Leveraging Community Radios for information dissemination

Monday October 1 through Tuesday October 2, 2018 saw RAN and Uganda Red Cross Society (URCS) https://www.redcrossug.org/  teams demonstrate the power of collaboration in Pabbo Sub-Country, Amuru District, Northern Uganda. Specifically, part of the RAN team (Dr. Julius Ssentongo-Program Coordinator, Joseph Mukaawa-Multimedia Developer and Harriet Adong- Communications Manager) were joined by two members from Makerere University School of Public Health http://www.musph.ac.ug/ (that is Jimmy Osuret and Ali Halage) for a two days long capacity building session to community practitioners. These community practitioners are from 4 districts in northern Uganda including; Agago, Kitgum, Oyam and Amuru. Amuru district officials were also engaged as the RAN team paid a courtesy visit to the Town Council Administration also engaging with some of the sub-county Parish Chiefs. It was exciting to note that these Parish Chiefs were diligent community radio listeners and they shared openly about how the community radio has eased their work. One Pabbo Community Chief shared that ‘These days, it is easy to mobilize our colleagues for council meetings because of this community radio. For example when we have a meeting, we just place an announcement on our community radio about the meeting and participants will turn up.  It has also increasingly become cheaper to use the community radio for community mobilization, to share a sad moment/loss of a loved one, to locate lost and found property etc. rather than making several telephone calls (a costly option).  This engagement, supported by the Humanitarian Leadership Academy (HLA) in Nairobi Kenya https://www.humanitarianleadershipacademy.org/  brought together 37 participants (Male and Female). ‘It is fulfilling being part of a team generating and sharing knowledge and expertise while leveraging the rich indigenous knowledge too to inform the use of community radios to effectively and efficiently disseminate information to the communities’ Adong commented.


During this engagement, participants were taken through aspects of;
1. Basic Concepts in Disaster Risk Management,

  1. Disaster Risk Management, 
    2. Community Risk Assessment, 
    3. Identifying and prioritizing community challenges,
    4. Community involvement in Humanitarian content generation and sharing 
    5. Sources for content/Content generation
    6. Action planning and Leadership 
    7. Voluntarism in Humanitarian response among others.

All these efforts are aimed at appropriately putting into use the already established community radios to ably, widely and more efficiently disseminate information to the communities. During the Monday/Day 1 sessions, facilitators under the leadership of Ali Halage faculty at Makerere University School of Public Health took participants through basic concepts in Disaster Risk Management. These concepts include but are not limited to hazard, disaster, risk, leadership, vulnerability, disaster risk, exposure, capacity, coping capacity for example drying and storing sweet potatoes ready for consumption during the food insecure seasons in Teso land, Eastern Uganda etc. Referring to the Pabbo Community Radio, Dr. Ssentongo asked, ‘Given the rainy season which is seemingly starting soon in most of the areas in Amuru District, can we use the Community Radio to disseminate information about the best crop seeds so that farmers and the communities at large can plant these seeds immediately?’ In so doing, we are emphasizing relevancy of both the season and community radio to the communities.


Jimmy Osuret, a PHD student at Makerere University School of Public Health then led and took participants through the session on Community Risk Assessment.  This session involved trying to understand and identify the problems or challenges in our communities. Divided in two working groups, participants were taken through risk identification and prioritization of these risks to select at least the top three challenges since there are not enough resources to address all the identified challenges. Thereafter, participants were taken through a thought process delving into the possible solutions to address these top priority challenges e.g. leveraging on the already existing women’s groups, provision of needed timber for completion of construction, harnessing leaders abilities and capabilities etc. ‘Let us think through the solutions we can provide as a community using minimally available resources, not necessarily money. These can be ideas’ shared Osuret. It is therefore important that we come up with action oriented solutions, get a platform to disseminate this information e.g. the community radio identified, incubated and nurtured by the RAN team and take advantage of URCS team being already based within the communities. Communities can also review the proposed actions and provide feedback so that they are part of the process for ownership purposes. ‘Interestingly, if you implemented all the available local knowledge, even governments and other key stakeholders will fall in place to support the communities’ initiatives.’ Osuret added.  It is key for us to understand the causes leading to the community challenges at hand for us to effectively plan for mitigation and response.

