On The Road

Occasional ramblings from a rambling journalist


It’s hard to find too many places on the planet today that don’t have access to some form of media.  However in remote parts of India’s Maharashtra state, many indigenous tribal or Adivasi communities don’t have radio, television or even access to mobile ‘phones.  Many can’t even read.

It’s for that reason that HCR, in partnership with Seva Social Welfare Foundation, has begun a project to distribute “speaker boxes” with content that will transform lives.  With local-dialect dramas, music and audio programmes that educate, inform and entertain, the ‘Adivasi Voices Project’ is an innovative way to help communities that are very poor and isolated from mainstream Indian society, deprived of the basic facilities of life such as clean water, food, sanitation and healthcare.

Seva team Members distribute speaker boxes to remote Adivasi villagers in Maharastra, India
(Photo used with permission)

“This project will help lift our community as we have suffered for so long from the effects of ignorance and poor education,” said the head of the village, Mr Ramdas Warde.  Another community member who didn’t want to be named, spoke of how they felt forgotten by the government, who had promised a lot during election-time, but the promises had never materialised.

A major research project conducted in partnership between Seva and HCR in July 2018, revealed that the low level of health and well-being was due largely to poor water, sanitation and hygiene as well as harmful superstitious practices.  One lady showed scars on her stomach from where she had been burned by a witchdoctor who said the burning would drive out the evil spirits.  One of the medical doctors spoke of how many girls in the region got married soon after their first periods so that when the first children came along both the mother and child were malnourished.

Seva’s Chief Executive, Ms. Shilpa Shinde, said that changing attitudes and mindsets would take a long time, but that the powerful combination of information and education via the speaker boxes, as well as on the ground interventions such as health camps and sanitation programmes, would begin to change things. She added: “We are committed to seeing the lives and livelihoods of Adivasi communities across the state transformed and we believe this powerful combination of media working with service providers will bring hope to the poorest and most marginalised in our country”.



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There is an old proverb that says, “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; show him how to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.”   At HCR we’ve come to realise that if we really want to help alleviate poverty, we need to go even further – we need to teach people to start “fishing businesses”, so they can feed themselves, their families and their communities, for all time.

To that end, in partnership with Aid For Trade and supported by the Andrews Charitable Trust, we recently launched the YES (Young Entrepreneurs’ Startup) project, in an area of eastern Kenya’s Tana River County, where poverty is widespread.  Using the newly established radio station, Amani FM, the project involves an innovative mix of creative radio programmes, live ‘phone-in discussions, social media interaction and workshops to encourage local people, irrespective of their education, to develop their business ideas and then put them into action.  By the end of the workshops, budding entrepreneurs will be able to develop business plans, the best of which will be eligible for low-interest loans.  As the resulting businesses get going, the radio station will closely follow the development of these enterprises, encouraging new would-be entrepreneurs to have a go.


Hancy Funana presents “Tuanze Biashara” (we start a business) on Amani FM in Tana River, eastern Kenya

“We are now up to programme seven on the radio, and beginning to help workshop participants develop their business plans,” says project leader, Philip Amara, adding that already many great business ideas are being generated.   Philip says the radio programmes Tuanze Biashara’, which is Swahili for “We Start a Business”, have been well-received by the community and generated a very lively response across the region.  There is also a very active WhatsApp group with around 45 participants who share ideas, encourage each other and respond to the things they are learning.   “Just today,” says Philip, “a group has announced their plans to set up a modern butchery in the town of Garsen, which is a real need in the area.”  In this region of high unemployment, Philip is confident that the project will stimulate new wealth in the area and begin to break the mindset of poverty and dependency on aid.

Philip Amara (right) interacts with participants during a workshop to train budding entrepreneurs in Tana River County

Although extreme global poverty has been cut by more than half since 1990, sub-Saharan Africa is lagging behind with over 40% of people still living in absolute poverty.   Our dream is to extend the YES project to other parts of Kenya and the Swahili-speaking world, to make a sustainable contribution to ending poverty among some of the world’s most disadvantaged communities, enabling people to enjoy the fullness of life for which they were created.


A new voice of hope in DR Congo

In eastern DR Congo’s conflicted province of North Kivu, HCR has been working with partners to establish a new community radio station, Umoja (Unity) FM. One of the architects of the project is Member of Parliament Albert Baliesima Kadukima who has great hopes for this station….

Umoja FM from Jonathan Hargreaves on Vimeo.

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Amplifying Voices in Sierra Leone

It is nearly 3 months since their country was declared Ebola-free and Sierra Leoneans are yearning for a return to normality. But for many, life still remains far from normal, as communities emerge from trauma, where many still face social stigma, persistent health problems and don’t trust the health system. Added to this, an estimated 4 million people in the country are at risk of starvation and over 19,000 children have been affected by the Ebola virus through the loss of parents or loved ones.

In collaboration with partners, Feba UK and Affirm, HCR UK are working with three communities, a hospital, churches and a radio station to help local communities recover after the trauma of Ebola. Following a workshop to introduce a powerful community engagement process, known as “SALT”, the project will link local communities, health providers, people of faith and radio, using the strengths of each to promote dialogue, reconciliation and healing in Sierra Leone.”

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Tana FM prepares community for El Niño

As the Kenyan Meteorological office warns coastal areas in Kenya of the high risk of flooding due to El Niño, newly founded HCR partner station Tana FM , is playing its part to get communities prepared.  Having gone on the air with the first test broadcasts only in May this year, Alex Stout and Jon Hargreaves from HCR UK were joined by new Kenyan team-member Sheila Maina, to train the Tana FM team on how to link with other emergency service providers and the community, to promote awareness and give critical information to help people survive in the event of flooding.   The people of Tana River have experienced floods in the past, but the mention of El Niño reflects back to 1997 when floods devastated the region and displaced tens of thousands of people. Officials are warning that as many as 70,000 people could be displaced by the rising waters in the next few weeks.

Tana FM's Shedrack Hiribae interviews Dr Badru Mohaji, Director of Special Programmes and Cohesion, about Tana River County's flood preparations, with support from HCR's Alex Stout.

Tana FM’s Shedrack Hiribae interviews Dr Badru Mohaji, Director of Special Programmes and Cohesion, about Tana River County’s flood preparations, with support from HCR’s Alex Stout.

In its short existence, Tana FM, the first community station in Tana River County, has already become a trusted voice in the community. The station’s CEO, Shedrack Hiribae, says Tana FM has already begun to have a big impact. Mr Hiribae described how the team’s peace-building initiatives have promoted dialogue between conflicted communities and also how mango farmers have got a better deal for the sale of their produce as a result of the station’s advocacy work.

Tana FM producer Maureen talks to Peter Munyonki from the County's Disaster Response Team

Tana FM producer Maureen talks to Peter Munyonki from the County’s Disaster Response Team


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