Uganda: Radio for Justice and Human Rights in northern Uganda

Photo courtesy of NUMEC

Photo courtesy of NUMEC

A chime rings out from the radio speakers. A booming male voice intones: “This is Facing Justice, brought to you by the Institute of War and Peace Reporting, discussing issues of justice and human rights in northern Uganda.”

Facing Justice was a biweekly radio program which aired on radio stations across seven northern Ugandan districts. It was first broadcast in September 2009 and ended in 2013. During its four-year lifetime, the program helped rebuild a community shattered by two decades of war.

Tackling justice and human rights was a bold move for northern Uganda’s local radio stations. But an estimated 4.6 million Ugandans tuned in twice a week to Mega FM, Radio Rhino, Voice of Teso, Radio Palwak and Radio Pacis to hear about the reconciliation process.

In 2010 and 2011, the Northern Uganda Media Club, or NUMEC, took over production of Facing Justice from the Institute of War and Peace Reporting, or IWPR. The program was picked up and broadcast on a network of 12 radio stations. In 2014, its successor program is still going strong.

Simon Jennings is the Africa editor at IWPR. He says: “This radio show was a follow-up to the International Criminal Court’s 2005 indictment of Joseph Kony and LRA [Lord’s Resistance Army] commanders. The idea was to … monitor these developments and give people a voice and [an] insight into these complex processes.”

Mr. Jennings adds, “Radio is a key medium. Through it, we were able to reach a huge audience.”

Facing Justice was a 30-minute program broadcast in English, Luo, Ateso and Lugbara. It examined community topics such as the availability of health services, gender-based violence and access to clean drinking water.

But Facing Justice was not simply a radio show. IWPR trained freelance Ugandan journalists and staff at its partner radio stations, focusing on investigative reporting. Reporters were taught how best to tackle stories like the hunt for Kony. Internally displaced people were still returning home and this subject, in particular, was a sensitive one for many listeners.Northern Uganda Media Club - NUMEC

Mr. Jennings says: “Some of the journalists IWPR trained have gone on to work as reporters in media houses in Gulu, Lira and Kampala. One reporter is now a correspondent for the national Daily Monitor newspaper in Uganda. In all, we trained 30 to 40 journalists.”

Moses Odokonyero is the chairman of NUMEC. He says: “Following the launch of Facing Justice in 2009, new training modules in investigative reporting and technical sound production for radio have raised the standard of reporting among the local journalists.”

He adds: “It has also equipped the journalists with [the] specific editorial skills necessary for them to choose topics and story angles relevant to the local audience.”

As the situation in northern Uganda improves, radio programming is responding. Earlier this year, NUMEC launched Voices for Peace, a peacebuilding radio program which continues where Facing Justice left off.

Mr. Odokonyero explains: “Voices for Peace, which will air throughout 2014, is acting as a much needed platform to share information on peace. [It aims to provoke] debate around post-conflict issues in northern Uganda, and thus contribute to de-escalating conflicts that could otherwise turn violent.”

Published online @ Farm Radio Weekly

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Tanzanian journalist benefits from Canadian capacity building efforts

Rotlinde Achimpota at MJ FMARUSHA, Tanzania - The radio speaker cackles with static as Rotlinde Achimpota turns the dial, before stopping at 93 FM  ̶ Mambo Jambo Radio, affectionately known to its listeners as MJ. The voice of a young broadcaster is heard reporting live from a bongo flava concert. This speaks volumes about the message this energetic radio station transmits.

Dar es Salaam is referred to in the country’s burgeoning music industry as ubongo, or brain in Swahili. But this privately-owned, Arusha radio station is challenging Dar’s biggest entertainment behemoths with something different.

Rotlinde Achimpota, at 46 years of age, is the oldest staff member at MJ. A wife and mother of four children, she knows first-hand what it’s like to communicate with Tanzania’s youth.

“I’m a full-time mom and part-time radio presenter. I learn so much from my kids about what’s going on in Tanzania,” she said.

Achimpota lives in Usa River, 23 kilometres east of Arusha, where she tends a to small farm. Maize, cassava, pumpkin and potatoes all thrive in her kitchen garden which surrounds the family’s home. For the last six years she’s been working as a broadcaster, but 12 weeks ago she decided to bring something new to the table at MJ.

