Part 1 in a Series: Radio and Development
KAMPALA, UGANDA – Voice of Kigezi FM is a private radio station located in Kabale, a town in southwestern Uganda. Broadcasting in the local Rukiga dialect, it features community-specific programs targeted at youth ages 16 to 35, says Andrew Agaba, the station manager.
Beyond the expected menu of music and advertising, Voice of Kigezi features educational programs ranging from health to agriculture in order to raise awareness among youth. For example, one program called Straight Talk addresses adolescent issues such as reproductive health. Other programs promote opportunities for employment and business mentorship.
Because the community that the station serves is mainly engaged in farming, tips and discussions on the best farming practices are especially useful for listeners. Programs also advise farmers about marketing and inform them of the most profitable crops depending on the season.
Agaba says that poverty is one of the major problems in the community, so Voice of Kigezi also devotes time to sensitizing listeners to poverty-eradication strategies. The station partners with successful businesspeople who host frequent talk shows about cultivating a business mind and good management practices.
The radio station also partners with environmental protection organizations, such as Bwindi Mgahinga Conservation Trust. Other partners of the radio station focus on development, such as Excel Hort Consult Ltd., which is working with 90 families on saving energy, raising pigs and planting trees. The station publicizes the project and airs recordings of the beneficiaries explaining the changes taking place in their community.
Voice of Kigezi also hosts police officers, who use the airwaves to inform people about law and order. Agaba say that were was a time when crime was high in Kabale town, but a weekly talk show hosted by the police and judiciary on the radio station has aided in reducing crime rates.
Agaba says that 80 percent of the station’s programs are targeted at developing the masses directly or indirectly. Sometimes it’s as simple as announcers giving tips in between the music sessions, such as advising young husbands to escort their pregnant wives to clinics for prenatal care.
“Another achievement of FM radio is that leaders are now held accountable, and there is better service delivery,” Agaba says.
The communities receive information on their rights via the radio. In turn, political leaders receive citizen feedback through the call-in programs.
Covering a radius of approximately 200 miles, the radio station also reaches neighboring Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo, Agaba says.
While the state-controlled radio used to dominate the airwaves, now hundreds of privately owned FM stations have diversified and developed radio in Uganda. In turn, the stations are promoting socio-economic development in the nation. Listeners say they rely on the radio not only for entertainment, but also for knowledge ranging from economics to politics. Still, there is room for the industry to improve in order to maximize the voices and information included.
There are 268 FM radio stations in Uganda, 80 of which are in Kampala, the capital,