Mathare Radio provides local news relevant to Nairobi slums

In 2007, Wairimu Gitau dreamed of starting a community radio station broadcasting in Sheng for residents of Nairobi, Kenya’s Mathare slum. Seven years later and her dream is closer to becoming a reality as she builds ties in the community and hopes to soon receive funding.

Building its presence online, Mathare Radio is now a household name in the slums of Nairobi.

Featuring the voices of Mathare youth: Stephen Onyano and Faith Awour and Lewinsky Wanjiku. Mathare Radio crew: Wairimu Gitau, Eunice Nyambu and Rose Akinyi.

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Mathare music centre gives voice to Kenyan youth living in slum

Billian Okoth runs Billian Music Family, a youth centre in the Mathare slum of Nairobi, Kenya. Through music and dance, Billian empowers youth to make change in their community, and in the process giving them a chance to dream of a brighter future.

Featuring Billian Okoth, Stephen Onyango (17), Faith Awour (13) and Lewinsky Wanjiku (14).

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Mingkaman FM: Helping to foster peace among cattle keepers

Cattle keeper Mamour Ayii close-up with mobile phone

Mamour Ayii, a Dinka cattle keeper, listens to Mingkaman FM on his cell phone. (credit: Internews)

Smoke billows from piles of smoldering cow dung at a cattle camp outside the town of Mingkaman, South Sudan. Children covered in ash dump grain bags full of fresh manure on to the ground, beside their makeshift homes.

Once dried by the sun, they throw it on to the burning dung heaps. This keeps mosquitos from biting and infecting the nearly 3,000 head of cattle, a source of livelihood for dozens of families living in the cattle camp.

Mamour Ayii is a 30-year-old Dinka cattle keeper who grew up in the camp near Mingkaman. He remembers a time, not so long ago, when the fields surrounding the camp were pastures for grazing. Now this area is known as “Site One,” home to hundreds of displaced South Sudanese families.

With an assault rifle slung over his left shoulder, Ayii said he tunes in regularly to Mingkaman 100 FM on his mobile phone due to the fact that nobody living at the camp owns a radio set.

“The reception out here on my phone isn’t too good, being so far from town, but if I use my headphones I can hear it better,” he said in Dinka.

Mingkaman 100 FM was set-up by Internews earlier this year to help humanitarian organizations provide critical information to over 100,000 people displaced by the fighting in neighboring Jonglei state, across the Nile River from Lakes state.

Residents of Bor, the capital of Jonglei, fled to Mingkaman, creating a need for a humanitarian radio service. Radio plays a vital role in South Sudan, providing an information lifeline to many families, especially those leaving everything behind.

At Mingkaman 100 FM, five of its reporters are also displaced with their families from Jonglei, while another three come from Awerial County in Lakes state. This dynamic makes the radio station unique in its approach to the needs of everyone in the community.

The radio station’s manager, Aguer Atem, said due to recent clashes at cattle camps outside of town, he’s had to ask his reporters to focus on stories that promote peace between internally displaced people, known as IDPs, and long-time residents of Mingkaman, known as the host community.

Lakes state is prone to violent cattle raids. Last month, a conflict erupted when a displaced cattle herder returning home to Bor from Mingkaman led his unvaccinated cows through the town’s main market on the way to the port.

A rumor spread that his cattle were infected with foot-and-mouth disease, which is infectious and sometimes fatal. This caused outrage at cattle camps around Mingkaman. A firefight ensued which caused panic among the town’s residents, especially the IDPs, fearing a backlash.

Atem said Mingkaman FM covered the story, dispelling any rumor of foot-and-mouth disease spreading. He also took the next step of broadcasting messages of peace to the community to avoid revenge attacks, as armed cattle keepers are known to mete out vigilante justice.

“We recorded five messages of peace in the Dinka language. We also aired local songs which contain peaceful messages to stop fighting among youth,” he said.

The ongoing conflict in South Sudan started almost one year ago. It receives a lot of the media’s attention, while cattle theft and revenge attacks do not seem to raise the same kind of attention.

Atem is trying to change all that. He believes community radio can help put an end to violence by giving it the attention it deserves, hoping to see it go from a local problem to a national issue.

Mingkaman 100 FM is now working to include community leaders and organizations like Non-Violent Peace Force, a peacekeeping organization protecting unarmed civilians, to use radio in creating a peaceful dialogue in the community.

Ayii said he has heard the messages broadcast by Mingkaman 100 FM and has now become a staunch advocate for peace among armed cattle keepers at the camp.