“I launched Arusha’s newest agriculture program, Kilimo na Jamii [Farming and Society] on Saturday, June 14 [2014]. It airs every Saturday from 4:30 to 5 p.m.” Achimpota said. “I really want to engage youth in agriculture as a business opportunity. Most youth tend to think cultivating is for old people. I want to show them it’s not.”

Weather ICT for rural farmers

Kassim Sheghembe, known as “Flash,” is Farm Radio International’s Radio and Information and Communication Technologies [ICTs] developer in Tanzania. Achimpota teamed up with Flash earlier this year to develop a weekly weather alert for farmers in the northern highlands. The result, Beep for Weather, has already become an essential service for farmers around Arusha.

“After this [project], Rotlinde [Achimpota] was very eager to start her own farmer radio program. She approached me to ask for Farm Radio’s support, so I told her we could support her with ICTs,” Flash said. “She’s very resourceful and self-motivated. She’s already found a sponsor for her program.”

Working with Farm Radio International has helped Achimpota to improve her skills as a broadcaster giving her the confidence to start a program which has never been attempted at MJ before. Once she realized the impact her weather report was having on farmers, she decided to make it a regular feature on Farming and Society.

“It helped me be more comfortable with editing. I’m becoming a radio producer. I do the program all by myself. I prepare it every week,” she said. “If you tune in you can hear from farmers and experts share critical agriculture information.”

Rights Media in the community

Jared Knoll, a Canadian human rights media trainer, was placed for six months at Mambo Jambo Radio by Journalists for Human Rights, or JHR. Between September 2013 and February of this year, he worked closely with Achimpota, building on her raw talent.Rotlinde Achimpota at Mambo Jambo Radio

“She was always curious and eager to learn new skills,” Knoll said. “I learned as much from her as she learned from me. She’s a very brave individual and so passionate when it comes to helping her community. I found those qualities very inspiring.”

MJ is one of many radio stations around the world to benefit from JHR human rights media training. Knoll helped Achimpota understand the importance of covering women’s and children’s rights stories, which has since made her a household name across northern Tanzania.

“What set Rotlinde [Achimpota] apart was her ambition to become a great journalist, and determination to overcome many of the risks and obstacles in her way, not only as a muckraker in an inhospitable political climate, but as a woman in an intensely patriarchal country and industry,” he said.

Achimpota hopes to see Farming and Society go from 30 minutes to a full hour farming news magazine show. She’s now using recording equipment and mobile phones to interact with farmer groups at the Nane Nane exhibition grounds in Arusha.

“I want to share stories about successful farmers. I hope this will inspire others to take up farming or improve existing agricultural practice,” she said. “I really want to see young Tanzanians, like my children, start farming to improve their financial situation.”

*Over the past two years I’ve worked alongside Rotlinde Achimpota, starting as MJ Radio’s first-ever JHR human rights media trainer, then at FRI Tanzania, where I brought her on as the weather ICT reporter and producer. I also played a role in developing her investigative journalism and online skills at a training hosted by VIKES Finland and MISA Tanzania. 

Published online @ Huffington Post Canada

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The Ugandan Radio Show That Saves Lives

Lacambel in-studio

Lacambel in-studio at 102 Mega FM Gulu, Uganda.

KAMPALA, Uganda - There is a corner in towns and cities across Uganda where there stands a memorial to the lowering of the Union Jack in 1962, which signaled the sunset of British colonial rule and the dawn of independence. In the northern city of Gulu, the monument is situated near the building which houses Mega FM, charged with transmitting a powerful message not only in Uganda, but to many parts of East and Central Africa.

John Lacambel, a 64-year-old father of 13 children, has passed this independence memorial every day for the last 11 years as he enters the Mega FM studio. As he strides down the station’s hallways, he passes certificates of appreciation which adorn the walls. These accolades have been showered on Mega FM to support its peace-building efforts via the radio dial in northern Uganda.

Leading these efforts is Lacambel. Admired by colleagues and loved by listeners, he has made this community radio station one of the Uganda’s most popular through his hosting of its longest running program.

