The advancement in technology has given rise to various communication platforms. People can readily access information with the availability of television, radio, print media, mobile phones, internet, and recently the rise of social media. But in spite of the changing trends in media platforms, radio remains one of the most popular and cost-effective medium of communication in delivering information to communities in rural areas.
In a survey conducted by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, about 85% of Filipino households have access to radio. Rural communities still heavily rely on this medium as their primary source of information and entertainment. In order to maximize its use and potential, municipalities and provinces across the Philippines have established their own community radio stations to broadcast local current events and development-oriented programs. With the grassroots as the primary target, it serves as an avenue for community members to voice out local issues and concerns, which are usually not covered by commercial radio stations.
Community radio for climate change adaptation
As early as the 1950s, community radios have aired development-oriented programs which focus on agricultural productivity, health, and environmental concerns. Recently, with climate change as a pressing cross-cutting concern, there have been efforts to include climate information in these programs, with particular attention to elevate the knowledge of farmers of climate-smart farming practices.
Based on Good Climate Change Adaptation Practices Manual published by the Philippines Climate Change Adaptation Project (PhilCCAP), the use of community radio as a tool for social mobilization for climate awareness and adaptation is identified as one of the 10 good practices for climate change adaptation. Community radios have the power to educate the community, bring together its members, and turn these alliances to collective action to enact concerns on climate change.
Communicating climate change requires far more than simple information dissemination for people to have a good grasp of the “new normal.” With a participatory approach in radio programming, rural broadcasters can develop radio programs and plugs on climate change and other environment topics with inputs from the community. Localized content creates more engagement since people can easily identify with the issues and concerns in their respective communities, thus sustaining listenership.
Community radios: tapping potentials and going beyond
As part of their communication activities for 2016, PhilCCAP in Region 13 partnered with a community radio station in Siargao Islands for a radio plug campaign. Through Radyo Kabakhawan 97.7 FM, officers and staff of the project co-developed scripts for plugs with a wide spectrum of topics. International environment celebrations were localized to show its relevance to community members. The rich biodiversity of SIPLAS (Siargao Islands Protected Landscape and Seascape) were also part of the topics discussed. Messaging of these radio plugs were, of course, mainstreamed with concepts of climate change and climate change adaptation.
Since no formal mechanism was developed to assess listenership, PhilCCAP Region 13 staff developed a Question-and-Answer radio game as a simple way to elicit feedback. Listeners who got answers right were awarded with simple prizes such as household items.
The partnership with the community radio station turned out successful, resulting to a total of 35 radio plugs produced and aired – an excess of 26 plugs from their original target of 9.
The experience of PhilCCAP Region 13 in tapping the potentials of a community radio was a not a perfect setup. It still lacked the elements in maximizing the use of community radios for social mobilization. However, it did provide a good exemplar on how national government agencies or government projects can create meaningful partnerships with local radio stations and thus utilize them to reach out to its beneficiaries and stakeholders.
The Agricultural Training Institute (ATI), the implementing agency for PhilCCAP’s Component 2.2: Enhancing Delivery and Effectiveness of Extension Services for Farm-level Climate Risk Management, will also be tapping community radio stations in its regional offices to broadcast School-On-The-Air (SOA) programs on climate-smart agriculture practices. Using the Enhanced Climate Smart Farmer Field School Manual for Trainers, a knowledge product of PhilCCAP as the main technical reference, farmers all over the country are expected to be equipped with knowledge of climate information and climate-responsive farming practices which will help them cope with the impacts of climate change. The SOA programs are expected to roll out in the latter quarters of 2017.
Community radios still play a crucial role in reaching, informing, and engaging rural communities in the country amidst the advent of the new media. The government must now realize its potential in mobilizing and educating the public on science-based climate information which will be helpful in making informed decisions in the areas of agriculture, environment, health, and other vital sectors. At the same time, it must find ways on how it can harmonize community radios with other available communication platforms for public engagement and thus increase the probability of attaining the country’s goals in adapting and mitigating climate change. (PhilCCAP/ Paolo G. Balderia)