By Ndey Sowe
Ebrima Sillah, the Minister of Information, Communication and Infrastructure, has presided over the opening ceremony on a training on Early Warning System (EWS) and disaster management for community radio broadcasters.
The five-day training (from 3rd to 7) was held at Baobab Holiday Resort, Bijilo.
The training was organized by the UNESCO West Africa Regional Office (Dakar, Senegal) in partnership with Panos Institute West Africa (PIWA), based in Dakar, Senegal and in collaboration with the Network of Radio Community of The Gambia (NCRG).
The training is in line with the project “The use of drones and early warning system for disaster management before and after floods in The Gambia” funded by the India-UN Partnership Fund.
The training is aimed at strengthening the capacities and knowledge of journalists and managers of local radio stations in the Gambia on flood (EWS). It is also meant to proffer the production and dissemination of information and warnings towards the populations, targeting 18 journalists and managers from 9 community radios and 40% of the beneficiaries are women.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) ranks The Gambia among the 100 critical countries most vulnerable to climate change and particularly sensitive to weather-related hazards. It is also stated that agriculture is the main source of income for the majority (over 70%) of the Gambian population and constant flooding affects their livelihoods.
Minister Sillah said radio is the most potent means of communication in the Gambia, adding the training will give opportunity for people to access information they would not have been able to if it were not for the availability of radio.
“Therefore, having community radios broadcasting programs in local languages of target communities where they are established, is critical in helping the government realize its set goals in the national development plan; but also helping farmers and communities to enhance access to information on related climate change issues,” he said.
Minister Sillah assured his government’s commitment to work with the Gambia Press Union (GPU) and Network of Community Radio of The Gambia (NCRG) to strengthen the capacity of community radio workers in ensuring that the right information is given to communities to help them make informed choices on climate variation as it relates to early warning systems.
Yusupha Bojang, President of NCRG, said they are happy to partner with the Panos Institute for West Africa. He said the training will better prepared them in advance in order for them to deal with disasters before, during and after floods.
“In order to reach people who are socially isolated and living in remote areas, community radio stations have been set up to serve the community as channels of expression and information,” he added.
Sanna Dahaba, Executive Director for National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA), said the capacity to anticipate and analyze possible disaster threats is a prerequisite for prudent decision-making and effective action.
“Early warning will not ensure successful preventive action unless there is a fundamental change of attitude towards disaster perceptions,” he warned.
Birame Faye, from Panos Institute Dakar Senegal, said Panos Institute West Africa is a regional NGO working for over 20 years on communication for development through capacity building programmes, targeting media practitioners in West Africa.
He said he is optimistic that at the end of the training, community radios and managers in the Gambia will be familiar with the operating mechanisms of early warning systems.