Radio is enormously popular in Africa and a major source of news. Photo courtesy

Radio can save lives in climate change affected Congo

Wed May 2015

Originally posted on CIFOR’s Forests News blog

In a region where there is a still relatively high incidence of illiteracy, very localized languages and dialects and remote settlements, communicating information can be a challenge.

And there’s an urgent need to transfer lifesaving information in the Congo Basin – about the effects and prevention of climate change.

Enter the humble radio.

Seventy five percent of households in developing countries have a radio – and this African region is no different.

“Radio is widely listened to,” says Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR)researcher Alba Saray Perez-Teran. “And not just the traditional way of listening to a radio. More and more people have cell phones, and even the basic ones have FM radios in them”.

Climate change may not always be classified as an immediate danger, but broadcasting information about the challenges it presents is essential for disaster proofing the future.That’s why in 2013, CIFOR’s Climate Change and Forests in the Congo Basin (COBAM) created a radio program about climate change.


“Changing Seasons” or “Au Rythme des Saisons” was designed to create a knowledge-sharing platform where listeners could hear about climate change in their forest communities in a way that was engaging, and practical.

“The shows covered everything to do with climate change and forests,” says COBAM project coordinator Anne Marie Tiani who is based in Yaoundé, and is one of the co-authors of a new study evaluating the reach and impact of the radio programs.

“There were discussions about the scientific basis of climate change and its impacts and how to manage forests now that climate change is the reality”.


audio-symbolListen to a Changing Seasons program 


Local communities were invited to be part of the program and were asked to share their experiences of coping with climate disturbances.

The role of communities is essential in response to climate change. CIFOR researchshows that many approaches to adaptation and mitigation are decided from within communities who manage their forests.

Remoteness and isolation can lead to communal decisions becoming defacto laws. So, a radio program – which the entire village can listen to and receive the same set of information, all at the same time – can be an essential source of knowledge.

“We should stress that local languages are very important,” says CIFOR researcher Alba Saray Perez-Teran. “If they could be used more frequently for capacity building, and raising awareness about climate change, so much the better.”

The show was broadcasted in four of the most widely spoken languages in Central Africa – the Bantu languages of Lingala and Kituba,  French and Pidgin English.

It ran across Cameroon, Central African Republic, Republic of Congo and Democratic Republic of Congo on both small community radio stations and larger national stations.


“Community radio gets to really small targeted communities,” says Tiani. “But it usually doesn’t get to policy makers. That’s why the national radio stations were important as part of the process.

Part of the programs value was that the show’s producers understood their audience says Tiani.

“We kept the message simple so that local populations would understand. That was very important,” she says. “But the program featured scientists from local research institutions and universities, as well as policy makers, and NGO representatives also participated. So the information was always correct, just simply told”.

When assessing the power and impact of Changing Seasons, researchers put together two groups – one to listen to the program, and a control group, who would not.

We kept the message simple so that local populations would understand. the program featured scientists from local research institutions and universities, as well as policy makers, and NGO representatives.  The information was always correct, just simply told

All indicators are that the radio programs were a success – that people who listened the Changing Seasons had more retentive knowledge about the issues than those who didn’t listen to the radio program.

While acknowledging that “more elaborate statistics are needed”, it was shown that those who listened just once to the radio program showed a 22.3 percent “improvement in knowledge” of forest-related climate change topics over those who had not – a very healthy result that demonstrates the value of the radio programming, according to.

“Even after being exposed to only one single radio program of 45 minutes, people showed improvement in knowledge about climate change and its links to forest,” says Perez-Teran.

“It can be difficult to assess the real impact over the entire region, but that’s already a good indicator.”

“It was really great to see the programs having an impact”.


For more information on CIFOR’s Congo Basin radio program, please contact Anne Marie Tiani at

CIFOR’s radio program in the Congo Basin was part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry




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