Like clockwork, he takes his seat in front of the microphone, puts on his headphones, and slides up the volume control in order to begin his program. In the Luo language, he says, “Hello! This is Lacambel here at 102 Mega FM. It is Thursday and the time is now 10 p.m. This is Come Back Home.” Come Back Home is known as Dwog Paco in Luo, a language commonly spoken in Uganda, Kenya and DRC.

Tonight, Lacambel’s phone rings shortly after the show ends. He has a brief conversation with the caller, and then explains, “That was a former LRA general. He’s one of my listeners. He wanted to comment on this week’s program.”

An Uncivil War

During the height of the 20-year-long brutal war with the Lord’s Resistance Army in northern Uganda, Lacambel was broadcasting Come Back Home up to three times a week to counter LRA propaganda. As part of their reign of terror, the LRA would tell abductees that if they returned home, they would be arrested by Ugandan soldiers or killed by family and friends in the community.

A warrant for Joseph Kony’s arrest, along with three of his deputies, was issued by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Finally driven out of Uganda, the LRA is now believed to be located somewhere in the area between Central African Republic, South Sudan and DRC, terrorizing people wherever they go.

Lacambel’s phone rings frequently. “Yesterday I received a call from someone in eastern DRC. They told me they listen to the program and wanted some assurance that the LRA was not in their village,” he says.

Come Back Home is retransmitted via shortwave by the Uganda Broadcasting Corporation, or UBC, and can be heard where Kony is believed to be in hiding. With the help of U.S.-based organization, Invisible Children, Mega FM is trying to reach a much larger audience with its signal.

“Through Invisible Children we have a network of radio stations which rebroadcast the program. They also air from helicopters the Come Home messages I have recorded,” Lacambel says. “We’re also constructing a shortwave transmitter so we don’t have to rely on the UBC signal from Kampala.”

David Olara, 31, was born-and-raised in Gulu, Uganda. He’s been listening to Come Back Home since he was a boy. This is when his family moved him into the town, fearing he would be abducted with other children into the LRA.

“Lacambel is very experienced in the field. He’s a gentleman and a peace-loving guy.” Olara says. “Through his skills in communication, the abductees were encouraged to come back.”

Invisible Children partner with 11 radio stations in Uganda, DR Congo, South Sudan and the Central African Republic. The organization states its objective with Come Home broadcasts is “to reach deep into the bush, encouraging individuals or entire groups to surrender and escape the LRA.”

Peace and Reconciliation

“Now because there’s peace in northern Uganda, I’m on-air once every Thursday night,” Lacambel says. “I chose the 10 to 11 p.m. time slot for the program after speaking to child returnees to find out the best time to broadcast. They told me this was the time they finished marching in the bush and began to rest.”

Photo courtesy of Invisible Children.

Photo courtesy of Invisible Children.

Nicky Afa-ei is program manager at Mega FM. He says Come Back Home was originally started to give the parents of LRA abductees a voice. They would go on-air with Lacambel and plead for their children to return.

“LRA soldiers carry radio sets in the bush. When abductees would surrender we would also host them to tell their comrades how they have resettled safely in the community,” Afa-ei says. “It became such a vital program. Now most returnees are listeners.”

Moses Odokonyero used to be a news editor at Mega FM. He is now a program manager at the Northern Uganda Media Club, or NUMEC, a training centre based in Gulu.

“At one point during the war the LRA banned its soldiers from listening to the radio. Many were killed for simply tuning into the Come Back Home program,” he says. “Lacambel’s agenda is to end the LRA, but as the primary conflict has ended secondary conflicts have arisen.”

As Lacambel exits the Mega FM premises, he tucks the newspaper under his arm and heads out into the street. He says, “I feel proud when my voice is helping people. I feel I’m serving my fellow Africans and contributing to peace on the continent.”

Published online @ Huffington Post Canada

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Kenya Slum Upgrading Project in Kibera

Featuring Kibera residents Godwin Oyindo, 24, Hilda Olali, 49, and Justus Ongera, 24.

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Uganda: Urban residents turn to vegetables and chickens to improve their lives

Ruth Nalunkuma outside of chicken coop

Ruth Nalunkuma stands outside of her home where her chicken run houses 35 chickens.

