My Chimpanzee – My Community
(Rwanda, Burundi)

Ahajishe Igisabo (“Worthy of Protection”) is a Rwandan radio serial drama that tackles a range of issues of local and national significance through an engaging story of love and betrayal, redemption and revenge.  The characters are tied together by the Gishikamvura Forest and the way their behavior impacts it. Key themes include the negative impacts of illegal mining, hunting and honey gathering both on the environment and on the lives of those involved. The radio drama also helps provide models and encourages discussion on how the community can work together to protect the forest.

The show aims to encourage people to turn instead to livelihood alternatives that do not harm the forest, and heavily promotes a sense of ownership and stewardship of the forest. Nyungwe Park — the real, non-fictional forest of our target audience — is a designated reserve for chimpanzees. Many of the issues in  Ahajishe Igisabo are framed through their impact on the chimpanzee population and how, in turn, falling tourism revenue from diminished forest resources impacts local communities.

Above is an audio of Ahajishe Igisabo’s theme song, “Turarata Nyungwe Nziza”.

PCI Media Impact, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the Rwandan Development Board, with the support of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, have developed and implemented the first Entertainment-Education radio program for wildlife and forest protection in Rwanda. The purpose of the program is to ensure the sustainable conservation of the Nyungwe National Park, specifically the endangered chimpanzee population that inhabits it.

My Chimpanzee-My Community is a 37-episode serial radio drama, entitled Ahajishe Igisabo (“Worthy of Protection”), which broadcast twice a week on Radio Rusizi over five months in 2013. It targeted 1,508,000 individuals in five districts surrounding Nyungwe National Park (two of the Southern Province: Nyamagabe, Nyaruguru, and three of the Western Province: Rusizi, Nyamasheke, and Karondi). Season II is fully-funded by USFWS has already launched.

A locally produced program, the show was written by a regional creative team that incorporated community and regional input into their scripts. A local technical advisory committee was also established consisting of conservation and communication experts. These and other experts were put in direct contact with the audience during 45-minute call-in shows that followed each episode of the series. These call-in shows allowed listeners to reflect on the drama in addition to providing a forum for discussing local wildlife issues amongst themselves and with local experts. With up to 80 callers from all over the country for each show, the call-in shows deepened dialogue and heightened awareness about wildlife issues.

Successes in My Chimpanzee-My Community were numerous. By the end of the program the capacity of the creative team (writers, producers, radio station personnel) and the technical team (WCS) was high. These local teams are now well-positioned to continue similar work with minimal support. The large number of community stakeholders functioned extremely well together and the program helped establish relationships and deepen existing ones. Another great success was the almost immediate increase of discussion about local wildlife issues after the airing of the drama and call in shows.

The following segment from the radio call in shows highlight the success of the program in increasing community dialogue and knowledge about wildlife issues:

Radio Host: What did you gather is the cause for the diminishing number of chimpanzees in Nyungwe National Park?

Listener: The arsonists, the hunters who set traps and the beekeepers.

Radio Host: Good! The people who set traps, the beekeepers, the arsonists – how do they cause chimpanzees to diminish?

Listener: They diminish because they kill them when they set the traps.

Radio Host: So tell our listeners what consequences this may have on the hotels and other services that tourists might need in this area, what are the consequences?

Listener: The number of tourists also lessens, and our hotels lose out… Then there is no development because they don’t have income.

The important information concerning environmental degradation and its ramifications for locals provided in this discussion is crucial for educating and promoting dialogue within communities about local wildlife issues.

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