In the days just before we launched the new Solar Powered radio station, the village of Oshwe was abuzz. People were walking around, radio glued to their ear, trying their best to catch the frequency that our engineers were still fine-tuning. They were so eager to get the new signal, that when they eventually did, they’d excitedly call to one another “I got it! I got it!"
The local shopkeeper was also very excited and stood rubbing his hands together, happy about the new source of power and what it would mean for his radio sales.
On launch day hundreds of the Oshwe community members gathered around the station where they were joined by local, provincial, and even national authorities, among them the Vice Minister of the Interior and the Provincial Minister for Education.
Leaders from traditional authorities were there too, dressed in their ancestral outfits, a sign that the ancestors formally endorsed and agreed with the initiative, and would ensure there were no troubles during the opening celebrations.
Local people put on their best clothes, and traditional musicians were there to mark the occasion with music and dancing.
Radio is very important in the life of isolated forest communities, like Oshwe. It’s an important communication tool, allowing individual villages to communicate with each other, for people to hear music and discussion, and for villagers to be informed about decisions regarding the forest.
In addition to the solar panels on the station’s roof, the broadcasting antenna was also raised so that broadcasts could be sent over a wider range. This means that other villages in the forest – like Bosobe and Lokolama, which are located at more than 100km from Oshwe – can for the first time in their lives hear radio broadcasts. They responded to the new signal with jubilation and dancing.
“In the past, we were neglected by the national authority. But now that the radio can broadcast continuously, we can start to feel connected to our country again,” said Placide Boyolo, a citizen of Oshwe.
“No more noisy generators and ruined broadcasts when the diesel runs out! We can listen to the radio all we want, thanks to Greenpeace,” said Achille, a young man also from Oshwe.