- Varsha Raikwar joined Radio Bundelkhand 90.4 FM in 2017
- Ms Raikwar’s first assignment was to produce a show on climate change
- Ms Raikwar has been using radio to educate people about climate change
New Delhi: ‘Bhagwan ki jesi marzi’ (It’s God’s will) is the answer Varsha Raikwar would get every time she would question her father about the reason behind poor rainfall and crop yield in the Bundelkhand region of Madhya Pradesh. The region, spread across parts of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, is primarily an agrarian economy. However, over the years, droughts and the collapse of traditional water harvesting systems have put agriculture under stress, resulting in loss of jobs, income and migration. 27-year-old Varsha Raikwar, a Radio Jockey (RJ) and daughter of a farmer blames fellow human beings and climate change for the distress.
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Sharing her personal story of facing the brunt of climate change, Ms Raikwar says,
Since childhood, I have seen my father spend hours on the farmland. He would often come home and say, ‘due to poor rainfall this year, the crop yield is low and probably, it will be the same the next year. If the situation persists, we might have to migrate’. The problem never made sense to me because despite the presence of rivers in Bundelkhand how can we have water shortage for crops? My father would share the problem but I could never find the underlying cause and the possible solution for it. Over the years, a pile of questions stood tall in my head.
Ms Raikwar continued her search for answers and in 2017, she joined Radio Bundelkhand 90.4 FM, a community radio headquartered 30kms away from her district Niwari. The first assignment she got was to produce a show on climate change. However, Ms Raikwar had little to no knowledge about climate change because all she knew was, ‘Jo bhi hota hai, bhagwan ki marzi se hota hai’ (Whatever happens, happens due to the will of God).
Radio reporters who have been reporting on climate change for years helped me sail through the project and at the same time, introduced me to the concept of climate change, recalls Ms Raikwar.
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It is then Ms Raikwar decided to use her platform and voice to talk about climate change and work for the betterment of her community. She also started visiting villagers and interacting with them to understand their challenges and educate them on how our actions have resulted in the ill health of the environment.
I believe women have a big role to play when it comes to protecting and nurturing the environment. They can start kitchen garden on their vacant farmland or practice water conservation at home by simply closing the water tap while doing dishes. Women can inculcate these habits in their families and neighbourhood. Therefore, when I am on the ground, I reach out to women, she said.
Through community radio, Ms Raikwar covers 150 villages within a 10-15km radius. In areas where even radio cannot reach, the team resorts to narrowcasting that is taking radio to the people. The team brings together a group of people and plays the recorded show for them. In the last five years, Ms Raikwar along with her colleagues has made multiple radio programmes to educate people about the pivotal role of the environment in our lives. One such programme is ‘Shubh Kal’ (Fortunate Tomorrow) which was started in 2012 and airs Monday to Friday at 3:30pm.
As part of the programme, we designed characters that would speak in the local language and give out the message in a funny way. For instance, Bundeli is a prominent language here. We developed two characters – Bero Bhauji (sister-in-law) who is old, has a hearing problem and works for the environment. And her brother-in-law acts against the environment. So, a conversation between the two is banter in a local dialect where Bero calls out her brother-in-law’s actions or educates him on varied topics like kitchen gardening – the need for it and pros, said Ms Raikwar.
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One of the major impacts of the two radio characters was seen in Rajpur village where people switched to organic farming after listening to Bero Bhauji. A ripple effect was seen in neighbouring villages as well as the learnings were exchanged, said Ms Raikwar.
Along with this, Ms Raikwar noticed an uptake in water conservation especially rainwater harvesting for groundwater recharge and reusing collected water for odd purposes like cleaning. Now people don’t say ‘it’s God’s will’; they understand that since we tampered the environment, invaded biodiversity, the environment is taking its revenge.
Praising Ms Raikwar and ‘Shubh Kal’ programme, Vijay Singh Ghosh from Ujayan Patha in Jhansi, Madhya Pradesh, an avid listener of radio, said,
Through Radio Bundelkhand I learned that the trees I will plant today will benefit my children and the generations to come. We might not see the Sun tomorrow, but these trees will continue to live and provide us fresh air, shed, fruits and other benefits. Also, because of deforestation, there has been a decline in groundwater recharge as a result of which we don’t have enough water for irrigation. ‘Shubh Kal’ taught us to make a switch from water-intensive crops like rice and wheat to crops like peanut which are more local and require less water.
The climate warrior believes that she was able to change the mindset of the people by linking climate change to livelihood and personalising the positives of protecting the environment. Ms Raikwar now aims to have a fellow warrior in every village whose job will be to ensure best practices in the favour of the environment. Ms Raikwar’s unwavering efforts have been recognised by United Nations India and she is one of the 17 young climate leaders as part of the #WeTheChangeNow movement.
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NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ population, indigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, that is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.