Communication protects the environment in Nicaragua’s BOSAWAS Biosphere Reserve

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A shorter version of this lesson has been featured on the booklet produced by the MDG-F Environment and Climate Change window "Seeds of Knowledge - Contributing to Climate Change Solutions". - Read more about the booklet or download it in English / Spanish / French / Arabic.

Contents

Summary

The program was structured by UNESCO, the Ministry of Environment and the Government of the Autonomous North Atlantic Region. Also, the Sustainable Development Network (a national organization with experience in media training) trained the radio broadcasters.

This lesson examines the importance of and challenges to communication networks. It is not only people’s daily interactions, but also the larger forces of history, ethnicity, politics, and economics that inform local conditions and standards of living. Communication networks must be understood in the broader context in which they operate.

The programme has taught us that participatory assessments are key to determining communication trends. Secondly, that capacity development of the local radio broadcasters is critical to ensure free and high-quality programming tailored to meet each community's local needs. Thirdly community leaders, media and local radio broadcasters are important partners in the development of the media. It was also learned that radio is the best medium to reach rural populations, especially in areas and regions that have limited access to communications infrastructure.

The program conducted participatory assessments to understand the communication trends in the Waspam and Bonanza municipalities. The diagnosis revealed that in these rural areas, radio stations are the only sources of information. The rural population lives and depends entirely on the natural resources. Therefore the communication messages should be aimed at sustainable management of natural resources in order to maintain and / or improve their quality of life and its cultural context.

The diagnosis also revealed that radio has been merely transmitting to a limited urban group, mainly because that was their signal coverage capability. The results of the diagnostic were shared and validated with local stakeholders and with different key communicators in the area to create awareness of the situation.

To address this situation the programme developed the capacities, skills and knowledge of community radio broadcasters in BOSAWAS biosphere reserve. A communication network was created in the area and they planned the radio programmes together to improve the quality and the content of radio communications in the biosphere. As a result the municipalities of Waspam and Bonanza strengthened their communication structures and experienced an evolution in radio programming tailored to meet local needs. Communication networks were expanded and the content and coverage of the local radio stations improved.

With regards to finance, one part was financed through the resources of the Joint environment and climate change, the other part was financed through the local government’s counterpart.

The Joint environment and climate change program funded radio equipment and radio broadcaster training only. The local government’s counterpart financed the personnel fees for all three stations, infrastructure, and the creation of a sustainability plan for the management of the radio programmes developed.

The radio programs are still on air after the closing of the Joint Programme. The radio station, VEA (Voice Environmental Education), has more audience nowadays and is frequently on air. The other two new stations (Radio Bonanza, and Yaití Tasba) are new radios with higher frequencies and coverage, wider programming schedules, and more broadcast hours. The Radio Bonanza is possibly the most popular of the three. It has more coverage, with a varied program.

The three radio stations are financially managed and supported by local governments. The governments allocated a budget for staff and general managing. Another percentage is generated from the sale of services and advertising. The radios have strategic partners for the development of government programs; for programmes aimed at civil society institutions and those that private companies want to support.

Purpose of the activity

To improve the quality and quantity of communication for sustainable development in BOSAWAS Biosphere Reserve, where different ethnic groups cohabitate.

The program aimed to develop an inclusive communication program for urban and rural populations; people of varied ethnic descent; media workers; for those responsible of the institutional and governmental communication and for universities in the area.

The purpose was to focus communications themes on sustainable development and conservation. Secondly, it aimed to develop a network involving different stakeholders (ie communicators, media workers, media institutions, communication officers and universities). Thirdly it aimed to raise awareness on the importance of sustainable environmental communication and the important contribution of the media towards poverty reduction, sustainable management of natural resources and to the environment.

Original issue addressed by the activity

The Waspam and Bonanza municipalities are located in BOSAWAS Biosphere Reserve and buffer zones. The media in this area have very little capacity in terms of geographical coverage; also the technical and programmatic content does not correspond to the context.

The communication in the Biosphere faced different obstacles to reach their different groups; either because the information is done in a language that is poorly understood, or because the media lacks coverage network that can be captured in these communities or municipalities. Another factor is that the radios programs are broadcast at times when people are farming and usually the radio is heard at homes after working hours.

