Vegetable farmer Shalik Ram Bhandari believes he benefits more than anyone from the local FM radio station in his western Nepal community in Palpa district.
Bhandari, who grows tomatoes, radishes and green vegetables, listens to Radio Madanpokhara to learn for what amount his products are selling in nearby markets, and for advice on farming problems.
“Earlier, we would not know the prices of our products in the market and we would end up selling our products at a cheaper rate,” Bhandari told Khabar South Asia. “But things have changed now. Radio has helped save us from being cheated at the hands of unscrupulous business persons.”
Established in 2000 and now reaching 800,000 listeners in eight administrative districts, Radio Madanpokhara is run by 17 volunteers. It broadcasts 12.5 hours daily in Nepali and in several local languages.
Krishi Radio in central Nepal’s Dhading district broadcasts programmes on bee keeping, poultry farming, vegetable cultivation and local market prices. Thanks to such information, Dhading-based farmers– who supply 23% of Kathmandu’s vegetables– are never cheated by middlemen.
“Not only do we encourage locals to be involved in farming, but we also give ideas how to get the best returns from their products,” said Krishi Station Manager Saroj Poudel. “Information about market prices of various products has proved highly beneficial for farmers.”
A voice in the community
With 246 of the nation’s 436 radio stations being community-owned, according to the Ministry of Information and Communications, many Nepalese benefit from community-based broadcasting.
Beyond its economic role, community radio also boosts democratic participation.
“Since we have ensured participation of local people in both programme production and broadcast, locals take community radios as a medium for raising their voices on various issues,” Association of Community Radio Broadcasters Nepal (ACORAB) President Mohan Chapagain told Khabar.
He said this is particularly important since Nepal has not had local-level elections since 1999 due to the Maoist insurgency and the resultant political transition . Community radio has helped hold local government agencies accountable.
In addition to farming topics, Radio Madanpokhara emphasises women’s issues and marginalised groups in its programming, according to station manager Rajesh Aryal.
“The radio has a network of 95 listener clubs and centres. This attracts a strong participation from women , farmers and youth,” he said.
“These radios have not only provided locals with an emotional outlet to put forth their concerns, but also helped empower traditionally marginalised and backward communities,” said Community Radio Support Centre Director Raghu Mainali.
“Above all, community radio is also promoting participatory democracy by ensuring participation of all disadvantaged groups such as women, Dalits and minority groups.”
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