Broadcasting to Bwindi

Guest blog by
28 July 2015

A project to get the message out on the need to balance conservation efforts with reducing poverty in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda, took to the airwaves.

The mountain gorilla is among the endangered species at Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, which was the focus of a a recent radio show series on conservation efforts (Photo: Dilys Roe/IIED)

Can poverty alleviation and conservation go hand in hand? If you have ever been to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (BINP), Uganda, this might be one of those questions that ran through your mind as you looked at the park and surrounding communities. A project is seeking to promote a positive answer using radio talk shows.

BINP is a UNESCO World Heritage site and habitat for a number of endangered species, notably the mountain gorilla but also forest elephants and chimpanzees.

Bwindi can be viewed as a success story: it is a protected national park and a magnificent tourist destination. But the communities that border the park live a very different reality.

Making radio talk shows

In December 2014, the Uganda Poverty and Conservation Learning Group (U-PCLG), with support from PCI Media Impact, set out to highlight the link between conservation and poverty alleviation around BINP by making three radio talk shows. 

Designing successful radio talk shows requires a lot of planning. The preparation work was split into two phases. The first involved developing a 'knowledge, attitude and behaviour' (KAB) document (PDF), setting out the goals (to show how conservation can help alleviate poverty), and identifying the audience (policymakers and the general public). 

During the second phase, the KAB document was translated into practice. The shows were themed around the question "Can conservation and poverty balance?". Guest speakers were identified and an appropriate radio station was chosen to broadcast the shows. Radio 93.3 Kfm has a reputation for having one of the best radio hosts in the region, and many policymakers among its listeners. 

The shows aired on 17, 18 and 22 December 2014. Each episode focused on different themes and included a call for action and a suggested way forward. Hosts facilitated discussion with various expert guests – with topics such as community change, policies and regulations, threats and poaching, tourism, poverty alleviation, and revenue sharing.

Defining poverty

In the first episode, guests discussed the definitions of poverty and conservation. Dr. Panta Kasoma, Jane Goodall Institute-Uganda director and U-PCLG coordinator, suggested that poverty was something that could not be pinned down in a single sentence – but that poverty essentially limits a person's ability to make decisions about their life. He added while many people believe that conservation is anti-development, they can co-exist.

Poverty and conservation can be balanced if the government bridges the gap between human needs and conservation. George Owoyesigire from the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife, and Antiquities, highlighted efforts to resolve this seemingly inherent conflict, including the promotion of high-value but non-edible crops that communities can grow and sell in order to generate income, pay fees, and enhance tourism.

Call to action

The second episode called for action and highlighted the themes of community change, positive stakeholder involvement, and profit sharing, including the shortcomings and prospects for more equitable revenue-sharing schemes, poaching, and bush meat consumption. 

Sam Amanya, from the Ugandan Wildlife Authority (UWA), noted that communities must be able to help protect animals by working together to prevent poachers, ensuring there is no encroachment, and preventing fires from destroying the forest. He added that UWA is working to ensure that tourism revenue is shared equitably with local communities. 

Dr. Gladys Kalema, from Conservation through Public Health (CTPH), added that UWA has built low-budget community accommodation that the communities have managed so well, they are now planning a huge expansion. But she added that there was still a need to engage the communities more.

The way forward

The third episode discussed how positive stakeholder involvement and capacity building could contribute. Dr. Robert Bitariho, from the Institute of Tropical Forest Conservation (ITFC), said that the best way was to employ more local people, allowing them to improve their livelihoods and develop their skills. 

Dr. Arthur Mugisha, from IUCN, said that UWA should lead in increasing understanding about the connection between conservation and poverty alleviation, and should work with local communities to enhance positive stakeholder involvement.

Monitoring what worked

As part of the monitoring and evaluation process, the key messages promoted by the experts in all three radio talks shows were transcribed and coded using specialised Dedoose software to show how strongly each message was featured.

A wordcloud showing the most discussed issues during three U-PCLG talk shows (Image: U-PCLG)

The most discussed issues centered on poverty perception, conservation, community change (ownership, benefit, development), and positive stakeholder involvement.

Lessons learnt

The radio talk shows were a great opportunity for U-PCLG to bring the issues of poverty and conservation to a much wider audience. Despite the limited resources (in both time and money) available, the radio shows worked well. The show hosts were given carefully thought through questions to ask and there was a rich dialogue with the guest experts. 

Some things could have been improved upon. For example, there weren't any theme songs, vox-pops with community members, call-ins from the listeners, or a question of the week with prizes to motivate listeners to listen to the next show. More in-depth radio host training and a longer-running talk show series would have helped. We could have included audience members who weren't part of the expert interviews, or encouraged contributions through call-ins and/or text messaging.

The full audio files of the three radio talk shows are available on the PCLG website, together with several audio clips highlighting key moments in the talk show discussions, background documents, talk shows' transcripts and an analysis of the radio talk shows.

Hellena Nambogwe (hnambogwe@gmail.com) is an environmental educator working with U-PCLG and PCI Media Impact as a communications coordinator for a project on great apes conservation and poverty alleviation.

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