South Sudan’s first solar-powered radio is a game-changer

In South Sudan, most people don’t have a Tv. They rely on radio to get information. But restricted access to power makes entire communities of are left in knowledge darkness for daylights at a time, especially in remote areas. One humanity is turning to the sunshine to change that.

Issa Kassimu, an electric designer, came up with the bright mind of setting up the country’s first solar-powered neighbourhood radio station, Mayardit FM. Since March 2016 the station has been running on sunshine.

The devastating effects of information darkness

Mayardit FM is not just changing the media scenery, it also represents transforming people’s lives. Susceptible people in South Sudan are very isolated and any kind of information darkness can have a devastating impact.

Since South Sudan’s independence in 2011 more than 2.5 million people have been forced to flee their homes due to conflict. The majority of them, virtually 1.6 million, are internally displaced and reliant on word of mouth and radio to find out how to access food, sea and shelter.

Kassimu got the solar-powered radio to start broadcasting in under a month.

Image: Internews

Sunlight vs information darkness

Based in Turalei, in the northeast part of Southern sudan, Mayardit FM is fitted with 84 solar panels and 48 artilleries and can broadcast for 24 hours expending reserve vigor building up from sunlight. Kassimu was of the view that so far $172,000 was spent on swapping to solar power, but those costs will be covered within five years and will ultimately save the lives fund on ga, gear and repairs.

“We allows one to expend $22,000 a year just to maintain the generators. In those remote locations, ga is two to three times more expensive than the cost in Juba, so I thought of something who are able to at the least be sustainable, ” he told .

Dependency on generators

While Mayardit FM relies on solar power, most radio stations in South Sudan depend on generators for electricity because exclusively 1 % of the population has access to the country’s electrical grid. These generators regularly break down due to the unstable vigor they produce.

Kassimu is one of a select few in the country who knows how to restore them. He invests a lot of occasion go, single-handedly sterilizing generators. Remember, Southern sudan is the size of France so there are large distances concerned and people often “ve been waiting for” daylights in knowledge darkness.

“Once a generator breaks down, it would take me up to five days to hover to the spot and mend it. And the radio would remain off breath, ” Kassimu says.

Issa Kassimu and his solar( lightbulb) mind are changing how radio works in South Sudan.

Image: internews

Reaching remote the regions with neighbourhood radio

For remote parts of South Sudan radio is often the only link to the outside world-wide. Kassimu is part of a system of six neighbourhood radio stations called the Radio Community which aims to bring radio to the entire country, broadcasting in neighbourhood communications and reaching up to 2.1 million listeners. Two of the stations are off breath because of the volatile statu in those areas.

The project is run by Internews, an NGO funded mainly by USAID that aims to empower neighbourhood columnists and strengthen the capabilities of media outlets. South Sudan is one of Internews’s biggest projects.

“The illiteracy rates in Southern sudan are fantastically high, ” says Steven Lemmy, the Radio Community’s Senior Broadcast Engineer . Adult illiteracy rates are around 30%.

“So, if you use one communication to broadcast to all the people around the country who pronounce different lexicons, they will not understand. The only happening you can do is accompanying these standalone radio stations to different, often remote, vicinities, ” he says.

Map evidencing the four functioning Radio Community stations.

Image: internews

The probabilities of working in war-torn Southern sudan

The Radio Community say they’re not political. But the conflict in the country has affected them. In July 2016, their station manager in the city of Leer was killed in Juba. According toInternews, he was targeted because he was a member of the Nuer tribe.

Kassimu and Lemmy maintain that it is not a risk to keep the neighbourhood stations on breath and would rather highlight armistice and cooperation in South Sudan.

However there is no escaping the fact that developments in the situation is dangerous. Seven journalists were killed in Southern sudan in 2015 alone.

“This is one of the two countries where our colleagues are exposed to tremendous gamble and some of them lost their lives in the past 10 times. Sometimes its not easy and its fairly high-risk to be a columnist, ” says Ratomir Petrovic, the chief of the UN Radio Miraya in Southern sudan, the country’s largest national radio station with the most extensive geographical reach.

Steven Lemmy( bottom left) with staff members of Mayardit FM.

Image: internews

How radio is saving lives

“Whenever we open a radio station we apply the locals, ” Lemmy says. “We draw them out, we train them, give them the skills they need in broadcasting. And the editorial part of it is managed by the Radio Community.

“When you know that you can impact other people to such a great extent, you start to think most comprehensive and work harder to make sure these radios are broadcasting. It is the radio which is telling people there is an outbreak of cholera and you need to do A, B, C, D.” Kassimu says.

“At the end of the day it( the radio) saves lives.”

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