“I have passed the message along to my brothers and sisters here. We don’t need to fight our neighbors and cause fear anymore,” he said.

Internews’ work in South Sudan is supported by the United States Agency for International Development.

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Tanzania: Cattle trails become dangerous erosion ‘super-highways’

Mixed farmer, Jeremiah Chuma looking out over the Korongo or canyon that cuts across his land like a knife wound.

Mixed farmer, Jeremiah Chuma looking out over the korongo, or canyon, that cuts across his land like an open wound.

A community reporting project with Tanzanian high school students, and aspiring journalists, Loomoni Morwo, 19, Agnes Daniel, 18, for FRW.

Jeremiah Chuma stares down into a chasm. He is standing only a stone’s throw from his family home in Ngarash, a village 30 kilometres west of Arusha. The three-kilometre-long and six-metre-deep korongo, or canyon, cuts across his land like a knife wound.

Mr. Chuma is a 49-year-old father of six who grows maize, beans, coffee and flowers on three and a quarter hectares of land. The land in front of his house used to be a passageway for livestock, but has become so eroded that it is dangerous for both people and animals.

Mr. Chuma looks north across the dry, dusty plains toward the green pastures of northern Tanzania’s Monduli Mountains. Over the last 20 years, wind and water have seriously eroded the clay-rich soils. Unfortunately, the environmental devastation doesn’t stop at Mr. Chuma’s doorstep. The korongo continues south, cutting through other farming villages.

Mr. Chuma says the problem was originally caused by locals who gathered their cattle here before moving the herds north to graze in the mountains. He explains, “Over time, the path became over-grazed and the soil started to erode … I give a warning to anyone who comes on my land, and I restrict any cattle from grazing here. Livestock have fallen in and died.”

Pastoralists such as the Maasai suffer financially when they lose animals; their livestock are their livelihoods.

Nestled in the surrounding hills is the village of Lashaine, where Orkeeswa Secondary School students have a bird’s eye view of the environmental impact caused by the many canyons which scar the landscape. Ellie Turner is the school’s geography teacher. She is encouraging her students to take an interest in climate change.

Ms. Turner says: “I’ve spoken to a lot of older people about the climate here. They say it has become much drier and the rains have been less regular … we get short, intense rainfall which [erodes] the topsoil.” The heavy rains wash away the tightly packed clay soil and vegetation, deepening the korongos.

The students visited farming communities as part of their environmental studies. They were tasked with finding out how the villagers are affected by the korongos, and what they are doing to counter the threat.

ngarash korongo

A korongo, or canyon, cuts through Ngarash village near Monduli, Tanzania, separating farmers’ and pastoralists’ land. Photo credit: Ellie Turner

The students spoke with Martha Lesian in the village of Ngarash. The 42-year-old mother of nine has lost five cows, two calves and part of her farmland to an encroaching korongo.

Mrs. Lesian says, “My farmland has been reduced because of the erosion. I was growing maize on one acre of land. It was enough to feed my family. Now I have to buy two bags of maize every month.”

She told the students that two people have died in the korongo. A girl who attended the village primary school fell in during the rainy season and drowned, and a woman on her way to the market in Monduli took a shortcut through the steep korongo, but fell in and died.

Mrs. Lesian says: “I warn children playing near it to stay away. I also warn people trying to cross it, especially during the rainy season. But many don’t listen.”

Residents in the nearby village of Lashaine have built bridges over the steepest parts of the korongo. Mr. Chuma showed students how he and other villagers have planted minyaa trees and embraced counter-erosion measures such as building soil dams inside the korongo.

He says: “The [tree] roots help bind the soil, thus trapping it and decreasing the depth of [the korongo]. Also, the trees give off an unappealing scent to cattle, discouraging them from coming near.” The community hopes that these efforts will prevent the damage from getting worse.

Agnes Daniel and Loomoni Morwo are students at Orkeeswa Secondary School in Monduli, Tanzania. They were assisted in researching and writing this article by Farm Radio International volunteer, Adam Bemma.

Published online @ Farm Radio Weekly

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Bringing Gender Equity to the Airwaves in South Sudan

Internews recently held its first-ever

Internews recently held its first-ever all-women journalist training in South Sudan

Tune into 88FM in Malualkon, South Sudan, and likely you’ll hear more than the news and music. You’ll hear the voices of community role models.

