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Fossey Fund Creates Educational Drama for Rwandan National Radio Station

May 3, 2013

Fossey Fund Creates Educational Drama for Rwanda's National Radio Station

Joseph Karama with a studentAn exciting new Conservation Education program project is well underway: the creation and production of a radio drama about conservation to air on Rwanda’s national radio station, Radio Musanze. Joseph Karama, the program manager, first started thinking about the power of radio as a medium for communication and education while working on a post-graduate diploma in environmental journalism and communication at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda. He has wanted to utilize the radio as a tool for conservation education for several years. Thanks to a grant from a generous donor, he now finally has the opportunity to create such a program.

In addition to studying the art of using radio airwaves for educational purposes while at university, Karama has also followed several very successful radio dramas in Rwanda targeting social issues for the past several years. “Musekeweya” first aired in 2004 to promote peace and reconciliation. Sponsored by La Benevolengija, a Dutch NGO that specializes in producing educational dramas, the program is reported to have a listenership of 90 percent of the Rwandan population.

Another extremely successful radio program in Rwanda, and one of Karama’s favorite programs, “Urunana,” first aired in 1999 to promote sexual and reproductive health awareness, and reportedly is listened to regularly by 74 percent of Rwandans. The program, originally developed by Health Poverty Action, an NGO that works to promote health in impoverished and marginalized communities, has won several awards and has seen dramatic impacts on health statistics linked to the content of the show.

The radio drama that Karama and the Fossey Fund are working on will be the first of its kind to target issues of conservation. Karama recruited the help of Jean de Dieu Musayidizi, one of Rwanda’s top scholars in drama, to produce the show. Musayidizi, who is currently director of drama for Radio and TV Rwanda, has a master’s degree in arts in social contexts with a specialization in drama from the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama.

The Fossey Fund’s Field Communications Intern Simone Bazos, a recent graduate of Columbia University with a degree in African studies and a specialization in journalism and media, is writing the script for the program, with help from Karama to ensure it has local appeal. Emmanuel Nkomeza Nsengiyumva, Karisoke’s human resources assistant, is translating from English to Kinyarwanda.

The program’s main story is about a brother, Rukanika, and his sister, Mathilda, who live in a town bordering Volcanoes National Park, where a center promoting conservation education and conservation tourism is being built. At the beginning of the story, Rukanika is a notorious hunter, but soon gets in trouble with park rangers and is ultimately reformed by his work with the conservation center. His sister, the uneducated Mathilda, agrees to help build the center. She initially hides this from her brother, but as the series continues she can no longer keep it a secret because she falls in love with a scientist working at the center who helps her gain an education and a passion for science. Throughout the series the listeners will see the town and the characters drastically change for the better because of the influence of the conservation center.

Bazos previously worked at Pamoja FM, the community radio station in Kibera — one of the largest urban slums in Africa, located in Nairobi, Kenya — helping to assess the impact of program content and listenership. She is working with Karama, Musayidizi and the Rwandan radio station to implement a plan to do the same for the Fossey Fund’s soon-to-be-named radio program. The assessment methods will include allowing listeners to call in to the radio station after the program airs to ask questions and comment; setting up a Short Message System to allow listeners to send the station messages related to the program; and weekly quiz contests to further involve listeners and motivate them to focus on the content.

Everyone at the Fossey Fund is very excited about this project and is looking forward to what they hope will be the show’s success. The program is set to begin airing at the end of May 2013. Also in May, Karama is set to graduate from the University of Miami’s master's program in zoology, with a focus on communication and conservation.