Village Earth

Shipibo Radio Network

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Photo: Participants in the 4-day hands-on community-based radio workshop with their handmade antennas, radio transmitters, and all the parts necessary for 4 complete radio stations throughout the Central Peruvian Amazon.

Village Earth has spent the past three months preparing for and implementing four community-based radio stations throughout the Ucayali Region of the Peruvian Amazon. In a strategic planning session with Village Earth in 2007, the Shipibo community leaders decided that the creation of their own radio stations to improve communication in the region is an important part of their vision for the future of the Shipibo Nation.

Photo: Building the Radio Transmitters.

In October 2009, the Shipibo achieved this goal with the help of Village Earth and Project Tupa of Free Radio Berkeley. Project Tupa traveled to Peru for a 4-day radio workshop where participants from four communities learned to build FM radio transmitters by-hand. The hands-on nature of the workshop will lend to the success of the radios because the participants are intimately familiar with every part and component of the radio, this will lead to the sustainability of the radio transmitters. They also learned to use soldering irons to solder small components onto the circuit boards. Project Tupa also taught the participants to scrap old electronics as a cheap way to get replacement parts. If a part were to burn out, the workshop participants would know where to find the parts and how to replace them without waiting for some technical expert or international funding.

Photo: It takes a lot of people working together to build a radio transmitter by hand in 4 days.

Photo: They learned to use soldering irons to solder small parts onto the circuit board of the amplifier.

In many remote regions of the Amazon, radio serves as one of the only means of getting news and information to communities. At the beginning of workshop, indigenous leaders talked about the importance and significance of indigenous-language and bi-lingual radio because the radio stations in the city require a certain amount of Spanish-language programming. Because each of the four radios will be controlled by an elected committee within each community, the communities will decide on the radio programming. Community members have already come up with program ideas such as an environmental education program, local news, and an oil awareness program to discuss oil exploitation in the region.

During the workshop the participants decided to form a radio network called “Red de Radio Emisora de la Amazonia Peruana “Xawanbo” (Radio Transmitter Network of the Peruvian Amazon “Macaw” in English). This radio network will be a point of access to resources for the radio network to share resources and information between the four community-based radio stations. More communities are already interested in joining this network and starting their own community-based radio station.

Photo: They learned to scrap old electronics for parts to build and repair their radio transmitters.

These radios will be an important tool in Shipibo cultural self-determination, defense of their lands and resources, and the development of their communities.

We are hoping to expand both the coverage area through more strategically-placed community-based radio stations, and also to expand the current radios programming capabilities by getting more equipment for field reporting (such as laptop computers and digital voice recorders). We also hope to provide more training in advanced radio programming and to continue to build the capacity of the radio network to be a strong, empowering force for the self-determination of the Shipibo Nation.

Thank you to First Peoples Worldwide for a Keepers of the Earth grant, Project Tupa for donating their time training, and to all of the Village Earth individual donors who helped make this possible!

The following map shows the transmission of the radio stations throughout the region. The four communities who received the radios were elected during a previous Village Earth workshop of indigenous leaders. As you can see there are still some gaps to fill in the region, and more communities in the region are asking to join the radio network.

  For more information, on do-it-yourself radio check out:  

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