Coverage not granted
Every morning before sunrise, 61-year-old Valentín Colque wakes up to embark on the heavy walk to work. And it is not just any kind of job. Nor just any place to work.
Valentín is a radio reporter in the Andes of Bolivia. But even if he is already at about 4000 meters above sea level, at home in the small mountain town Pipini, he needs a place that is even higher up to get on the air.
- I have to climb almost 500 meters to reach a mountain where there is mobile coverage, says Valentín.
The climb takes an hour and a half, but Valentín Colque defies bad weather and difficult terrain to find the exact spot that, if he's lucky, picks up signals from his cell phone. Then he’s able to reach the entire country with his messages.
Valentín does not mind the heavy walk, because radio is his passion. From Pipini he runs the local radio, Radio Pipini, which reaches surrounding communities and sometimes as far as Cochabamba and Potosí. But when he needs to reach the whole country, he has to get higher. He is one of 30 correspondents reporting to a national radio station that provides news from around the country.
Radio Pipini wants more airtime, and they want to reach out to even more communities. Therefore, they participate in two networks of local radios that were established in 2012. The networks receive support and training through CEPR, one of Norwegian People's Aid partners in Bolivia.
Background: In 2012 Norwegian People’s Aid supported CEPRA’s project “Capacity building of community radios for better coordination and influence on the process of change”. CEPRA (Centro de Producción Radiofónica), based in Cochabamba, works to build up alternative community communication. They produce educational and awareness raising programs published on Radio CEPRA and shared with community radios. They also organise trainings for those working with community information and radios, on technical aspects, as well as political and social issues. In 2012, 70 community radios received technical training and better equipment through this project (see matrix above for details). The radios have extended their coverage and adjusted their programming to influence public opinion. Topics dealt with are democratization, communication, the role of the community radios in the change process, analysis of the political context, and technical aspects. This capacity building will continue in 2013.In July a national meeting was held, and more than 50 radio stations signed a Letter of Agreement to set up three regional networks (West, East and the Valleys). They agreed to connect at different times of the day via satellite, and download programs at the same time in each radio station. They want to break down the monopoly on information in the country, which ignores the majority of the people, especially the rural sector. Once again community radios have become the spokespersons of indigenous peoples, peasants and grassroots sectors, and an instrument for guidance and struggle for national liberation supporting the process of change.