Ruth Nalunkuma sits on her front doorstep and gazes at her kitchen garden. The 47-year-old mother of five grows fruit and vegetables in a garden outside her tiny home in Kigoowa, a suburb eight kilometres northeast of central Kampala.

Mrs. Nalunkuma says, “I grow spinach, pumpkin, passion fruit, onions, spinach and dodo [amaranth] in my garden. Unfortunately, I recently lost my eggplants due to disease.”

The widow shoos away one of her four grandchildren and slips on her sandals. With a skip in her step, she escapes her cluttered home to tend to her plot. Mrs. Nalunkuma provides for her family with what she harvests from her four-by-two metre square, 30-centimetre high raised bed.

She raises her right hand high above her head, saying, “I want to build a fence up to here to keep the goats out because they come and eat my vegetables.”

But Mrs. Nalunkuma is not just a gardener. Behind her home, a chicken run is shaded by banana trees growing in the muddy, red soil. The chicken run houses 35 layer hens, which she expects will produce enough eggs to earn her some much-needed income.

She explains: “I just started poultry farming. I have 35 chickens in this pen and another 35 chicks in my house. I hope to start selling the eggs at the market in the next few months.”

Ten years ago, Mrs. Nalunkuma was working as a registered nurse for Kamwokya Christian Caring Community, or KCCC, a Catholic organization. She learned about farming and, since retiring, has grown and sold crops to meet her family’s needs. Her example has encouraged others in the community.

Cathy Nakasi is Ms. Nalunkuma’s former supervisor at KCCC. She says: “Thanks to [Mrs. Nalunkuma], we now have many women engaged in peri-urban agriculture. It’s a great business opportunity, one I’m considering myself.”

Ruth N tends to her small garden

Ms. Nalunkuma tends to her kitchen garden.

Juliet Ndagire is the host of CBS Radio’s Buganda farming program. She has also adopted poultry farming to increase her income.

The journalist and mother of two lives in Bwebajja, a suburb southwest of Kampala, where she keeps 600 chickens. Mrs. Ndagire raises broiler chickens and layer hens, and sells the meat and eggs.

She says: “I now deliver my eggs directly to consumers in Bewbajja and Kampala. The cost of living has gotten much higher. This helps supplement my income as a journalist.”

Unlike Ms. Ndagire, Mrs. Nalunkuma has no external income to supplement. Although she still volunteers for KCCC, the work is unpaid. She is pinning her hopes on her small-scale poultry operation, expecting that it will provide her with a comfortable future.

Ms. Nalunkuma says: “I do what I can with the little space I have. One day I hope to have a one-acre farm on the outskirts of Kampala, but I will keep growing fruits and vegetables in the city to feed my family.”

Published online @ Farm Radio Weekly

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Tanzania: Small-scale farmers speak up for better market access

25-year-old Tanzanian onion farmer Juliana Amadeus pauses from her work in Kirya village, a semi-arid region of northern Tanzania.

25-year-old onion farmer Juliana Amadeus pauses from her work in Kirya village, located in a semi-arid region of northern Tanzania.

Digging her hands into the soil, Juliana Amadeus pulls up a fistful of onions with green, leafy stems. As the wind picks up, the onions’ pungent aroma wafts across the one acre farm. Ms. Amadeus drops the onions on to a large pile. Another woman picks up the onions and, one-by-one, hacks off the roots with a machete.

Ms. Amadeus looks over her shoulder at two men picking onions nearby. The 25-year-old says: “We all started farming at a young age. Rajabu [Shabani] is 22 and Eliraha [Wazo] is 24. We work together as a family. I’ve been farming with them since I was 14-years-old.”

Onions usually command a good price in Tanzanian markets, but Ms. Amadeus and the other small-scale onion farmers say the price per sack has dropped by half this year. This is devastating news for families in Kirya village, located in northern Tanzania’s Kilimanjaro region, about 200 kilometres southeast of Arusha. The sale of onions is one of the biggest sources of income.

With a look of desperation in her eyes, Ms. Amadeus says: “The price per sack of onions dropped from 100,000 to 50,000 Tanzanian shillings [$60-30USD] this season. I don’t know how I will make up for this loss.”

