Haiti: UNESCO supports establishment of new radio for Cap Rouge community
Situated almost 900 meters above the sea, 45 minutes from the southern city of Jacmel, Cap Rouge takes its name from its reddish soil. Suddenly, arriving at a plateau, one comes upon a small square house with naked walls and a long antenna pointing toward the fluffy clouds. This antenna marks the premises of a new community radio, VEDEK FM, the establishment of which is being supported by UNESCO.
Inside the recording studio Emmanuel Avril, a young student, cannot hide his emotion in front of the brand new microphone. The radio is broadcasting for the first time. “Good morning to all inhabitants of Cap Rouge! Vedek FM is here for the population of Cap Rouge but also for the whole country. This is the voice of the development of Cap Rouge. The frequency is 104.4 FM. If you have something you want to say on the air, call this number: 9017603.” After his broadcast Emmanuel explains with enthusiasm that his aim is to help valorise local agricultural production, a preoccupation shared by many young people participating in the community radio.
This is the case for Wilson Sanon, 32, born and raised in Cap Rouge. Deeply attached to his region, he nevertheless took the opportunity to study agro-ecology at the Agricultural University of Havana in Cuba for four years before coming back to Haiti. Wilson is an active member of the local youth organization responsible for the radio, which gave it its name, ‘Vive l’Espoir pour le Développement Kapwouj’ (Vedek). “This radio represents an exceptional opportunity for the self-fulfilment of rural farmers, who haven’t received much support to this day,” explains Wilson. “It will be very useful for the sustainable development of the community and will help to foster a local identity.” For Wilson, the radio is also a useful tool to inform people about natural fertilizers and agricultural techniques that respect the environment.
Other members of the community have different ideas about what the new radio can bring to the people of Cap Rouge. Misthelin Sayo Jean, a teacher in his mid-forties, is the director of the school, Ecole presbytérale de Saint Roch, where 525 children and youth, from 4 to 20-year old, are studying. “I’m part of the management committee of the radio, so I plan to propose an educational broadcast to raise awareness among parents of the importance of education and to convince them to send their children to school. The problem is that many parents don’t pay the tuition fees for their children, though I still accept them. Teachers receive only 50 USD a month. When you are paid so little and irregularly, it’s very difficult and some of them lose motivation.” After more than two decades spent working to increase literacy and knowledge among the children of Cap Rouge, Misthelin doesn’t lose hope. He sees in the radio many new opportunities. “It will also help to improve economic conditions. It will definitely be a tool for the development of the region.”
To prepare the young people of Cap Rouge to be the radio’s hosts, reporters, producers and technicians, SAKS (Sosyete Animasyon Kominikasyon Sosyal), a network of 35 community radios, supervises the project initiated by the VEDEK organization. Within this framework, in addition to the equipment and installation of the radio station, 25 young people (including seven women) received a three-day training session on radio reporting, broadcasting and production technology led by SAKS coordinator, Sony Esteus. This training will soon be followed by a second workshop covering programme planning, editing, management methods and financial management.
Sony Esteus justifies the creation of Vedek FM by the fact that very few radios from Port-au-Prince or Jacmel reach Cap Rouge, where at least 18,000 people live. “Besides, the content of the programmes is not always adapted to the needs and expectations of the people here. The radio will broadcast six hours a day. There will be broadcasts on protection of the environment, prevention of natural disasters – don’t forget that the region spends six months per year under the threat of cyclones and hurricanes – prevention of diseases like HIV and AIDS and now cholera, and promotion of education to advance human rights and fight violence against women. But radio Vedek will also broadcast local, national and international news and entertainment programmes.”
Rodrigue Marcelin, a 25 year-old teacher in a Cap Rouge school, is one of the trainees. Despite his boyish face and smiling eyes, he has a precise idea of what he wants to do on the radio. “I’m going to be a great journalist, like all the others doing the training!” he declares with a laugh. “I would like to host a broadcast on Compa music. It will be called ‘Kadens Musika’ (Cadences of Music) because music is the heart of Haitian culture. But I’m also very motivated to be a news reader. Politics are a big problem in Haiti. But I believe that by giving accurate information to the people you give them the opportunity to make the right choices.”
In parallel with this activity, SAKS has also organized three trainings for 35 young people on the use of ICT in order to reinforce the capacities of seven community multimedia centres linked to community radios in Haiti. The establishment of radio Vedek in Cap Rouge and the ICT trainings were financed by the UNESCO International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC).