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 ability intends entire communities of are left in information darkness for dates at a time, especially in remote areas. One boy is turning to the sunbathe to change that.

Issa Kassimu, an electric architect, came up with the bright sentiment of setting up the country’s firstly solar-powered local radio station, Mayardit FM. Since March 2016 the station has been running on sunshine.

The devastating impact of information darkness

Mayardit FM is not just changing the media scenery, it also represents altering people’s lives. Susceptible populations 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 ought to have forced to flee their dwellings due to conflict. The majority of them, almost 1.6 million, are internally displaced and reliant on word of mouth and radio to find out how to access nutrient, water 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 South Sudan, Mayardit FM is fitted with 84 solar battery and 48 artilleries and can broadcast for 24 hours expending reserve power built up from sunlight. Kassimu says that so far $172,000 was spent on swapping to solar power, but those costs will be covered within five years and will eventually save them fund on gasoline, gear and repairs.

“We used to invest $22,000 a year only to insist the generators. In those remote locations, gasoline 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 read .

Dependency on generators

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

Kassimu is one of a select few in the country who knows how to restore them. He wastes a lot of period movement, single-handedly fastening generators. Remember, South Sudan is the size of France so there are large intervals committed and people often “ve been waiting for” dates in information darkness.

“Once a generator breaks down, it would take me up to five days to run to the orientation and lodge it. And the radio would remain off air, ” Kassimu says.

Issa Kassimu and his solar( lightbulb) sentiment are changing how radio is working in South Sudan.

Image: internews

Reaching remote the regions with local radio

For remote parts of South Sudan radio is often the only link to the outside macrocosm. Kassimu forms part of a system of six local radio stations called the Radio Community which aims to bring radio to the entire country, broadcasting in local expressions and reaching up to 2.1 million listeners. Two of the depots are off air because of the volatile place in those areas.

The project is run by Internews, an NGO funded largely by USAID that aims to empower local correspondents and develop the capacity of media shops. South Sudan is one of Internews’s biggest projects.

“The illiteracy rates in South Sudan are improbably high, ” does Steven Lemmy, the Radio Community’s Senior Broadcast Engineer . Adult illiteracy rates are around 30%.

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

Map indicating the four functioning Radio Community stations.

Image: internews

The probabilities of working in war-torn South 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 toreports, 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 local depots on air and “d rather” underscore treaty and cooperation processes in South Sudan.

However there is no escaping the fact that developments in the situation is dangerous. Seven journalists were killed in South 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 quite high-risk to be a columnist, ” does Ratomir Petrovic, the chief of the UN Radio Miraya in South Sudan, the country’s largest national radio station with the widest 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 hire the locals, ” Lemmy does. “We wreak 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 significant 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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