Networking: now is the timeIf community media is increasingly recognized as a critical ingredient for poverty eradication, the need for alliance building and networking assumes additional significance. Only then can we realistically address the challenges of scale and sustainability. This message struck home at a recent consultation in Rome on family farming and communication which was hosted by the Food and Agricultural Organization, in partnership with AMARC. The Forum on Communication for Development and Community Media for Family Farming saw more than one hundred participants representing farmer organizations, rural institutions, international agencies, governments, research organizations, development and human rights NGOs, academia, community media and communication networks who discussed issues related to:

  • The contribution of communication to family farming
  • The appropriation of communication by farmers and rural actors
  • Need and priorities for communication policies
  • Enabling policy and institutional frameworks
  • Investments and partnership opportunities
  • Enhancing communication capacities of rural stakeholders

While community media emerged as a crucial and cross cutting component, the forum’s (and campaign’s) credibility was ensured by the range and network of actors who participated in the deliberations. Virtual online platforms like ComDev Asia, Onda Rural and Yenkasa Africa, provided regional platforms in Asia Pacific, Latin America and Africa whereby different stakeholders shared their experiences and learnings. This forged a collective alliance that effectively demonstrated the potential and strength of a community network.

The good news is that similar steps are being forged within the Indian and South Asian landscape. The activities which have characterized the past four months – many of which are encapsulated in this issue of CR News – reinforce the point.  Underlying their focus on developmental needs, at the heart of all these efforts, is a central concern: to strengthen media democratization and freedom of expression. This was clearly demonstrated at the July 2014 Roundtable organized by the UNESCO Chair on Community Media which resulted in the formation of SANCOM or the South Asian Network for Community Media (SANCOM). While the reality of SANCOM will go a substantial way to strengthen the community media canvas in the region, there have also been other efforts at networking – both thematic and structural – which find mention in this issue.

The Community Learning Programme initiated by the Commonwealth of Learning has proven credentials as a powerful participatory process which not only deepens audience engagement but also strengthens stakeholder participation and ownership. MARAA’s November workshop saw representatives of community radio stations interact with academia, experts and INGOs to deepen their understanding and practice of the Community Learning Programme. Likewise, the CR-CIT Peer Reviewers training workshops organized by the UNESCO Chair on Community Media and CEMCA emphasized a new chapter in developing “a cadre of peer reviewers who would participate in the self-assessment process of CR stations and help learn from each other.” The importance of the Peer Review as a participative process has also struck firm roots in the country as is evident from the second phase of the peer review process undertaken by MIB.

The Community Radio Sammelan has established itself as a significant platform for networking, learning and advocacy activity in the country’s community radio calendar.  The Regional (South and North) Sammelans which took place during the past quarter are a welcome development enabling greater participation and also a widening of the community radio network in the country.

Finally, this issue of CR News acknowledges the proactive contribution of Supriya Sahu in consolidating the community radio sector in the country during her tenure as JS MIB, and wish her the very best in the future.  We also welcome R Jaya who has taken over as the current JS (Broadcasting) and look forward to continuing our active interactions with the MIB.

Ashish Sen