Shubh Kal (a better future): from information to knowledge and action
Project Reference: RSGL-0019F
In India there is an increasing abundance of research on the impacts of climate change on communities and models for adaptation. However, this research has had limited impact at the local level partly due to the challenges of communicating it in ways that are appropriate to local stakeholders’ needs, and failure to meaningfully engage existing local institutions and local cultural practices.
The Bundelkhand area of India sits across Mahya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, and the effects of climate changes are increasingly pronounced here. Positively, research shows that simple adaptation actions – such as changing planting dates and crop varieties – can greatly reduce these climate change impacts for farming communities. The challenge is to help farmers access and contribute to this knowledge and research.
Shubh Kal has successfully piloted a communication model to bridge the communication gap between communities, scientists and government officials. The project aimed to strengthen community knowledge and voice on climate change impacts and adaptation, by exploring community radio as a medium for disseminating climate change messages and sharing farming communities’ experiences of adapting to climate change.
Radio is still the dominant media format among poorer communities in rural India. Capitalizing on the reach and influence of existing radio stations and information networks in Bundelkhand, Shubh Kal has built the capacity of local radio stations to broadcast about climate issues, adaptation options and relevant government schemes to farming communities in an accessible way. At the same time, the stations learnt to provide a platform for communities to share their experiences with scientists and decision makers. Alongside capacity building of radio journalists, Shubh Kal has produced research examining channels for communicating climate change information to farming communities and their information knowledge needs.
Radio Bundelkhand, launched by Development Alternatives in October 2008, had successfully piloted the Shubh Kal climate change reporting appraoch; with CDKN funding, Shubh Kal was extended to 3 new stations Radio Bundelkhand, Radio Dharkhan, Lalit Lokvani and Chanderi Ki Awaaz. Each community radio station broadcasts to about 130 villages, in total reaching up to 400,000 people.
Watch the short film below to see how the Shubh Kal community radio model works.
Climate Change FM
More information regarding the project’s concept and aims can be accessed in the short brochure Shubh Kal: We Change with Climate Change, which was published at the start of the project.
Outcomes and resources:
Research on community radio as a medium for sharing climate change knowledge
Nick Monzy Martin of Development Alternatives has published an academic article in the Indian Research Journey of Extension Eduction, on the Use of Seasonal Forecast Information in Farm Level Decision Making in Bundelkhand, India. The article draws on the Shubh Kal project’s reserach on the use of agro-meteorological data by farmers and farming groups in Bundelkhand, and is available online free of charge. The paper clearly shows that radio is an effective medium for communicating seasonal forecast information to farmers in the area, and that access to radio is a key determinant of forecast-informed decision making.
Two further academic papers have been submitted to journals and are currently awaiting publication. The upcoming journey articles will explore the information and knowledge needs of climate vulnerable communities for enabling adaptation in India, and examine the experiences of communities targeted by the Shubh Kal project:
- Community Grassroots and Climate Change Communication: Mapping Grassroots Experiences of the ‘Shubh Kal’ Project in Bundelkhand, Central India
- Addressing the information and knowledge needs of farmers to enable climate change adaptation – A study of Bundelkhand region in Central India
Capacity building for climate journalism
The two capacity building workshops in October and November 2012, were held to train 35 radio reporters and village reporters from four community radio stations in climate change reporting. Out of the four radio stations involved, only Radio Bundelkhand had previously made radio programmes on climate change, and the sessions were received enthusiastically. The training included background on the concept of climate change, the impact of climate change on farming communities in India, adaptation options, sources of information, and journalistic advice on how to make interesting stories and radio programmes on themes related to cliamte change, such as questions to ask farmer and experts.
Following the training, the stations made five pilot radio programmes on climate change and received mentoring from the Shubh Kal team, including a two-day feedback workshop held in February 2013. Read the capacity building workshop report and the Climate Change Guide for Community Radio Reporters (also available in Hindi). A short (5 minute) film about capacity building workshops is shown below:
Capacity building workshops
After the pilots, the stations each made 12 radio shows on a host of climate change issues, which were broadcast to more than 400 villages from January 2013. The 10 – 20 minute programmes were created in an ‘infotainment’ style using jingles, dramas, interviews, folk songs and talk shows. In 30 villages, the radio shows were played to small groups of participants (narrowcasting) to encourage feedback and discuss the issues raised.
