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Mbanza-Ngungu, Congo: Pilot Project Radio Ntemo

In this phase of the project, the first aim is to consolidate what Radio Ntemo (Mbanza-Ngungu) has already achieved, and in a second phase to extend the pilot project to other regions in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

One of the great advantages of Rural Radio, to be used as a development communication tool, is the direct contact it establishes between development workers and the rural population. To collect the information needed to produce the broadcasts and then conduct monitoring and evaluation among the audiences in the field, it is essential for the teams to be able to move around. Radio Mbaza-Ngungu now has motorcycles to enable the agents to travel outside Mbaza-Ngungu. However, they still need an ATV to cover all three areas in the district, including Mongolula, the most distant point, lying 250 km from the radio station.

Another scheduled development is the mobilisation of financial resources under protocol agreements to use time slots on Radio Ntemo. The entities with a potential interest in an agreement of this kind are public and non-governmental organisations, private firms and other development programmes and projects. The Radio Ntemo Local Development Committee will have to visit all the three territories in the District to find local partners. Support for the programme takes the form of a vehicle and means of subsistence to be able to cover all three territories in one month. Membership cards will then have to be printed for individuals and organisations that have become members of the Radio Ntemo Development Association. The Association will have to be supported by covering the printing costs.

Analogue and digital recording devices will also have to be procured, with a complete sound system to facilitate the production and presentation of public broadcasts and other open air events, such as community interviews and above all public broadcasts. Furthermore, a single side-band (SSB) broadcasting system would improve communications between the different agents throughout the District. Information and news from the field could also be exchanged and immediately broadcast through on the radio news programmes.

Training sessions will also be held to enhance not only the technical skills of the Ntemo radio personnel but also its partners: the agence d?exécution sur terrain du programme d?information et de communication rurale (SNIR), the Service National de vulgarisation (SNV) and the French language stations with which Ntemo Radio has signed a protocol Local Rural Radio agreement.

For Ntemo Radio, the project intends to provide training in participatory and interactive rural radio techniques, collecting and processing local information, using and maintaining the equipment for the radio engineers, and for the administrative and financial management of the radio station.

Training for French language radio stations will be provided for producers and presenters, sound engineers, project managers and maintenance personnel.

For SNIR it is essential to enhance the technical and professional skills of its agents so that the service can perform the mission that has been given to it, that is to say, to produce news and rural communications in the field, and coordinate the work of all the grassroots rural communications workers. The SNIR agents will be trained to draw up, implement, monitor and evaluate projects, to train instructors in rural communication and presentation, rural information techniques and methods to collect rural information, audio-digital editing, administrative and financial management, as well as gender and development.

The National Extension Service (SNV) will also receive training. Training requirements have been identified in organisational development, the method for conducting data gathering surveys, drafting and analysing criteria for data selection and assessing the relevance of the data collected from the local communities, designing bankable micro-projects and managing mini-funds.

So far there has been a legal void in the Congo regarding radio broadcasting belonging to associations, business, communities and faith groups. The Community Rural Radio project intends to address this gap by recruiting a national and an international legal adviser who will draft and complete legal texts and have them duly validated.

Radio Ntemo does not yet cover the whole District. It is particularly the territories of Luozi and Songololo that fall outside the scope of the radio broadcasting service. It is very important to enable the capitals of these two territories (Luozi-Centre and Songololo-Centre) to break out of their isolation, because of their demographic importance.

Lastly, the project sets out to create a multipurpose community television centre at Mbanza-Ngungu. It will act as a knowledge collection centre, a meeting place, and a forum for discussion and communication. Radio will act as an interface between the Internet services, such as telemedicine and WAICENT, and the isolated rural communities far away from the centre. However, before envisaging any such action it will be necessary, initially, to put into place the telecommunications infrastructure and train agents to carry out Internet searches.

The second step in this phase is designed to extend the pilot project to other regions of Congo, and will cover the period 2004-2006.

1. The implementation of four community rural radio stations at Katanga (1), Kasaï (1), Equateur (1) and the Eastern Province (1).

2. The installation of a system for collecting and processing rural information for the network of community radio stations (reappraising and improving the SNIR and SNV missions).

3. A publication of a written bulletin by SNIR on "The Rural World".

In this second phase of the project it will be necessary to implement a rural information policy in Congo and think in terms of defining a national communications policy for rural development. In this exercise use can be made of the results of the May 2003 workshop under the TCP/DRC/2801 project, at which a number of agreements were reached regarding a national rural information policy. According to the findings of the workshop, a policy of this kind should meet the needs for change expressed by the grassroots communities. It is multi-sectoral, and should be harmonised with the national information and communication policy.

The implementation of the rural information policy was drawn up by the workshop as follows: after declaring the political will to become involved in implementing the national rural information policy, a favourable institutional framework has to be created. Then the SNIR's terms of reference must be redefined - bearing in mind the new national situation - and its financial and material resources identified and distributed to ensure the success of the mission. The role of the SNV as the provider of rural communities' accompanying themes must also be enhanced, particularly for identifying development constraints. The SNV will be responsible for collecting data in the field to be used for broadcasts beamed at the rural world.

The national communication policy for rural development in the Democratic Republic of Congo must identify the information and communication requirements of the rural people, and their role. It must also decide on the role of the SNV, SNIR and the radio stations, as well as that of other institutions and media, and it must structure and organise all the various stakeholders involved.

At that workshop, the stages were laid down for setting up a community rural radio station. These stages are based on a participatory methodology involving all the players concerned throughout the whole process. It runs as follows: the first step towards launching rural radio consists of mobilising financial and physical resources. In order to find sites on which to set up the facilities and become familiar with the sociological, economic and technical environments, feasibility studies must be carried out first. The grassroots communities must be sensitised to acquire ownership of the project. After that, the local project development committee can be put in place. Administrative formalities must be undertaken, and the statutes, requirements and rules of procedure for the radio must be drawn up. The radio site can then be identified and organised.

The next set of activities are procuring the materials, recruiting the staff, installing the equipment, personnel training, designing the programme schedule, and lastly commissioning and inaugurating the radio station.

One important step is to set up procedures and structures to enable the beneficiaries to acquire ownership of the radio, because that will guarantee its sustainability. Procedures for monitoring and evaluating the radio station must also be put in place.

 

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