seasons, crop varieties, chemicals, early warning systems and climate change.

Climate change experts and personnel from the meteorological services use the radio to discuss and make listeners aware of climate change, which is a topical issue. This is fundamental because climate change is affecting agriculture differently depending on the geographical region. In terms of climate change monitoring, education and awareness, radio continues to engage and harmonise information services.

Radio remains a trusted source of vital weather and climatic changes. Even during the times of natural disasters, communities depend more on the radio rather than other sources of information which are not as fast and prompt as radio waves. By the time the newspapers are delivered, people would have already gathered information from the radio. Farmers learn and receive vital information about climate change phenomena on the radio, including vital knowledge of adaptation or human preparedness and coping strategies to be adopted by farmers.

Effective communication of useful information to help farmers prepare and change their unsustainable behaviours is broadcasted on the radio. Therefore, the radio remains vital, readily available to share climate change experiences in cheaper and informative ways.
Radio broadcasting provides a great deal of information on how to approach and deal with climate change issues and conditions. It is also from radio information services that the audience get to understand climate change information and make it relevant.

In this regard, radio continues to play the role of community watchdog by encouraging communities to access farming and climate information services free of charge as well as relevant climate solutions to climate change problems.
Radio programmes that talk to farmers about climate can also provide researchers with comprehensive knowledge of what is happening in their local communities and elsewhere. Radio broadcasting encourages information exchange among stakeholders and together, they can find innovative ways of dealing with climate change.
In this regard, there is a working relationship between agricultural extension services with climate change. Radio is engaging and interactive in that it can bring farmers of different age groups, expertise and communities of practice to talk on the radio and encourage each other on environmentally sustainable behaviours.

In this case, radio provides opportunities for the audience to ask questions on climate change, through talk-shows as well as providing feedback on a wide range of farming and adaptation programmes. By so doing, stakeholders will be accessing critical knowledge and information about their livelihood capacities from the radio.
The radio is there to reinforce sustainable human behaviours and link stakeholders’ knowledge and experiences with climate change coalition partners in other regions. Radio is there to provide versatile information dissemination strategies through drama, role-plays, music, songs, and announcements for people to learn and change their behaviours.

How farmers can maximise their yields and have access to clean energy services and simple smart agricultural technologies which do not harm the environment can all be disseminated in simple ways through the radio. While national radio services are fundamental, they can be transformed and strengthened by the introduction of community radio stations to sufficiently cater for local community needs and programmes. As we reflect on the fundamental and resolute nature of the radio and its broadcasting services, we are not alone as a country and that is why the World Radio Day is commemorated world-wide. Above all and everything else, radio remains an information dissemination hub.

 Peter Makwanya is a climate change communicator. He writes in his personal capacity and can be contacted on: petrovmoyt@gmail.com