The Ranet Zambia

Introduction: The name “RANET” is an acronym of “Radio And interNET”

The need for adaptation to climate change and climate variabilities is acutely necessary considering the nature of our vulnerability and the projected changes that will determine our future vulnerabilities as individuals and as a society whose majority are exposed to such changes.

Access to vital climate information is fundamental to understanding the climate risks as well as identifying and assessing the viability of adaptation options. It has also been recognised that, along with information on climate risks, knowledge of the impacts of exposure to those risks can be instrumental in motivating communities and organisation to begin the process of adapting

For government to formulate suitable policies, policies developed to adapt to climate change and to stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations below the “danger” threshold, hinges upon the availability of climate information at scales ranging from regional to country and community level. Such information along with the uncertainty associated with it, need to be clearly communicated to end-users and policy makers, so that adequate policy decisions to respond to climate change can be taken in a fully informed way.

In Zambia statistics have shown that 70% of our food production is done by peasant farmers who need a lot of education on good farming methods in order to avoid environmental destruction arising from agriculture. Charcoal producers should be taught the need to plant new trees to replace the ones cut. Government should also put in place policies that would control the cutting of trees and make rural communities to plant new trees to replace the ones cut, control of industrial emissions and environmental degradation. All these issues can be cost-effectively disseminated to the people concerned by radio.

In this period of adaptation and mitigation quick and economic information communication technologies need to be used to achieve quick and timely responses from society. Scientists are already researching into adaptation methods, which should quickly be passed on to the communities for application.  In this respect latest information communication technologies, such as FM/digital broadcasting, by community radio stations plays a leading role in information dissemination to the rural communities of Zambia. Sadly, out of the seventy five districts of Zambia only twenty five districts have FM broadcasting radio stations.

Community radio stations do have an upper hand on the dissemination of information because currently the national broadcaster, ZNBC, has limited coverage in remote rural areas as well as having only about seven languages out of the seventy three Zambian languages. Community radio stations broadcast mainly in their local languages and a little in English and so are able to reach more people than the national broadcaster, which broadcasts only in seven languages.

Project Goal, Purpose and Outputs: The overall project goal is to enhance Zambia’s rural community capacity to adapt and mitigate risks and hazards of climate change and enhance the living standards of rural people through effective delivery of vital information. The project purpose is to establish a rural community radio network that will increase local population access to timely information   on climate change, health, agricultural, environmental, warnings and other information.

RANET Zambia Project Activities: To date RANET Zambia Project has provided four FM broadcasting equipment, has partnered with twenty existing community radio stations, currently working with six communities in establishing more stations, installed 43 satellite receivers, provided one computer   and expanded the listenership by distributing 3,650 solar/windup radios and 20 mobile phones to assist the rural farmers receive weather/climate information through sms messaging.

The WorldSpace Satellite FM broadcast system is no more in use and so the RANET Project is now embarking on implementing a project called “Zambia Weather Station and Community Outreach Project”.

Equipment  Distributed

(i) Four Wantok SBS-1 FM Broadcasting stations and one 500wt transmitter (for Luangwa). The latest installation was at Mumfumbwe Community radio station

(ii) Solar/Windup: In order to provide the listening audience of the community radio stations RANET Zambia with its NAIS/JICA partners has distributed 3154 solar/windup radio receivers.

(iii) WorldSpace Satellite Receivers: The RANET Zambia has installed 43 Tongshi DAMB-R satellite receivers in thirteen districts, at the offices of District Agriculture Coordinating Officers, Agriculture Research Stations, the three sites of Africa 2000 Project, at the office of the Provincial Director of Health for North-Western Province and the ten Community Radio Stations to assist these partners access developmental information they require in order to help the rural communities better.

(iv) Mobile Phones: Over the past few years a lot has been written about the use of cellular text messaging (SMS) as a viable tool to distribute hazard alerts or similarly important messages to the public.  Major disasters such as Katrina and the Indian Ocean tsunami have spurred this consideration among government, NGO, and commercial entities alike. Several countries have very advanced systems relying on Cell Broadcast, while others are still testing and struggling to determine how best to implement mobile messaging systems at both the local and national level.  Similarly, many humanitarian non-profits are using SMS to pass messages within their organization and to communities in which they work. In agriculture the system is helping peasant farmers to follow up with issues concerning the weather/climate, availability and use of inputs, control of agricultural diseases and marketing of products.

In 2007 the RANET Zambia Project launched a pilot project in the use of cell phones by peasant farmers to send feed back to RANET Zambia and the Ministry of Agriculture and this use has been extended to the exchange of weather and climate information. There were twenty phones distributed in 2008 over Western, Eastern, Luapula and Central Provinces, each province getting five phones.

(v) Personal Computers (Pcs): The project donated a Pc to Mkushi Community Radio station in 2007.

(vi) Chatty Beetle Project: The ZMD received three satellite based communication equipment called Chatty Beetles in 2008 and installed one at Zambezi and another at the base station at the Departmental Headquarters while the other had a faulty battery. However, in 2009 the department received three more Chatty Beetles which were installed at Chipepo, Mansa rural, Kasama rural and the other at Kabompo.  As this system is satellite based it can therefore be deployed in any part of the country and can be very useful emergency warnings.

(vii) FM Broadcasting station equipment: The Department has also received three units of the Wantok SBS2 FM Broadcasting stations waiting to be installed at Kalabo, Sesheke and Sinazongwe Districts.

Current Activities
In September 2015 another activity called “Talking about the weather and Doing Something” was launched.
Objectives of the activity is to provide rural farmers and communities with tools they don’t currently have, which will create access to accurate and timely weather data and information on how to adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change.
This objective will be achieved through partnership with the Radio and Internet for Rural Weather Communication (RANET) program at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) and the Developing Radio Partners Project, the Zambia Meteorological Department(ZMD) and other local partners.
The Activity will achieve this objectives by carrying out training to meteorological officers, radio broadcasters, agricultural extension workers and the farmers in the presentation and interpretation of weather forecasts, strengthening of relationships between the ZMD and community radio stations as well as training local meteorological technicians in the production of low cost automatic weather observing stations (PAWS) locally.