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Farm Radio Weekly is a news and information service for rural radio broadcasters in sub-Saharan Africa. It is published by Farm Radio International.

Farm Radio Weekly

Twenty-one Francophone African broadcasters learn to make radio with a story-based approach and well-focused ideas

Jeanne Tchakoute is wearing a beautiful pink suit. Full of energy, she gets up to dance and sing. She bends forward while pretending to wipe sweat from her forehead. She is simulating a dance done by women farmers, demonstrating how they suffer to transport their crops to town. Jeanne is a journalist at Radio FM 100 Medumba in Cameroon. She was one of 21 participants who attended a workshop on creating and evaluating scripts and programs for radio audiences in rural Africa.

With the help and vast experience of trainer Sylvain Desjardins, senior journalist with Radio-Canada, the workshop was held in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, from November 29th to December 3rd. Farm Radio International collaborated with Jade Productions and the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation to offer this five-day workshop. Nelly Bassily, Research and Production Officer at Farm Radio International, helped co-facilitate the workshop. She describes the highlights.

The scene: Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. The “Pays des Hommes Intègres” (country of men of integrity) is jaded by the re-election of President Blaise Compaoré, but completely absorbed by the presidential fight in neighbouring Ivory Coast. The Hotel Ran Somketa in downtown Ouagadougou is the setting for fruitful exchanges among broadcasters from Burkina Faso, of course, but also broadcasters from Benin, Cameroon, Congo-Brazzaville, Mali, Niger, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Chad and Togo.

Each morning begins with a little song, a joke or an anecdote, an initiative of one of our broadcasters. Félix Houinsou from Radio Immaculée Conception in Benin kicks things off. Clapping his hands, he sings: “There are things like this that annoy me often! These are things … that annoy me!” And presto, here we go.

The participants begin by discussing agricultural topics of importance to their listeners. For example, the decrease in watermelon production is one of the topics presented by Adama Tessouké, radio host at Radio Sikidolo in Mali.

Frequently returning to the watermelon example, Sylvain Desjardins helps participants to demystify the concept of the focus statement. A focus statement describes someone who does something for a particular reason. Sylvain explains that a good focus statement helps journalists develop a clear story that includes a main character, actions and a very specific purpose.

To illustrate the concept of the focus statement, which has both amused and raised the eyebrows of our dear participants, Adama presents Sylvain with a watermelon (yes, a real one!) as a reminder that we must never lose sight of the focus statement.

Sylvain makes our dear participants laugh by having them listen to excerpts of stories and interviews. Modeste Shabani is with Radio Sauti Ya Mkaaji in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He grins from ear to ear while listening to the story of Faustin. In the audio clip, Faustin is a taxi driver in Kinshasa who recounts that the glove box of his car always pops open on his customers’ legs because petty thieves have repeatedly forced it open. (Click here to view a video of the participants listening to the story of Faustin. This video is in French.) The story is proof that good interviews based on a simple tale can help illustrate a larger societal issue.

Then we move on to mock interviews. Jeanne Tchakouté plays the role of the journalist who does not ask the right questions, and Jean Paul Ntezimana, from Radio Salus in Rwanda, is the interviewed farmer who gives vague, meandering responses. Lesson learned: a journalist should be well-prepared and ask specific questions in order to remain in control during an interview.

After these scenes, the participants move out of the classroom, recorder in hand and headphones on their ears, for an exercise in recording sound. They capture roaring motorcycle engines, boisterous mobile phone salespersons on the Avenue de la Nation and the tinkling of empty soft drink bottles. The always smiling Victorine Zongo, from Radio Savane FM in Burkina Faso, says she is willing to do anything to get the sounds she needs.

After reviewing the focus statement, the story-based approach, and the interview, it is now time to put theory into practice. The participants travel to the village of Moutti to conduct interviews with small farmers on regional agricultural issues. Once the interviews and sounds are recorded, they return to Ouagadougou to piece together five-minute mini-documentaries. They have only two afternoons to complete the editing, and time is flying by. A team composed of Alexis Mouliom, from Radio Communautaire du Noun in Cameroon, Jean Paul and Victorine, presents a radio piece about farmers having a hard time selling agricultural products such as onions and tomatoes in Moutti. (Click here to listen to the radio piece produced by Alexis, Jean-Paul and Victorine. This audio clip is in French.)

We come to the end of the training. All the audio pieces have been heard and discussed. Certificates are awarded. The participants say their goodbyes while constantly asking each other what their focus statement is. They are completely absorbed with the idea of someone doing something for a reason. Everyone returns home, ready to prepare their own mini-documentary.

What a training! I would like to thank the participants for their boundless energy and humour. I would also like to thank everyone who made this workshop possible: Tara Blanche Lazimana, called “Miss White”; Adama Zongo, Jade Productions trainer; Sylvain Desjardins, renamed “Deschamps” during the workshop; Souleymane Ouattara, director of Jade Productions, and Samuel Mikenga of CTA. From the heart … a big thank you!

2 Responses to “Twenty-one Francophone African broadcasters learn to make radio with a story-based approach and well-focused ideas”

  1. Twenty-one Francophone African broadcasters learn to make radio with a story-based approach and well-focused ideas : Farm Radio International Live Blog Says:

    […] The participants begin by discussing agricultural topics of importance to their listeners. For example, the decrease in watermelon production is one of the topics presented by Adama Tessouké, radio host at Radio Sikidolo in Mali. To read more, click here. […]

  2. Farm Radio International Blog: Twenty-one Francophone African broadcasters learn to make radio with a story-based approach and well-focused ideas Says:

    […] The participants begin by discussing agricultural topics of importance to their listeners. For example, the decrease in watermelon production is one of the topics presented by Adama Tessouké, radio host at Radio Sikidolo in Mali. To read more, click here. […]

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