The municipalities have three radio local stations. The radio stations are often more interested on programming exclusively for the urban population and not for the majority of the population in rural areas. The communication content was mainly in line with international celebrity’s news and entertainment rather than with local and national news with very few information of interest to the rural population.

On the other hand, the communication in the rural areas in the reserve was done differently. One to one physical communication took place among the local governments, the population, and the political and religious leaders. Rural radio broadcasters were empirical and very inexperienced and with very weak skills in the basic techniques of communication. Regarding communication content the weakness was evident in the diagnosis in terms of sustainable management of natural resources. The rural population lives and depends entirely on the natural resources stocks. Therefore the communication should be aimed at sustainable management of natural resources in order to maintain and / or improve their quality of life and its cultural context.

Strategy / approach chosen to address the issue

The communication strategy in the biosphere was chosen in order to reverse these communication trends in the area and to develop radio programmes of interest to the rural audience, who have no other means of information due their remote location and the lack of network coverage. Another key factor considered was the adult’s education levels, in the area which presents an average of 3rd-4th grade.

The program conducted participatory assessments to understand the communication trends in the Waspam and Bonanza municipalities. The diagnosis revealed that the radio has been merely transmitting to a limited urban group, mainly because that was their signal coverage capability.

The results of the diagnostic were shared and validated with local stakeholders and with different key communicators in the area to create awareness of the situation.

Theoretical and practical workshops were conducted to improve the communication skills of the media and various rural radio broadcasters in the area. A communication platform was created in the area and was implemented.

Implementation of the strategy / chosen approach

The strategy was implemented under the theme: Societies are the reflection of what is being communicated.

A considerable amount of work was inputted to achieve this result and to analyze communication networks in the area. The workshops were practical and the work was divided into different working groups. Each group was lead by communication experts to produce quality and contextualized communication material.

Different interests and similarities between the media, various radio communicators, associations, community and local governments, local TV communicators and university professor of each institution involved were identified during the workshops.

Results and Impacts

Positive: The skills of municipal media and radio broadcasters were improved. After three years of work, positive changes were implemented, the radio stations changed their styles and radio content and communication programs were more oriented towards sustainable development.

Radio programs became more equitable with programming for different audiences; women, youth, farmers, and for the first time young people began to listen environmental issues on the radio.

A balance in education and environmental information was achieved. The radio transmitted programs about health, sustainable use and care of the environment are receiving more support. Radio work stations are more specialized.

The radio stations; Voice for Environmental Education; Yapti Tasba (which means Mother Earth Radio) and Bonanza were equipped under the program to improved their coverage and quality of programming. (All municipal and regional stations).

Furthermore Community radio broadcasters improved their technical skills, style and communication content in line with community context.

Evidence

Radio programming, training modules, and videos of the activities available on you tube.

Next Steps

Networks management should continue in order to improve communication skills, implement working plans and to self-assess their progress based on the impact of communication in societies and on sustainability indicators.

The exchange and dissemination of results in the first radio broadcaster’s promotion on the I Regional Forum of BOSAWAS Reserve.

Potential replication / application

This was a meaningful experience that should be disseminated as successful example of how communications change attitudes towards climate change, poverty reduction and environmental sustainability. This is especially true in those regions that have limited access to communications infrastructure and are remote.

For the replication of this experience in another context, it is important to recognize that there is not a one-size-fits-all approach for this work, and that contexts are varied and ever-changing. Assessing the communications needs of community members is the best way to learn what they need and how the programme can contribute. It is also important to recognize the needs of the audience and to allow them to express what they need from the media and its and communicators. Through listening to them, the programme can begin to foster reciprocal respect and trust between the program and the community.

For the development of media capabilities, community leaders, media and local radio broadcasters are important partners. The collaboration with different stakeholders at all levels (ie communicators, media workers, media institutions, communication officers and universities community leaders, media and local radio broadcasters) is critical to guiding content. The messages must be tailored specifically to the audience to meet local needs.

For the sustainability of the programme, local governments are strategic partners. They can be in charge of managing the radio programmes and financing part of the cost. Another percentage could be generated from the sale of services and advertising from civil society institutions and private companies.

Information products

  1. Workshop videos: one; two; three; four.
  2. Training modules
  3. BOSAWAS Communication platform

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