Across Asia, young people in rural areas are less likely to receive communication on climate change than their urban counterparts. This fact might not seem surprising; after all they’re also less likely to have access to the electricity necessary to power a television. But communication can amplify the voices and actions of innovators in rural areas. And it can encourage and enable effective action in response to climate change.

Tan Copsey, BBC Climate Asia

Watch the video and read the background story below:


The BBC Media Action Climate Asia study surveyed 8,500 people aged 15-34 in rural areas across seven countries (Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan and Vietnam) with the aim of  creating communication tools tailored to people’s needs.

The initial survey helped to better understand the audience. Almost a third (32%) of rural young people surveyed felt that they were highly impacted by changes in climate and in resource availability.  Many more (50%) expected to be highly impacted in the future.

In one community in northwest Bangladesh, villagers have to walk long distances to collect water because the ponds and wells they used have dried up due to a combination of changing rainfall patterns and dams that hold up waters on the other side of the border. In this village, young men have trouble finding wives, because who would want to move to a village with no water? Meanwhile, all the young women are making sure they marry outside the village to improve their lives.

As a result of negative climate impacts, young people in rural areas are already making changes to improve their livelihoods. Almost a quarter (23%) are taking measures to change their income basis.  A large part seeks part-time work outside the agricultural sector to supplement their earnings (46%). Another strategy young people employ is experimenting with alternative crops (23%).

Many of these people were acting without outside support. As one young woman in Sindh in Pakistan said when describing a well the community dug “We made it [the well] ourselves. The government did not make it. The people of the village made it on their own part of land, neither the government helped, nor anyone else.”

Across the region, people who feel informed about environmental changes are more likely to take action to respond and adapt. In a small, rural community in Madhya Pradesh, India the story of one young man and his radio illustrates how communication can create change. Known locally as Khabrilal – which translates as “person who provides information” – he is the only person in the community who owns a radio. Since some time, people in Khabrilal’s community noticed changes in rainfall and were suffering from water shortages. But even though these negative impacts were recognized, the community saw many barriers to taking action, including a lack of resources and government support.

One day, Khabrilal was listening to the radio and he heard about a competition organized by Development Alternatives – a non-governmental organization. The competition encouraged people in rural areas to try new farming techniques and share with others how they worked. Khabrilal organized his friends to participate. In the end, they won the competition by successfully experimenting with organic crops and manure. In our research across Asia we found that when people had good ideas on how to respond, like Khabrilal, these ideas were often adopted by others around them.

The study also shows that people who feel more involved in their communities were more likely to take initiative in responding to climate challenges. In Khabrilal’s case, he ultimately convinced others in his community to work together and the community was more successful as a result.

As people in rural areas are still underserved by media, targeted efforts are needed to engage and inform those willing to take action. More “radio men” like Khabrilal are needed.

What needs to happen to include young people in climate and development talks? Join the Dialogue.

Learn more about the Global Landscapes Forum’s Youth Session here.

Reaching the radio men: From climate information to resilience in rural Asia

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