FOR many years, effective communication has always bypassed those who actually need it most, especially those in rural settings due to the fact that by uttering or writing something down, people assume that communication has taken place. Achieving total communication is actually more than the act of writing or simply saying out something.
Communicating the people’s deeper underlying issues and concerns based on their needs and worldviews is key for rural development. This is not done in isolation, but through exploring communication tools and approaches that influence the outcomes of sustainable development goals (SDGs).
Information dissemination in action is paramount for engaging local and rural communities. As development communication experts disseminate information in rural communities, the networking activities and tools should strive to situate knowledge and information at the heart of rural developmental needs. The important ingredients involved in rural development are not inputs or materials but human resources, that is why communication experts talk of human-centred approaches. Therefore, appropriate communication methodologies, channels and tools that are far, reaching and effective are the hallmark of successful networking. These strategies strike the right chord of the actual needs of the stakeholders involved.
Powerful interactive and networking tools used in rural development communication need to compensate for lack of resources and technology delivery systems inherent in most rural communities. Poor information packaging, sub-standard communication systems and methodologies do not bring the desired communication outcomes and tangible results which resonate well with the people’s expectations and desires.
Communication for rural development should be interactive and diagnostic enough in order to harness the required knowledge and skills necessary for achieving livelihoods. In this regard, overall people’s participation and mobilisation should be enhanced. Despite the social structures inherent in rural communities, all stakeholders are viewed as communication equals.
Communication for rural development is designed to instil and effect changes in attitudes and behaviours for the people involved. Successful communication for rural development is hinged on the use of engaging multimedia tools such as cameras, audio-visuals, radio, film, the internet, mobile phones, power-points, videos, slides, stories and visuals, among others. These are sufficiently interactive and engaging to help change the people’s behaviours through appealing to their senses. In this regard, information should not only be disseminated, but it has to be motivating and inclusive in approach.
In this current changing climate and warming scenario it is the rural people who need to sufficiently adapt so that they can also cope in the face of climate change impacts. Having a wide range of multimedia communication tools at their disposal, rural communities would be able to understand environmental changes taking place in their communities so that they can sufficiently prepare themselves to deal with impacts of climate change.
Communication for rural development should be able to appeal to local communities’ needs, necessities and desires, using participatory methods and active involvement of all participants involved. Development agents are there to support and guide stakeholders rather than influence the communication processes. The role of policy in executing communication should not be undermined as policy provides guidance and influences quality as well.
The reason for bringing a variety of multimedia tools and strategies is to close the information gaps caused by lack of proper infrastructure in rural areas. Multimedia tools also provide wide access to information being communicated. These will also help to strengthen the overall communication process and avoid communication breakdown. Effective rural communication should not just be mutual exchange of information, but should also enhance the conducive environment for engagement. Those spearheading the communication programmes should also possess good and effective communication skills so that they are able to communicate across the rural divide.
The other critical factor in this developmental paradigm is that the whole process is guaranteed feedback so that the interactions and networking are ongoing. As a result, knowledge is created, maintained and repaired to suit current demands. The rural communities, which are mostly poverty stricken and vulnerable, can also be accommodated and be heard. In this regard the communication process, because of its inclusive and participatory nature, is designed to solve problems and offer solutions. For this reason, effective rural communication for development should be transformative enough and designed not only to change behaviours and attitudes, but to change lives as well.
The main purpose of effective rural development communication is to be cost effective and more accessible to fragmented and disadvantaged communities so that development does not elude them. Although communication tools and channels are mostly technological in nature, integration with the people’s world-views and cultural standpoints is highly recommended. This includes trusted media channels that speak in their languages so that they are seen as credible and dependable.
After all these have taken place, received, accepted, learned and understood then we can safely say that, indeed yes, communication has taken place.
Peter Makwanya is a climate change communicator. He writes in his personal capacity and can be contacted on: firstname.lastname@example.org