Oshwe is a small forest community deep in the indigenous rainforests of the DRC. Although administratively classified as an urban area, it has all the characteristics of a rural community.
It is supplied with manufactured goods, including petrol and diesel, by boats that travel from bigger centers to Oshwe on forest rivers. These deliveries happen once or twice a month during the rainy season, but only very rarely during the dry season as navigation on rivers becomes difficult when the waters recede.
Greenpeace Africa has been working with the community for the last two years, deepening forest conservation efforts and building up civil society movements to protect the forest from illegal industrial logging.
Recently we ran a workshop on to how build the most efficient clay ovens so that less firewood is used for cooking, and less wood has to be chopped out of the forests.
There is a small local radio station in Oshwe, called Radio Television Bondeko (RTBO). It allows people to get news of their community, the country, and the world. But as the RTBO is powered by a fuel generator, when the boats can’t deliver fuel, the station can’t broadcast. Without radio broadcasts, the isolated community of Oshwe becomes even more removed from the rest of the country and its capital, Kinshasa, where decisions about the management of the forest are made.
To overcome the challenge of on-again-off-again fuel supply, Greenpeace and the community decided to equip the radio station with solar energy. A clean and stable energy supply, the solar panels will allow uninterrupted broadcasting.
In addition, the station manager has agreed to raise the height of the station’s antenna, making it possible for programming to reach other villages at much further distances from the station.
Greenpeace has provided solar equipment, a part of which is a gift from the United States of America, while other supplements were purchased in Brazzaville.
Transporting all the materials to Oshwe was not easy. For example, because of their acid, batteries cannot be transported by airplane, so we had to have them delivered by canoe. There is no DHL in the thick forests of the DRC.
To make sure the solar panels are maintained and repaired as needed, training will be provided for young people. In total 11 young people, 9 boys and 2 girls, are enrolled for our ‘suniversity’ training under the supervision of Crispin Assimbo, Solar and Youth Coordinator for Greenpeace Africa.
Watch this space for updates from the solar radio project!