Tuesday, November 2, 2010


UNESCO should be commended for incorporating the component of communication and education at the planning stages of establishing a UNESCO Chair on ‘Integrated Management and Sustainable Development in Coastal regions and in Small Islands’. Practitioners in development now recognize the significance of communication and education, particularly at the community level, and the environmentalists firmly believe in this in Kenya, as demonstrated by the training wo rkshops at community level and among the media. In my opinion, the most critical factor in the formulation of a communication and education strategy for any development effort is that the community should drive it. This is based on the realization that without the participation of the community, the sense of ownership and responsibility will be lacking. This has severely compromised many development programmes and projects related to sustainability. Any communication and education strategy must therefore begin with a community development and participatory approach.

This highlights the importance of the audience in the strategy. A comprehensive needs assessment should be undertaken as the first step and address the following questions:

• What do members of the community feel about sustainable development in respect to coastal regions?

• What factors have resulted in the degradation, of coastal regions?

• What is the level of awareness among the community on sustainable development?
• Is there a repository of indigenous knowledge and practice that promotes sustainable development in regard to the coastal regions?
• What are the existing communication networks and systems?
• What are the preferred channels of communication?
• How can information on sustainable development in the coastal region be packaged in a simplified, interesting and palatable manner that will interest the community?

The needs assessment will assist in the planning of the strategy because audiences should be segmented and specific for effective communication. Further, available avenues of communication, such as radio-listening groups where they exist can be tapped into and utilized, thus reducing the cost in terms of acquisition of communication channels.

The strategy should be both long-term and short-term. The long-term strategy should be aimed at developing a sustainable communication and education system at the community level: ultimately, the Chair can be envisaged as a technical arm which provides relevant information as demanded by the communities. The advantage of this is that such information will be specific to particular areas and communities and will be based on their priorities, leading to their ownership and active involvement because they will determine how the programme will operate.

This also means that fe e d b a ck mech a n i s m s should be efficient, effective and significant to
the process. The mass media can be considered as a possible tool to raise awareness and for advocacy. Most media studies indicate that the mass media are most effective in raising awareness and to lobby for policy changes among decision-makers and opinion leaders. The radio and newspaper for instance can be used to inform and educate this category, who can be encouraged to incorporate messages of sustainable development in their meetings such as barazas, and even in religious gatherings.

I n t e rp e rsonal commu n i c ation has been found to be highly effe c t ive in political commun i c at i o n , p a rt i c u l a rly wh e re the mass media is somewh at curt a i l e d. Other deve l o p m e n t agents such as social development wo rke rs and c o m munity development offi c e rs can be targeted, to enable them to include messages on sust a i n able development in their contact with
c o m munity members. The strat egy on the whole should be mu l t i d i s c i p l i n a ry and it should use a multi-media pers p e c t ive to enabl e the planners to re a ch a va riety of audiences
e ffe c t ive ly and to re i n fo rce the most cru c i a l m e s s ages. At the fo rmal leve l , the school system can be used as the ch i l d - t o - child communi c ation method has proved to be of gre at
impact in the health sector. This will involve using the educational stru c t u re and integrat i n g
a component of sustainable development into the school curri c u l u m .

At the university level, institutions of communication and journalism can be targeted to enable the Chair to instill messages of sustainable development in the media and to develop their interest and solid knowledge in the topic. Training workshops can be an effective method in sensitizing this cadre of workers: it can also be extended to those in the teaching profession, community development officers and those in social work. This summarizes my idea of what the workshop should add ress. I hope to part i c i p at e actively in the planning and implementation of the programme.

No comments:

Post a Comment