Two years ago, members of the RFI club of Bukavu, in the province of Sud-Kivu, in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, visited Kahuzi-Biega national park with Sébastien Bonijol, one of the coordinators of the RFI clubs.
The park, listed in 1980 as a UNESCO World Heritage site, is one of the green lungs of the planet. It also shelters, with its neighbor Virunga, among the last colonies of mountain gorillas. But the park suffered a lot from the upheavals of the region and still suffers from deforestation and regular clashes between Pygmies and forest guards.
A radio in a huge park
To protect this threatened space, "we had the idea of creating a radio station inside this park to raise awareness among people who cut trees," explains Alain Bashizi, eminent member of the RFI club of Bukavu who became coordinator of the Gorilla FM project.
In the 6,000 km² of park area, radio has emerged as an ideal means of communication, making it possible to reach the populations scattered in the area at a low cost.
This is how the project took shape, supported financially by the Swiss Cooperation, helped by technicians from the NGO Internews, benefiting from the material assistance of RFI Planète radio and the expertise of the Clubs RFI team in Paris.
The environment on the air
The editorial position of the radio is original in the media landscape of the region. “Gorilla FM is an environmental radio station,” explains Alain Bashizi. We will hear music and news, but also stories dealing with "health, agriculture, animal husbandry, fishing, nutrition and education.”
"Gorilla FM is a concerted radio for the management of a natural area", specifies the project coordinator. Thus, to anchor itself in its broadcasting area, the station seeks to recruit Pygmies, natives of the Kahuzi-Biega park, who know its forests like no one and will be better able to sensitize the local populations by radio. Gorilla FM can also already count on a dozen correspondents spread across the park.
Gorilla FM's studio and offices are located at Tshivanga station, the headquarters of Kahuzi-Biega park, some 30 km north of Bukavu. The Congolese Institute for Nature Conservation (ICCN) has "agreed to cooperate with us and has given us all the necessary authorizations," welcomes Alain Bashizi, who specifies that "Gorilla FM is the first environmental radio installed in an area protected in the DRC.” The forest guards will ensure the security of the radio's premises and staff.
A Pilot Project
One of the objectives of Gorilla FM is "to encourage and promote tourism in the Kahuzi-Biega national park," explains Alain Bashizi because if "the Kahuzi-Biega and Virunga parks have experienced unrest with the presence of armed groups, little by little the question is being settled.”
This radio was also designed as a pilot project. “Gorilla FM will not just be a radio station in Kahuzi-Biega National Park. We are currently seeing how to try to replicate it, in the coming years, on other protected areas of the DRC,” enthuses Alain Bashizi.
The radio is to be officially launched on March 20, but it should start broadcasting in test mode starting Wednesday, February 19 on 90.3 FM. There is also a website, still under construction. “The project was designed by young people, only young people. We thought we should make a different radio. It will not only be traditional radio, but it will also be a website, social networks, short videos…Gorilla FM will be different. Long live her.”
(Banner photo: Gorilla FM's studio is located in Kahuzi-Biega National Park.)