Indigenous media amplify the voices of marginalized rural communities


Radio Bario is an indigenous radio broadcasting in the highlands of Malaysia's Sarawak Province. It serves as a channel to address social exclusion, encourage cultural and linguistic sustainability and increase development opportunities for the marginalized rural communities of the Kelabit people.




International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)RadioActiveeBario Sdn Bhd


Natural Resource Management, Indigenous People’s Rights, Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Security 

Activities and Methodology:

Radio Bario was Malaysia's first community radio station. It was set up by the RadioActive team and began broadcasting in October 2011. With a range of about 20 km, the station delivers informational and cultural programming produced by area residents living in the highlands of Malaysia's Sarawak Province, broadcasts in the language of the Kelabit people.

Radio Bario serves multiple purposes for both local and external audiences. The community radio programmes address social exclusion, promote community development, encourage cultural and linguistic sustainability and increase education and training opportunities for local people. Kelabit women are active in running the operation. 

Watch the video made soon after Radio Bario went on air, with staff sharing the impact of Radio Bario in their remote, mountainous region.

Major Outcomes:

Radio Bario serves 50 villages as a channel for discussion of social problems and issues, including the protection of forested lands from illegal logging.  Community radio connects everybody and announces activities within the kampong, within the village area, so that the residents can be well-informed. Station manager Stanley Isaac called the initiative "a dream come true" for the Kelabit people, because radio functioned as a vital link in an area where mobile phone reception is unreliable.  Disc jockey Esther Seluma wants the concerns of her people to be heard well beyond Bario Radio's fairly limited range, hoping that many can hear their concerns. 

Radio Bario sends a strong signal about how communication can make a dramatic difference in the lives of marginalized populations.  When indigenous voices are heard, they make vital roles to the global discourse on development and poverty reduction. Indigenous media can challenge stereotypes, assert indigenous peoples' rights and identity, and empower them to influence the development agenda.

Community media such as Radio Bario have proved to help increase public awareness about how climate change, land tenure security, discrimination and other issues directly affect indigenous people. They can also raise the profile of indigenous agricultural techniques such as agroforestry, organic fertilization and native seed cultivation which would help in preserving biodiversity and enhancing food security worldwide if they were well-informed to the public. Indigenous people themselves are also not all aware of their rights and achievements at the international level, so indigenous media projects can also help to fill that information gap. 


IFAD: Antonella Cordone  
Radio Bario: Roger Harris 


Photo credit: eBario Sdn Bhd