Congo-Brazzaville: Community radio’s two-month silence worries Congolese forest communities (by Privat Tiburce-Massanga, for Farm Radio Weekly)

| February 10, 2014

Download this story

Antoine Moleki is a weaver in his fifties. Like many rural people, he listens to the radio while he works. His radio set hangs from the branch of a large mango tree. The tree provides shade which serves Mr. Moleki as a workshop where he listens to his favourite programs on educational and cultural themes.

His neighbours often join him when they return from their fields. But for the last two months, Mr. Moleki has been unable to pick up the signal from his local community radio station, Biso na Biso. His village of Ngadzikolo lies on the Sangha River, deep in the Congo rainforest, several kilometres from Pokola, where the radio station broadcasts.

Mr. Moleki says: “It is thanks to this radio that our little community is informed about visits from the administrative authorities, the census, vaccination campaigns, the opening and closing of the hunting seasons, [and] diseases that attack our crops and animals. [We even receive] messages sent by relatives in other communities.” Wanting to set his mind at rest, Mr. Moleki wrote to Biso na Biso’s director, asking whether the station’s silence was temporary or permanent.

Lydia Koungou is the director of Biso na Biso, a name that means “between us” in Lingala. Ms. Koungou has received several queries like Mr. Moleki’s, and is trying to raise public awareness about the situation. She explains that broadcasts have stopped since the larger of the station’s two transmitters stopped functionning after the radio tower was struck by lightning several times.

Ms. Koungou says: “The transmitters are with a local technician who thinks that one of … [them] cannot be repaired.” The station needs a new transmitter but does not have the means to buy it.

Ms. Koungou knows that when a radio station wins the respect and confidence of its listeners, it becomes an essential part of the community. That is why she has redoubled her efforts to revive the station. She explains: “The radio no longer has any money … we have asked [a timber company] for help … I have also written to some other organizations … to see if they could help us save this radio station.”

Listeners are feeling cut off from a service which has accompanied their daily lives since 2009. They miss shows like The Voice of the Farmer, a popular program which broadcasts agro-pastoral information, and Fovedi ya Baaka, an educational and awareness program presented by local, indigenous leaders.

Moussa Habis is chief of the indigenous village of Mokouandzo, and is dismayed about the situation. He says, “The radio station’s silence makes us feel uneasy.” Mr. Habis explains that the station allows villagers to air community grievances to the authorities. He says: “For example, through Radio Biso na Biso, the community was able to denounce the lawless acquisition of farmland by people from big towns like Ouesso.”

Radio Biso na Biso’s silence also concerns Simplice Lombota, a teacher in Pokola. She says: “This radio is part of our life in the forest  … now that [the signal] is down, we fear that the station may have broadcast its final program. This medium is very important [in encouraging] indigenous peoples to let their children go to school. ”

But Ms. Koungou is not giving up. She is determined to appeal to any person or organization that can help Biso na Biso continue to serve the rural population in northern Congo.

Editors’ note: If you are interested in helping Radio Biso na Biso get back on air, please contact Farm Radio Weekly via farmradioweekly@farmradio.org, and we will put you in touch with the station.

FRW printed this advice on how to market your community radio station back in 2008: http://weekly.farmradio.org/2008/10/06/marketing-your-community-radio-station/ (FRW #39, October 2008).