Communication and development: towards a more effective utilization of communication systems for rural development in the Konongo-Odumase Sub-District

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Communication links have been found to be vital for the promotion and development of a national entity. The rule of communication is just as important at the level of the smaller community, the village or the neighbourhood as it s at the national level. There is flow an increasing trend towards seeking so1utone for social problems including public health, family planning and agricultural productivity in a decentralized way through community organisations. The main role of communication in such self-development will be to provide technical information about appropriate innovations in answer to local requests, and secondly, to circulate information about self-development accomplishments of local groups so that other such groups may profit from their experience and perhaps be challenged to achieve a similar performance. This demand creates a need that often outruns the communication resources that exist in a local framework. The rapid and spectacular advances in the fields of broadcasting, film and audiovisual technology promise quicker and wider dissemination of information. However, the rural areas in., the country do not necessarily benefit from these advances since the human and material resources do not always permit the access of the rural folks to the media and vice versa. This problem is perceptible in the Konongo-Oduaase Sub-District areas are disadvantaged in the distribution of communication facilities and in their exposure to vital information pertinent to their daily living. The main objective of the study therefore was to identify the communication potentials of the sub-district and how they can be harnessed to support development programmes in the area. It was also to explore avenues of making the media more accessible to the rural population. Primary information was obtained from interviews with development agencies in the district including the Ministries of Agriculture, Health and Rural Development and Cooperative and the family Planning Unit. The interview was to identify their activities in the rural areas and to assess their mode of communication in getting to the rural people. Sources of secondary information included journals and papers bearing some relevance to the subject matter. Other aspects of the methodology involved taking an inventory of the possible communication facilities (both modern and traditional) in the district and conducting a survey in the field. A sample of 500 respondents was selected from six settlements in the Konongo-Odumase sub-district. The main thrust of the interview was to identify the means of communication by which they are exposed to the development programmes and also to determine their media habits. It was realised that much emphasis is placed on extension work through the medium of inter-personal communication. This method, however effective it is, has not been widespread among the rural communities for reasons which include inadequate vehicles and personnel to move about. The result being that some communities are losing out on some of the benefits of these programmes or are late recipients of them. The conventional communication channels - the radio and newspapers - hardly penetrate into the rural areas of the district and the rural folks have very limited exposure to them. Their mention as a useful communication media on development programmes among the rural population was therefore insignificant. Another Observation made was the presence of a wealth of folk media in the district affording a wider selection of media most appropriate for achieving specific communication objectives but which, nevertheless, is hardly utilized. Th. lack of relevant information needs of the rural people is bound to affect the rate at which development goals in the society are identified and executed. The differences in exposure to information results in varied levels of consciousness and creates a lack of identification of common societal values and aspirations among the population. For the media to become more accessible to the rural folks, the communication facilities in the country should be decentralised for broadcasts and newspapers to serve the identified needs of particular localities. There is also a wider choice for the integration of the traditional folk media with the modern media. The high value placed on the traditional folk media by the rural people increases the credibility and message channels and balances the impersonal character of the mass media. The various mass communication channels should be used in a coherent fashion to support campaigns. To ensure this it is necessary to adopt a multi-media approach. This means examining all the common media available in addition to inter-personal communication channels available and considering this total picture in designing an overall communication programmes for development. The main aim of communication planning, therefore, should be to promote the approach of utilizing existing media in development efforts for a lasting change in the society. The concentrated use of the communication networks in this way requires advance planning, careful research and design of the message to be transmitted and a close cooperation among various agencies concerned with the campaign’s goals.
A thesis submitted to the School of Graduate Studies, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of the Degree of Master of Science in Regional Planning, 1985