These high-wattage smiles could probably power the FM 98 radio station in Rumbek, too.
Joseph Madit and Deng Mayen used to be privileged. As fluent speakers of Arabic, English and Dinka, they have always been able to enjoy a broad range of media outlets. Now others in Rumbek can, too. Solar panels donated by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan enable the multilingual Rumbek FM 98 station to broadcast throughout the day.
“Now we can expand our service in different languages and include programmes that attract the youth and women,” says Maria Amakom, a journalist working at the radio station, which was previously hampered by a frequent lack of fuel for its generator. “We’ll have more time to convey peace messages,” she adds.
The lack of a steady power supply has often left people sitting in tree-provided shade without the possibility to tune in to FM 98, a state-operated radio station, which broadcasts a lot in the Dinka language spoken or understood by most in the region.
That dullness is about to come to an end, as news and entertainment programmes will soon compete with the lovely, yet non-informative birdsong.
The FM 98 station is also expected to play a key role in promoting solutions to inter-communal conflicts and hosting talk shows featuring peace dialogues and a range of socioeconomic issues of concern to local communities.
Western Lakes Deputy Governor, Lois Agum Ruben Maciir, is pleased that the pleas for assistance made by the local authorities have been heard.
“It was a challenge for us to run this radio station throughout the day on a daily basis, but today our dream has become reality through our partners,” Agum said. “It will give us an opportunity to listen to the voices of our communities and we as a government can reach our people easily through the radio.”
The peacekeeping mission’s intervention to install the solar-powered system, worth some 48,000 dollars, is part of its funding of Quick Impact Projects, endeavours meant to have a significant and sustainable impact at the community level, at a low cost.
If well-maintained and taken care of, the durability of the solar panels should hardly be an issue. FM 98 will be able to broadcast around the clock for the next 20 years, according to the company which installed the 8 kilowatts facilities.
“Don’t use the generated power to pump water, and don’t connect the power to outsiders,” said Kwame Dwamena-Abaogye, Head of the UNMISS Field Office in Rumbek, in a bid to promote the longevity of the project.
Other concluded Quick Impact Projects in the Lakes region include the provision of potable water in Meen County, the renovation of Cueibet and Yirol secondary schools and refurbishing the girls’ secondary school in Rumbek.
More innovative projects aiming at benefitting local communities are bound to follow.