Rural radio station airs part-time yet yields full benefits for villagers

Villagers use a radio station to keep informed about crop value, learn health tips and prevent theft in Niger. (J.D. Long-García/CATHOLIC SUN)
Villagers use a radio station to keep informed about crop value, learn health tips and prevent theft in Niger. (J.D. Long-García/CATHOLIC SUN)

Tillabéri, AFRICA — If there were a red “on air” light, it’d only glow for five hours a day.

Still, those are info-packed and likely commercial-free hours. The sounds coming from Radio Sirba, a 10-year-old radio station in the Garbey Kourou Village of Niger, are strictly educational.

Some villages are turning to sesame seed because it's a more lucrative crop. (J.D. Long-Garcia/CATHOLIC SUN)
Some villages are turning to sesame seed because it’s a more lucrative crop. (J.D. Long-Garcia/CATHOLIC SUN)

The volunteer-run station launched through the help of Catholic Relief Services shares information about crops, education and health. It spans 50 kilometers.

“They never wanted a radio station,” said Ali Aroura, a village leader.

Once the adults started listening and understood the help it can provide, they embraced it, he said. They quickly saw tangible value in the radio station too.

“It has reduced the amount of livestock stolen in the area,” he said. Radio gives producers the power to broadcast a “crime log,” so to speak, which has led to recovered property and caught at least 10 thieves.

The station also has its loyal listeners. Clubs of women gather to hear the latest tips on harvesting. A four-year project to help 60 area villages produce sesame, onion and okra wrapped up last fall. Another 5,000 villagers also received help through CRS’s Cash for Work program.

The projects helped 15-year-old Roukaya Seidou’s parents build shelter for the family. They also gave her parents’ incomes enough a boost to allow them to buy clothing for their child.

Other parents are able to pay bills she said, and when school starts, they can afford supplies.

Perhaps the biggest change brought on by the radio and the bigger crop development project was the introduction of sesame oil.

“We were used to working with sesame because it was here before the project began and peanuts,” Hamata Adamou said. “We didn’t know we could do oil with sesame.”

The benefits and demand are clearer now.

“It used to be hard to take seeds out of the pods,” Adamou said. Then the project revealed easier ways so that now, “even children are able to understand and to work.”

Some of the villagers are eager to discover more research on sesame oil so they can better market its nutritional value.

“Most people in the past who didn’t cultivate sesame now prefer to because it provides more income,” said a man wearing a dark gray head covering. A tall jar of sesame oil translates into the equivalent of  US $10.

There’s also interest in creating soap. The radio station, by producing sanitation messages, has changed behaviors in that regard, too.


  1. This is a great story about the benefits of Catholic ministries in action. But there remains room for improvement and scrutiny by Catholics and our clergy, especially the leaders at the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. The latest elephant in the living room of the USCCB to be unveiled is Catholic Relief Services (CRS). It seems that CRS, now headed by Bishop Gerald Kicanas of the Diocese of Tucson, has for years been giving tens or hundreds of millions of Catholic dollars to groups around the globe that promote abortion, mandatory contraception and other anti-Catholic anti-human programs.

    Just think of how many more radio stations we could have built, how many more lives we could have saved through the years, if we had not been paying for abortions and sterilizations and condoms all over the third world. When Cardinal Timothy Dolan, current Chairman of USCCB, took the reins a year ago, he found that this activity was rampant in several programs under his predecessor. Lay directors at USCCB were sitting as Directors on pro-abortion groups around the country, and were working on official USCCB publications that would lead Catholic voters in 2008 and 2010 into the satanic den of the Party of Death. This is exactly why faithful American Catholic Bishops, in a historic precedence, elected Cardinal Dolan to chair the USCCB and to restore Catholicism to their activities.

    We must encourage and support the efforts of Cardinal Dolan and all of the faithful Catholic clergy who work to protect and preserve our Holy Church, and pray for their good works.

    • Thanks for taking the time to write us, John. I believe some of your information is inaccurate. Here’s a statement from Catholic Relief Services concerning similar accusations made by LifeSiteNews (emphasis mine):

      Earlier this week, the pro-life website LifeSiteNews published an article critical of Catholic Relief Services that contained inaccurate and incomplete information about our relationship with the humanitarian agency CARE, specifically for $5.3 million CRS gave to CARE for use in collaborative anti-poverty programming in Central America and Africa. We would like to correct the record by providing this important information, which was not included in the article:

      Catholic Relief Services, in communion with the Church, strictly upholds Catholic moral teaching. All of the CRS programs and all of the funds used by CRS are entirely consistent with Church teaching. Faithfulness to Church teaching always has been and always will be our policy. CRS is not in agreement with CARE’s policy on contraception because we do not support any positions that would be in violation of Catholic teaching on human dignity and the sanctity of human life.

      CRS always has taken very seriously decisions we make about the groups with which we collaborate or form partnerships to ensure that we are not violating the Church teachings. We do not fund, support or participate in any programming or advocacy that is not in line with Church teaching, including artificial birth control.

      These concerns about grants and partnerships, including the concerns over CARE, were raised to CRS last year. The agency undertook a thorough review of all partnerships together with Dr. John Haas of the National Catholic Bioethics Center (NCBC). After careful review, their report came to three main conclusions:

      1. None of the grants listed constitutes support of or involvement in immoral activities.

      2. None of the funding from CRS was fungible. That is, there is little to no risk of the grant funds being used either (i) for purposes outside those outlined in the grant request or (ii) for freeing up money in the receiving organization for immoral purposes by virtue of their having received the grant from CRS.

      3. The NCBC found that there could be a risk of scandal over such partnerships if people become confused and wrongly assume that CRS was endorsing a partner’s position on other issues. To avoid any misunderstanding, such as the Lifesite news article, CRS worked with the Bishops and the NCBC to address this risk through internal and external communications on our work, and continues to do so. This is spelled out in a statement posted below our Mission Statement on our website, titled The Catholic Values of CRS:

      The $5.3 million in question was used by CARE for water and sanitation programs in four Central American countries (El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua), for food and nutrition programs, as well as water and sanitation in Madagascar; and for food and nutrition programs in Zimbabwe.
      CRS does promote abstinence and Natural Family Planning as embraced by the Church. You can find more details at

      I would also point out that Cardinal Timothy Dolan, before being elected president of the USCCB, was chairman of Catholic Relief Services. You rightly, I believe, point to Cardinal Dolan as bishop that is faithful to the teachings of the Catholic Church. I believe that he was also faithful to Holy Mother Church while chairman of CRS.


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