Tuesday October 2nd 2018 availed participants the opportunity to work more closely together with the facilitators to coin actual action plans, radio management plans or strategies and further narrow down to one cross cutting community challenge affecting all the 4 districts. This cross cutting challenge was identified to be either land wrangles or early marriages. More than half of the participants reechoed that the challenge of early marriages was felt more than issues related to land wrangles. Back to their groups, participants then engaged in designing a community radio message ready for broadcasting on the Pabbo community radio sharing about this challenge, its disadvantages and possible mitigation measures among others. Four representatives from each group then joined in ‘a mock radio presentation’ session mimicking a real live radio broadcast session in the training room. This exercise was aimed at further strengthening participant’s confidence, ability to speak out on radio articulating the actual message, explore research skills to dig out all the necessary information about the topic to be shared among others. After each mock radio presentation, the teams received feedback, comments and areas of emphasis from fellow participants and the facilitators. This back and forth exchange session richly contributed to the knowledge and skills required for content generation and actual voicing on the community radio.

The mock radio presentation session ushered in Charles New, the URCS Branch Manager Kitgum one of those representing URCS at the engagement guide a discussion titled ‘Overview of voluntarism in Humanitarian response’. Charles among others emphasized the qualities of a good volunteer pointing out the fact that voluntarism calls for honesty, openness, selflessness, integrity, need for flexibility etc. He also shared in-depth about the URCS principles of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement which guide the National Society, including; Humanity, Impartiality, Neutrality, Independence, Voluntary Service, Unity and Universality.  These principles also fed into the aspect of voluntarism in humanitarian response in addition to offering guidance to all participants in regards to humanitarian work.

The Amuru District, Pabbo sub-county Town Council Clerk Millie Laker graced the closing of this engagement. She thanked all participants for the active participation in the deliberations towards leveraging the community radio for improved knowledge generation and information dissemination. ‘Thank you all for all the efforts towards us making better use of these community radios to serve our communities. The Pabbo community radio has been operating very well and it has indeed helped us reach out to the communities with various educational and informative messages. We are all committed to this partnership. All the districts here present should return home re-energized to move forth with supporting the operation of the community radios’ Ms. Laker noted. ‘Thank you team from Makerere University-RAN in Kampala for giving us this opportunity to shine using the community radio and thank you too for aiming at further building communities’ capacity, it is motivating to us the community people to host you here at the Town Council and get involved in the kind of work you are trying to do to make community living and service delivery even better. We are committed to supporting this initiative because we are the ultimate beneficiaries’ she added.

Some of the community voices captured immediately after the two day long engagement;

  1. ‘This training was timely, you know for us URCS workers, we are always in these communities trying to improve the living conditions and generally addressing several community challenges. Now, with this training and this community radio, I imagine that our work is going to be made even easier because instead of for example only moving around the village with a microphone to pass on an announcement like we have been doing, we will now also carefully put together a radio message and broadcast it on the community radio and this can be boasted by the microphone where necessary for emphasis’ shared one volunteer with URCS.
  2. ‘It is good that we can now work with the URCS volunteers to collect content to be shared on the community radio stations because these URCS people are always in the villages doing their work so they can share with us information which we might have not come across or what we might miss out for some reason and we share it on the radio for the benefit of all’ This was shared by one community radio volunteer.
  3. ‘This training has been good, I am now going to apply all the skills learnt from here throughout these two days as I do my work. It was helpful to learn about the basic words in DRM because these apply to our day today work too. I will be adding these to the sharings I usually make on the community radio so that others too can learn’ shared another community radio volunteer after the training.
  4. During this engagement with the Pabbo Town Council Town Clerk, she said ‘This Town Council Administration is in support of these community radios because they are a link between us the council workers and our people in the community. Thank you for putting us into contact with the team from URCS, we are ready to work with them. Let us together brainstorm sustainability strategies for this initiative at the community, Town Council, partners and all levels so that we can grow the innovation. We have come up with some strategies and we can build on these ones’ shared Pabbo sub-county Town Council Clerk.
  5. ‘It is exciting to be a part of such an initiative, the community radio, working together with the communities, community heads, URCS and HLA will yield even better fruits from our concerted efforts. We are looking forward to executing as many activities as possible as we implement this initiative’ shared Dr. Julius Ssentongo, RAN Program Coordinator.

‘Solutions through Innovation’