HDP nexus and the power of community radio in the Sahel

‘‘Survival-centred’’ broadcasting is improving the social fabric of Sahelian communities and creating new income generation opportunities.

Globally there is a growing push to better align humanitarian and development efforts with peacebuilding.

A surge in crises around the world has created an unprecedented demand for assistance but funding is not keeping up and some protracted conflicts are increasingly overshadowed by other international conflicts.

Shrinking aid budgets are ‘‘leading to a big funding squeeze,’’ for Sub-Saharan Africa, according to the International Monetary Fund.

Transforming lives, and building resilience and self-reliance, at a time of fewer resources, requires creativity. IMS’ work supporting community radio in the Sahel region is a concrete example of the Humanitarian-Development-Peace (HDP) Nexus in action.

Community radio is a lifeline of valuable survival information for illiterate populations grappling with food insecurity, armed conflict, political instability and the devastating impact of climate change.

Radio and journalism training from IMS has empowered women and youth broadcasters in Liptako-Gourma (the borderlands of Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger), to find local solutions to local problems.

Sharing experiences and farming knowledge over the airwaves has reduced poverty, increased agricultural output and is helping villagers and internally displaced people adapt to global warming.

Programmes on developing vegetable gardens near waterholes, crop rotation, seed selection, forest restoration, beekeeping and biodiversity have helped farmers to make better decisions, achieve more sustainable livelihoods and shore up food security. Stable food supplies can build community resilience against conflict.

Women and youth community radio programmes are making the case that environmental protection is good for water preservation and farming and highlighting practical things people can do to manage waterholes, and wastewater, protect fisheries and reduce silting in rivers.

The strength of the broadcasting lies in the repeated requests to replay episodes. Some programmes have been rebroadcast up to 28 times.

‘‘Survival-centred’’ broadcasting is changing the social fabric of Sahel communities for the better and at the same time creating new income generation opportunities.

Sahelian families are benefiting from radio segments on maternal and child health care, parenting tips, relationship advice and healthy eating. Programmes focused on the stigma of disability are helping villages become more inclusive.

Young people and women are tuning in to stories about inspiring micro-entrepreneurs and some are starting their own small businesses and agricultural ventures.

Women broadcasters are gaining leadership skills and elevating women’s voices in communities is boosting their role in efforts to carve out peace. IMS’ radio training covers the United Nations Security Council resolution #1325, (which promotes women’s involvement in conflict resolution) and encourages trainees to apply it to their local reality.

Community radio in the Sahel region is seeking to divert young people from the clutches of armed groups by highlighting the problem of unemployment and examining ways to boost job opportunities, income-generating activities, and social cohesion through sports and community work.

The broadcasts are also reducing tension between local communities and internally displaced people (IDPs) by promoting peaceful co-existence and joint activities like handicrafts and basket weaving.

Another result is a governance and accountability dividend.  Local chiefs, religious leaders and mayors are also jumping behind the microphones to have constructive conversations about local problems and solutions.

The ongoing success of IMS-supported community radio across the Western Sahel region is built on years of trust and giving editorial freedom to local communities to tackle the issues that matter most to them.

In a region where basic service delivery is weak or non-existent, community radio is living up to IMS’ mantra ‘‘good journalism, better societies’’.


In eastern Burkina Faso, a youth radio programme spurred a community-led waterhole clean-up, dyke construction and sand removal.

The waterhole kept silting because of increased drought, plastic pollution, and extreme winds.

The impact of the clean-up was extraordinary and far-reaching.

As well as a win for the environment, there was an economic spinoff; market gardeners and livestock breeders got improved water access, which boosted food security and income and gave young people real alternatives to joining armed groups.

Clay that had clogged the waterway was repurposed to make bricks to build mud houses for locals and internally displaced people, helping to ease a major housing shortage.


Residents from a neighbourhood in Gao town, on the banks of the Niger River, were grappling with rising water levels due to climate change.

The neighbourhood became an island – more than 1,000 people were cut off from the rest of the town, river water was inundating homes, residents couldn’t get to work, and students couldn’t go to school.

A community radio show put a spotlight on the issue and mobilised residents, traders and local political leaders to work together to find a solution.

Subsequent community mobilisation and dyke construction allowed residents to move freely again.


A community radio show about the role of women in improving food security was a turning point for residents in the Tillabéri region.

There were declining harvests of rain-fed crops and local women were keen to fill the void with market gardening.

As a result of the women’s radio programme, local authorities granted fenced-off plots and pumps to irrigate vegetables.

The market gardens have boosted income for women, other residents and internally displaced people.