Ms. Amadeus is a mother of two young boys, aged six and four. Her family lives in a one bedroom home, five kilometres from the farm where she works. She grows onions on half of the acre plot, and maize and beans on the other half-acre.

Since she already knows that the onions will make her less money than last season, she is planning ahead. She says, “I can make some extra money selling my maize and beans. But it will definitely affect our financial situation.”

Kirya village is located in a semi-arid region of Tanzania. Due to the lack of rainwater, irrigation canals were constructed from the nearby Pangani River. Unfortunately, Ms. Amadeus’ plot doesn’t have access to this irrigation system.

Elizabeth Wangui is a researcher at the Local Knowledge and Climate Change Adaptation Project in Tanzania. She writes: “Many of the people of Kirya have likewise identified irrigated farming as an important strategy to help them adapt to increasing climatic variability and change.”

Ms. Wangui adds: “However, only about half of the people in the village benefit from irrigation. Many, especially women, are unable to access the land they would need to farm.”

Juliana Amadeus sorts onions

Ms. Amadeus’ brother-in-law, Eliraha Wazo, has dug ditches to feed water from the main irrigation canal to his own one acre plot, on which he grows onions and beans.

But irrigation is not the simple answer to these farmers’ problems. The onions from Kirya are sold in Himo town market, 160 kilometres away, and middlemen control the means of transport.

Mr. Wazo says: “If we could take the onions to the market ourselves, we could receive up to 80,000 Tanzania shillings [$48 USD] per sack. But we don’t have the means for transporting our crops to the market.”

Ms. Amadeus adds: “I believe if we sold all the village’s onions together at the market, we wouldn’t need to deal with a middle man. He rips us off. Since we farm together, we should sell together and receive a better price for our onions.”

*In 2014, Farm Radio International conducted a mobile phone-based radio poll asking small-scale farmers in Tanzania to raise their voices and be heard. 65 per cent of farmers do not feel they have access to good markets for their crops. The results of “Paza Sauti [Raise Your Voice]” were presented to Tanzania President Jakaya Kikwete and Minister of Agriculture Christopher Chiza.

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Radio Boda-boda goes the extra mile to serve listeners

IMG_6950-1-595x400Rural radio broadcasts reach some of the most remote areas of sub-Saharan Africa. However, when FRI Tanzania staff visited the farming village of Engare Nairobi west of Mount Kilimanjaro, it became clear that people there were unable to receive a radio signal. Without access to radio, Engare Nairobi’s farmers were missing out on critical agricultural information.

Radio coverage map that shows how the village of Engare Nairobi misses out!

Radio coverage map that shows how the village of Engare Nairobi misses out!

But now, through an innovative project developed at FRI’s radio and ICT innovation lab, The Hangar, radio content is being delivered to hard-to-reach places such as Engare Nairobi on motorcycle taxis — or “boda-bodas” as they are known across much of East Africa.

Working with FRI broadcasting partner Sauti ya Injili, FRI hires a boda-boda once a month to transport SD memory cards containing several pre-recorded agricultural radio programs to a community listening group in Engare Nairobi. The boda-boda travels 85 kilometres from Sauti ya Injili’s studios in the town of Moshi to Engare Nairobi.

Tanzanian farmers listening to a solar-powered Freeplay radio with SD card.

Tanzanian farmers listening to a solar-powered Freeplay radio with SD card.

Villagers listen to the programs on wind-up, solar-powered Freeplay radios that FRI gave to community listening groups. Each memory card holds up to four programs. Listening group members are not only able to listen to the programs, but can also record messages for the Kilimo ni utafiti (Farming is research) program on Sauti ya Injili.

Tumaini Masahi

Tumaini Masahi, chairperson of Engare Nairobi village in Tanzania.

Tumaini Masahi is a 47-year-old small-scale farmer and mother of two. She is also the village chairperson. Mrs. Masahi says, “Each month, [the] Kijiji Biashara farmers group receives the SD card [and] listens to the Kilimo ni utafiti radio program together at the Engare Nairobi village office. It [has] helped us understand the importance of sharing agricultural information with other farmers from nearby villages.”

Published online @ farmradio.org

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