admin | September 28, 2020
At Donga Mantung Community Radio, located in the Nkambe district of northwest Cameroon, station staff are working hard to educate listeners about COVID-19.
Station manager Richard Ndi Tamnjong says this was impossible just months ago when a regional armed conflict forced the station off-air.
When the conflict began in 2016, restrictions on electricity made it difficult for Donga Mantung to broadcast regularly. The station has relied on a gas-powered generator for four years. Six months ago, it went off-air almost completely.
Mr. Tamnjong recalls: ”When the radio was off and COVID-19 was around, many people were scared because there was no information here in the community on how people should behave.”
Donga Mantung was a recipient of Farm Radio’s COVID-19 Support Funds and used the money to repair the station’s transmitter, and to buy a microphone, fuel, and an audio mixer.
Mr. Tamnjong says: “We were happy that Farm Radio International came on with the emergency funds. Since then, we have been very steady. Every day, we are on-air.”
The station is using the remainder of the funds to facilitate listening clubs in surrounding villages, where listeners are encouraged to call in and ask questions to health experts.
Mr. Tamnjong says these kinds of interactions help listeners understand how to behave in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Common questions address measures such as social distancing, hand washing, and wearing face masks.
Sometimes the messages are much more specific to Nkambe region. For example, Donga Mantung uses spots to highlight cultural practices that could lead to the spread of COVID-19.
Mr. Tamnjong says, “When there is a funeral, women come and sleep together on the floor using mats. So we try to discourage them from doing that.”
He adds: “We have noticed that gradually, there were changes…. We went to a funeral to interview people … and we found that they put a bucket at the entrance with soap for people to wash their hands and they told us that they got that [idea] from the radio. And those women who used to come and sleep in those places were not coming there again to sleep.”
Donga Mantung also encourages listeners to greet one another with elbows instead of hands and to use separate cups, plates, and utensils when eating.
In addition to airing spots, the station interviews health experts every Tuesday on a program called Our health, our problem. During the program, hospital staff and doctors talk about COVID-19 and take questions from call-ins .
Staff visit the community to record interviews in advance of the program in order to prepare questions for the experts before listeners begin to call.
Donga Mantung also incorporates COVID-19 information into its regular entertainment programming by asking questions to gauge listeners’ understanding, keep on top of local rumours, and inform future programming.
Mr. Tamnjong says it’s easy to incorporate COVID-19 information in these ways. For example, the station has adapted a popular music program so that listeners who call in to request songs must answer a question about COVID-19 before the track is played.
Overall, Mr. Tamnjong says that listener feedback on COVID-19 programming has been very positive.
He adds: “The listeners are so moved, they are so happy about the program because they know [that] it is through Farm Radio International … that we are on-air.”
He says: “It’s not like we start a program one week and after that, you don’t hear us again. Since [we received funding], we have been on and we keep on emphasizing barrier measures to be taken by the community, so I look at it to be a very big success.”
Farm Radio International’s support helped encourage a local government council to contribute to the cost of the station’s operations. But with fuel costs high due to regional conflict, Mr. Tamnjong knows that this is not sustainable. He hopes to one day overcome the challenge of electricity once and for all by purchasing solar panels.
He says: ”The emergency funds were ‘in the nick of time’ as the idiom goes…. At the time that it came, there was a black out in Donga Mantung and beyond. We are not only serving the Donga Mantung community, we are also serving the communities in neighboring Nigeria … so we are serving millions of people with these funds.”
He adds: “It was a very big support and we are very, very happy about it. Our community is very happy about what Farm Radio International did.”
Donga Mantung Community Radio was one of more than 100 stations to receive Farm Radio COVID-19 Support Funds.
The station has been a Farm Radio International broadcasting partner since 2010. To learn more about how to become a broadcasting partner, go to www.farmradio.fm.