Mar 20 2010
Source: Mail & Guardian Online
Like local radio stations the world over, Biso na Biso 88FM has a menu of programming that includes music and messages from listeners. But, unlike other stations, it also features discussions about logging companies, climate change, education, Aids and news about when the local doctor is visiting the village.
Biso na Biso (the name means "between us" in Lingala) is a pioneering local radio project serving pygmy communities in the Congo Basin. Its 20 000 confirmed listeners (estimates reach as high as 50 000 when remote towns and villages are included) listen to 25 regular programmes that are broadcast in 12 indigenous languages. Most of the audience listen on wind-up, hand-held, solar-powered radios. The project began with 500 radios and is being expanded to 6 000.
It is a first for the Congo Basin and is funded by a range of groups including the Forest Trust, WB Development Marketplace, Congolaise Industrielle des Bois, the Jacques Chirac Foundation and Virgin Media.
The station is based in Pokola, Democratic Republic of Congo, an area that is home to about 16 000 forest people, including 9 000 living in indigenous, semi-nomadic pygmy communities. Deforestation is a threat to the Congo and radio was found to be the best way to provide the locals with vital information. Test broadcasts began in March last year, with the launch in June.
"This is the first time that radio has been introduced using the local dialects," says Stuart Poore, Virgin Media's director of corporate responsibility. "We would like to be pumping 100MB broadband in, but that's not feasible."
It is hoped that the project will result in the creation of a forestry news agency that will connect globally to similar communities, including those in the Amazon Basin, where residents are dealing with similar rainforest protection issues. But at the moment the aims of Biso na Biso 88FM are confined to a more limited horizon.
"We want to be available in the evening," Poore says. "At the moment it's powered up in the day when electricity use is relatively low but that’s when people are out in the fields working the land. When the people have finished and come back in, that's when they want to be educated and entertained." -- © Guardian News & Media 2010