Around the globe: Kenya’s radio station builds pastoralists’ climate change resilience

Spring break is over and done with. I hope you all had a wonderful break. Now we’ve got only about seven weeks or so to the end of the semester. But while we were away, a few developments took place that I wish to share with you.

First, my fellow country wo/men went for a general election on 4th March 2013 to elect new political leaders who will form the first government of the second Republic of Kenya. The first republic ended on 27th August 2010 when Kenya’s new constitution was promulgated and replaced the independence constitution. Contrary to media reports and international community’s fears, the election was largely peaceful but not free from controversy just like witnessed here in the 2000 Presidential elections – the Florida 2000 case. But unlike the case in the US in 2000, the just concluded elections have left Kenya very polarized along ethnic lines.

As at the time of penning this article, the runner-up was set to file a petition in court challenging the credibility of the elections. This has very little precedence in the country’s history and goes a long way to underscore the gains made in the quest for a democratic society. Being a Kenyan citizen I feel it is my responsibility to share the Kenyan story and call on the world to rally behind the Kenyan people to support a peaceful sail through these very delicate moments in the country’s history.

Now on a slightly different note, the second development, last week Kenya launched a project geared towards enhancing the resilience of pastoral communities to the devastating impacts of climate change that experts say have already began to weigh down on the populace especially those in the marginalized regions of the country. The project is focused on building a radio station that will disseminate weather forecast information to the pastoralists living in Northern Kenya in their local languages. The radio station, known as Badada FM, is expected to reach almost a million people from the Borana, Gabra, Samburu, Somali, Turkana and Rendile communities in northern Kenya.The idea is part of a larger drought early warning system initiative aimed at forewarning pastoralists about imminent drought and floods.

It has been touted as a great step forward from the conventional use of print media and TV, which experts say are not effective, as few people own TVs and most pastoralists are illiterate. The project will additionally build links between pastoralists and researchers, weather experts, policymakers, government officials and aid agencies. It will also map grazing fields and community watering points, and will empower pastoralist communities to better manage and utilize these resources.

Technology now seems to be at the center of climate change adaptation in Africa. One of the most revolutionary technologies in Kenya is the mobile phone technology. It would be interesting to see how the just launched initiative blends in with advances in mobile phone technology in the country to further enhance pastoralists’ resilience. Considering that an increasing number of Kenyans are owning mobile phones, probably the radio station could develop an SMS system that sends messages, preferably audio messages recorded in local languages to reach even a larger audience. Or better still just send the messages to community elders who will in turn communicate them to community members either through word of mouth in public meetings or through emissaries.

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2 thoughts on “Around the globe: Kenya’s radio station builds pastoralists’ climate change resilience

  1. I am glad that there is a radio program that helps Kenyan pastoralists resilience to climate change. I think it will be more sound if, yes, send the message to elders. Do elders have mobile phones? And how many Shillings would an SMS cost? Who would bear the cost? When I was in Kenya as JICA Third Country Expert in early 2000’s, communication was quite difficult, especially for the arid and semi-arid regions. I hope the condition has improved.

    I have been so far away from Kenya since then, and I was touched by the warmth of the people and their creativity to cope with their environment. I even wildly voiced out a wild idea of promoting a communal management of pastoral work, to cope with the season of negative rainfall, marketing, pooling of stocks. I hope that communication programs such as the radio broadcast are complemented with support and other community development programs, adopting Harambee. If a more comprehensive program for these communities are seriously implemented, then, Hakuna Matata.

  2. Thanks Mendoza for your take. Glad to know you have had some experience in Kenya. Speaking of communication, 2000 was when mobile technology was picking up in Kenya. Now it’s gone really up. Figures from the communication commission of Kenya put the mobile phone network penetration at 75% as of 2012. More Kenyans now own mobile phones than in 2000. Mobile technology is by far, at least in Kenya, the greatest success story in the North-South technology transfer agenda.
    Allow me to point out that, it’s some good questions you raise about the community elders owning phones and being able to service them. Worthy of policy consideration.

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