You can listen to some of the radio shows they produced via the links below:
Chanderi ki Awaaz – Climate resilient farming techniques (Transcript)
Chanderi ki Awaaz – Rainwater harvesting (Transcript)
Lalit Lokvani – Agroforesty (Transcript)
Radio Bundelkhand – Less water intensive crops (Transcript)
Radio Bundelkhand – Weather forecast information (Transcript)
Radio Dhadkan – Organic fertilizers (Transcript)
The shows proved popular among listeners, and the radio stations intend to continue making and airing shows like these. In addition, stations managers have noted improvements in the journalism skills of radio reporters, reflected in better quality programmes and the use of infotainment approaches for shows on other topics as well.
Bridging the Community – Science – Policy Gap
As a result of the radio show programmes, farming communities in Bundelkhand have become more aware of government initiatives related to climate change. For example, as explained by Baby Raja the Station Manager for Radio Dhadkan:
“After a narrow casting session of a Shubh Kal radio show on ‘bio gas’ in Nauhri village, 12 villagers expressed an interest in installing biogas plants. We communicated this feedback to the agriculture department official who had a yearly target of installing 290 biogas plants in the district. We facilitated a meeting in the village where the community members directly interacted with the government official to clear their doubts. Work has now begun for bio gas plant installation in a number of households in this village.”
Equally, the project has helped build bridges between research centres, community radio journalists and the farming communities. For example Sarnam, a radio reporter from Radio Dadhkan said:
“The government officials and scientists in my district now recognise me by name and face. They call me if they find any new information about climate change. I also invite them to our studio for talk shows and interviews… In many villages, farmers have told me that they Shubh Kal shows have been their only source of information regarding adaptation options and government schemes related to the same. I feel proud of being able to help my fellow community members and wish to continue making such programmes in the future.”
More information about the experiences of farmers, journalists, government officials and scientists involved in the Shubh Kal project are presented in the research report Community Radios and Climate Change Communication mentioned above.
The short film below shows, in the words of some journalists, farmers and scientists involved, how the Shubh Kal radio shows have helped to bridge the communication gap.
In February 2013, the Shubh Kal project team organised a national climate change workshop Climate Change Communication – From Information to Knowledge to Action. The workshop was attended by state and national level government officials, researchers, journalists, film makers, community media professionals, civil socienty, donor agencies and experts from scientific institutions. Government officials included representatives from the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, National Council for Science & Technology Communication (part of the Department of Science & Technology), Environmental Planning & Coordination Organisation, Ministry of Environment & Forests, and Ministry of Water Resources. In addition, radio reporters from 3 of the community radio stations attended, where they shared their experiences of reporting on climate change issues on the ground.
The gathered participants discussed aspects and perspectives of community radio, with invited speakers presenting radio reporters’ perspectives, the merits and challenges associated with community radio as a communication medium, and policy recommendations. Read the National Workshop Proceedings for full details. Following the workshop, the Shubh Kal team are in discussion with the Department of Science and Technology to roll out the project’s training materials to other actors. The Shubh Kal team is also engaging with the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to explore the possibility of replicating the community-based climate change broadcasting model to the other 146 community radio stations across India.
National and State Level briefing papers provide a background on community radio and recommendations for maximising community radio reporting for adaptation purposes for the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, State Action Plan on Climate Change (SAPCC), Agriculture Extension Agencies and local planning bodies in Madhya Pradesh.
Radio-informed community action on climate change
For many villages in Bundelkhand, the Shubh Kal radio shows are currently the only source of information on climate change impacts, adaption options and existing government support schemes such as the Kisan Call Centre – a toll free extension service for farmers.
Many farmers interviewed in the late stages of the Shubh Kal project said they had begun to apply some of the adaptation techniques in their work, and have become pro-active in seeking solutions to the problems posed by climate change. These include farm bundling as a conservation measure to prevent soil erosion, agroforestry, multi-cropping, making farm ponds to support water management, planting more trees and developing small-scale biogas plants.
The film below demonstrates the variety of climate resilient farming measures which have been promoted through the Shubh Kal radio programmes and adopted by farmers in Bundelkhand.
Climate resilient farming
Over 200 villagers adopted the practice of developing organic compost (amrit mitti), which was shared in one of the radio programmes as a method to reduce dependence on chemical fertilisers. Farmers have reported this has led to savings which could be spent elsewhere. Another 1000-1200 farmers are estimated to have started to experiment with new seed varieties, including a barely crop that requires 50% less water for irrigation, and can yield 20% more economic value.
Farmers’ experiences of the agroforestry and multicropping techniques promoted through the radio programmes, and the impact of the techniques on their lives and livelihoods, are shown in the short film below.
Finally, the short film below highlights the water management and irrigation measures promoted through the Shubh Kal project.
Contact: Amy Kirbyshire