Awards 2001 The Crown Agents Foundation Award for Small Businesses

The Crown Agents Foundation Award for Small Businesses

This award is given to a small company for commercial activity which has contributed to viable economic development in a community.

Runner-up: The Mediae Company

David Campbell worked for many years as a British adviser in Kenya, trying to get farming messages across to people in rural areas. He always wanted to do a Kenyan version of The Archers, for he recognised radio as the best means of making contact with country people, especially women, who do not speak English.

In 1993, the money was promised from British overseas aid; and Kate Lloyd Morgan, who had also been working in Kenya, joined the project. She approached the Archers team in Britain for help, and Vanessa Whitburn, current editor of The Archers, made a training visit to Kenya.

The result was Ndingo Nacio (Get with it), a radio soap opera broadcast to the Meru region on Mount Kenya. Four years later this became a national soap called Tembea na Majira (Move with the times), broadcast weekly in the common language of East Africa, Swahili. Radio Kenya's second most popular educational programme, now produced by Mediae, conveys messages about dairying, health, schools, village government and the maize stalk borer, amid lively stories of family life, roguery and misuse of petty office in a Kenyan version of Ambridge.

Besides enthralling over six million listeners, it produced one dramatic result. A woman listener complained that police had done nothing when her daughter had been raped by a schoolteacher. Mediae enlisted legal help and the teacher was charged.

Kate Lloyd Morgan says that the soap was surprisingly easy to organise. Its two part-time producers, Rose Kinoti and Jared Mukarebe, both work for Kenya's ministry of agriculture. James Kimaro, who presents and conducts interviews for an associated radio magazine programme, used to work for the ministry. Kenya has plenty of drama teachers and other acting talent. The cast gather at a weekend in a Nairobi studio and record six weekly episodes.

Tembea na Majira may be recorded in Nairobi but it is not of Nairobi. It is written with a rural area in mind five hours' drive away. The team have got to know the area. Some of the scriptwriters come originally from villages.

Britain's Department for International Development subsidises the programme and proposes its educational themes. It has also invested 150,000 from its business challenge fund in a link-up between Tembea na Majira and Cadburys, the programme's commercial sponsor. Publicity vans tour rural markets promoting TnM's themes and Cadburys drinking chocolate. Actors travelling with the vans perform scenes from TnM. This dual, radio-plus-publicity approach is more effective than radio alone.

In 1997, David Campbell, Kate Lloyd Morgan and Tisha Wheeler formed the Mediae Company, independent of the Kenyan ministry of agriculture. Besides TnM and the production of videos for aid organisations, Mediae is now engaged in two new radio-soap projects, one in Northern Uganda financed by DfID and one in Mozambique's Zambezia province financed by the charity World Vision.

Northern Uganda, under a cloud since Idi Amin gave place to Southern leaders, has been racked by strife including abduction of children by the Sudanbased Lord's Resistance Army. Mediae aims to promote reconciliation. But, before it can start broadcasting, it is having to upgrade the Gulu radio station. The Gulu project is being run by Huub Gales, a Dutchman who worked for a successful Ugandan commercial radio, Capital FM.

Zambezia, a rat-plagued region far removed from the prosperity of Mozambique's capital, Maputo, stretches from Africa's east coast deep inland between Zambia and Zimbabwe. Mediae's manager there is Patrick Craddock, a New Zealander who has done a lot of radio in the South Pacific. He has enlisted able Mozambican producers and started a soap in two local languages, Lomwe and Chuabo.

The Judges say

Mediae has recognised the potential to reach millions of people in hitherto inaccessible rural regions with important educational messages, through the use of soap operas as a means for social education. Mediae's techniques and widespread reach using local languages are to be commended. The range of issues covered - from milk marketing and sustainable agriculture to parenting, from domestic violence and child abuse to health education - is equally impressive. This is a praiseworthy organisation, which deserves recognition for skilfully managing such a simple concept and turning it into a sustainable business, resulting in significant change in the regions.

The Mediae Company, 53 Woodgreen, Witney OX8 6DB, UK
Tel/Fax: 01933 709855