Ratego Radio reaches listeners by translating COVID-19 spots into local language

| August 31, 2020

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David Bondo, 32, is the director of Ratego Radio, a community station based in Siaya County, Kenya. Mr. Bondo oversees production at the station, which went on air in April 2019.

Like many stations, COVID-19 is creating unique challenges for Ratego Radio. The most important challenge Mr. Bondo faced was deciding how to effectively communicate about COVID-19 to listeners.

Starting in mid-June, Mr. Bondo began to translate Farm Radio International’s COVID-19 spots into a local language called Dholou. Mr. Bondo has translated a total of 13 spots. He airs each spot 10 to 20 times per day.

Of all the spots, Mr. Bondo says that those which deal with myths, misinformation, and fake news have been the most popular. He says these spots give him the most hope that COVID-19 can be easily fought as long as people follow proven public health practices like social distancing and handwashing.

Other spots help to explain these practices and encourage listeners to practice them daily. Above all, he says, the spots emphasize “the importance of using government and world health messages … and not spreading rumours,” which Mr. Bondo says can cause more cases of COVID-19.

Spot #11 talks about the stigma and discrimination directed at people who have tested positive for COVID-19. Like rumours, stigma is dangerous—it prevents others from getting tested or seeking treatment, says Mr. Bondo. You can see and hear a video of the spot below, as translated and recorded by Mr. Bondo. Please note that the subtitles may not correspond exactly with the audio.

Mr. Bondo admits that the process of translating required some work. Though fluent in English and Dholou, Mr. Bondo says it was difficult at times to get the wording of the spots just right.

He says, “I would use more words describing one thing [in Dholou] which has a single name in English.”

But the effort was worth it. Mr. Bondo says that airing the spots in a local language allows listeners to have a “deep understanding” of information about COVID-19.

He says: “It is very easy for everyone to understand their first language, their mother tongue … as opposed to foreign languages which are English, Kiswahili, French, and any other language.”

He adds that, when listeners have access to the right information in their preferred language, they are less likely to believe myths, rumours, and misinformation.

As well as listeners, the spots have been beneficial for Ratego Radio as well. Mr. Bondo says, “Since we started giving these messages frequently through our station, listenership has risen steadily.”

The recent spike in popularity has inspired Mr. Bondo and the staff at Ratego Radio to continue producing spots themselves, using information from local health officials.

Without these Farm Radio spots, Mr. Bondo says his station would rely more heavily on government information, which focuses less on prevention measures and more on the statistics of new and recovered cases. These are important, says Mr. Bondo, but aren’t as useful to listeners as advice.

Following his successful experience, Mr. Bondo encourages other broadcasters to translate spots into local languages and air them frequently.

He says: “They should take these things as [part of their] work. If we don’t inform the public, more will be infected [with COVID-19] … If more people get to know what they need to do and how they should do it, then the world will change.”

You can read FRI’s radio spots on COVID-19 here.