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The truth of local language October 26th, 2014 by

The many languages of Africa create niches for broadcasters like Gustave Dakouo, director of Radio Moutian, in Tominian, Mali. Moutian means “truth” in the Bomu language, spoken around Tominian.

Gustave (pictured, right) runs his small commercial station with just three people, from a small building with a simple studio on the edge of the small town. And while Truth Radio may enjoy a monopoly among Bomu-speakers (between 100,000 and 200,000 people), one of the problems is finding enough content in the language to play one the air. The station broadcasts from 8 to 11 AM and again from 6 to 11 PM, except on weekends when they start early, at 4PM. That’s eight or 10 hours of airtime a day, that needs to be filled with something.

Then in 2012, Gustave received copies of the Fighting Striga videos, which were published simultaneously in Bomu and seven other languages. The videos gave background information and practical, affordable ideas for beating the striga weed. Gustave would play the soundtrack of one of the videos at the appropriate time of year (e.g. videos about planting just before the planting season), so people found the advice timely. His listening public reacted warmly. The area is heavily rural, where people grow sorghum and millet for a living, and striga, the devil weed, was strangling out their crops.

Farmers began calling into the station, asking questions about the programs. Gustave was a journalist, not an agricultural expert, so he asked for help from Pierre Théra (pictured, left), an experienced farmer in Tominian. Pierre was also the head of UACT, a respected union of local farmer organizations. Pierre had worked on striga for a long time, in collaboration with agronomists, and he knew the videos well. So Gustave organized radio shows, where he would play the striga soundtracks and Pierre would come to the studio and answer the farmers’ questions as they called in.

Making a call on a cell phone costs money, and if farmers are willing to ring up and ask questions, it means they are paying for information with their own money. Farmers also came to the station and asked Gustave for copies of the DVD, so they could watch the videos in their home villages. Fortunately, he had some copies to give them.

While there is a niche for journalists who can serve languages with few speakers, the tricky part is generating hours and hours of content with a staff of two or three people. It’s a hard job, but Gustave seems happy. He estimates that he has reached 50,000 people, and broadcasting the soundtracks has given his station much more popularity. His listeners needed the information that he had.

To watch (and listen to) the striga videos in English, click here.

The videos are also on www.accessagriculture.org in Arabic, Bambara, Bariba, Bomu, Buli, Chichewa, Dagaari, Dagbani, Dendi, Frafra, French, Gonja, Hausa, Kiswahili, Kusaal, Mooré, Nago, Peulh-Fulfuldé, Portuguese, Sisaala, Wolof, and Zarma.

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