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A Passion for Radio

A hard lesson of Autonomy for Kayes Rural Radio

(La passion radio Un dur apprentissage de l’autonomie pour la radio rurale de Kayes)


10 / 1993

SUMMARY/INSTITUTIONAL SUPPORT: Italian cooperation agencies set up the Sahel Program in 1982 to work with countries of the Sahel region of Africa in their struggle against desertification of the land. As part of this, two Italian non-governmental organizations, Terranuova and Gao, promoted and managed an animation and training programme for rural development in the Kayes region of Mali in 1987. Kayes Rural Radio was the central component of this project. Funding for the project was guaranteed for the first few years, but by 1989 the station had entered a financial crisis which it is still trying to stave off. Kayes Rural Radio’s problems are classic to international development projects. These problems are extenuated for a non-profit radio station in a precarious regional and national economic situation.

DATE OF THE PROJECT: Kayes radio station officially went on the air on August 1, 1988.

OBJECTIVE: One of the primary objectives of setting up the radio station was to create an alternative to traditional methods of agricultural instruction.

RATIONALE: The region chosen for the project was geographically isolated, making radio a good way to reach villages inaccessible for other forms of agricultural instruction. A large emigrant community plays an important role in supporting the region, and have promoted a series of interventions in the social and productive sectors. This organizational base combined with aculture of openness to new ideas created by the emigration, made it a good area for a radio project.

METHOD: The project started with a survey of four hundred villages, including over 3,500 people. In these communities, there were over 300 organizations of all kinds already established. Kayes programme producers were recommended for participation in the project by the social groups in the region. They follow a theoretical and practical training programme before starting. In the second phase of the project, social actors who were not well-represented on an organizational level, such as women, were incorporated into the project. The station is enormously popular, with most programs are produced in Soninke, the language spoken by 85% of the local rural population. The station broadcasts historical and cultural programmes, educational programmes (including literacy programmes), news programmes, and development programmes. One of the main functions of the station is to interest people in reading. Part of this project is to produce simple texts in local languages to offer to the newly literate listeners of the radio.

PROBLEMS: Seventy percent of the project’s budget provided by the Italian NGOs was used up in the first two years to establish the station’s infrastructure. By 1989 Gao’s funding started to dry up. The station had to try to mobilize local and national resources. Mali’s radio and television broadcasting corporation (RTM)offered to provide three technicians; telephone costs were to be paid by the Ministry of Communication; employees’ salaries were reduced; Gao tried to find other sources of material support; electrical costs were frozen by the local authorities, and four organizations which made up a management committee tried to furnish a monthly fee. While a crisis was avoided in the short term, many of these groups did not respect their agreements and the station was still in trouble. Part of the problem was due to Kayes radio’s beginning as a development project. It had no clear legal framework specifying management structures, the role of the grassroots associations, the role of the State. No specific legislation for this type of radio existed. Kayes Rural Radio is now trying to prepare for its long term survival. One help is that there have been major policy changes in Mali with the recent authorization of "Free radio". Meanwhile, the station is approaching potential partners, there are fees from rural collectives and emigrant associations, government ministries are providing technical assistance, international bodies such as UNESCO are being approached. The station is also broadcasting paid announcements and communiques. There are plans to establish a print shop to produce booklets in national languages for sale. Finally, emigrants in France can pay for messages and communiques sent by fax to the station. These messages are then relayed over the airwaves of Kayes radio. Autonomy has cost Kayes Rural Radio a lot in terms of reduced materials, human resources and technical support. However, because of the transition, it has passed the experimental stage and becomea real training and information tool in the hands of the village organizations. In this, it is a rare case in Africa, and a precious example of a rich experience.


développement autonome, financement

, Mali, Kayes


There exists a French and a Spanish version of this book. This card has been written from the chapter 12.




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