“I want to be a mirror of my nation,” said Aquilina Adhel, a journalist from Aweil, South Sudan. “I want to be the voice of the voiceless women and children in this country.”

Adhel is one of nine South Sudanese women journalists who are being supported to bring gender balance to the airwaves in South Sudan. They all came together in the capital, Juba, for a journalism training by Internews. For some it was the first opportunity to gain storytelling and news gathering skills, but for others it was a chance to build on the skills they had started to acquire in the field. For all nine, it is part of a career path, which includes paid positions as reporters at Internews’ community stations.

The journalist trainees came from The Radio Community, a group of community radio stations supported by Internews, including 88.0 Nhomlaau FM in Northern Bahr el Ghazal and 90.7 Mayardit FM in Warrap state, and others came from the disputed region of Abyei, where Internews is currently running a humanitarian information access project. This first-ever all-women training for journalists at Internews in South Sudan was a chance to bring new recruits from radio stations across the country together to hone their journalism skills.

Some of the women had been reporting since the conflict broke out in December 2013; they spoke of the immediate need to address issues affecting women and children in their communities.

“I want to be the eyes of those people who cannot see,” said Titiana Adhel Deng, reporter at Nhomlaau FM, referring to South Sudanese displaced by the violence.

Internews’ Radio Community Project Director Nigel Ballard said the nine women will help redress gender inequality in the media overall.

“There are so few women working at stations across the country, and they often don’t have the opportunities or training to get a job as a journalist right away,” Ballard said. “We intentionally targeted women trainees, and created this space to help them learn and grow and enter the media business.” Ballard hopes that together these trainees can encourage more South Sudanese women to become journalists.

Internews in committed to ensuring that the voices of women and girls are represented on the radio, as well as providing opportunities for women to advance in the media. More than 25% of the journalism talent at Internews stations are female – working as on air talent, news reporters and technicians.

“In fact the training was very interesting to me,” said Susan Aker from Mayardit FM in Turalei, “I learned how to collect the news, how to collect good information, how to convince people when you want to interview them, so many things.”

Asunta Alith attended the training with her two-month-old baby girl Josephina, as child care was provided to allow for the women to attend the trainings. Alith spoke of the need to inspire youth, especially girls, to become journalists. She hopes by covering stories on the radio about women’s issues, young girls may decide to follow in her footsteps.

Alith and the other women journalists view their Internews training as a critical component in helping to spread live-saving information on maternal and child health via radio. In rural parts of South Sudan, radio is often the only source for news, due to high rates of illiteracy and the fact that newspapers are not readily available.

The training was practical in nature, with the women journalists frequently visiting the field to find stories across Juba. The emphasis of the training was to encourage the women trainees to understand the basics of communicating using the radio. They worked to perfect the techniques over a guided two-week period, so they could make a real impact in their own communities back at their home stations without an instructor.

While in the city they were able to talk with traders in the markets, women in their homes and leaders of local organizations. The stories they discovered and recounted in the training spoke to how South Sudanese are continuing their lives amidst the ongoing conflict, hoping peace and stability will resume in the world’s youngest nation.

The nine-day Internews training for women journalists took place at the Association for Media Development in South Sudan (AMDISS), from Oct. 9-18, 2014.

Internews’ work in South Sudan is supported by the United States Agency for International Development.

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Montréal, tales of gentrification in a bohemian city (redux)

Montreal, tales of gentrification in a bohemian city. Montréal: histoire de la gentrification d’une ville bohème.

This 80 minute documentary examines the rapid push for condo development in Montréal. Residents speak about how this development is having an effect in communities all across the city.

I finished this film back in September 2011, then I updated it in March 2012 with more footage. Now the French bit of the film has been translated (with subtitles) into English over two years later.

Sorry about the wait, I’ve been busy with other things (namely travel-work across sub-Saharan Africa). Plus, a group in Vancouver asked me to do it. They are going to screen it at Spartacus Books. With a little help from a friend, here it is.

My magnum opus “Montréal, tales of gentrification in a bohemian city” for your viewing pleasure.

Translation: Jessica Wallace
Subtitles: Adam Bemma

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Fight to Protect Girls in Kenya

Credit: Simon Maina, Getty Images.

Credit: Getty Images.

Mercy Chidi has been called the “Erin Brockovich of Kenya” for her tireless struggle to make her country safer for young girls. She runs a refuge centre for victims of sexual assault, and campaigns to bring offenders to justice. This report aired on DW WorldLink episode Journeys into uncharted territory on Oct. 18, 2014.

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