In the Democratic Republic of Congo, radio stations explore creative funding models

Radio Television Communautaire 117’s rice processing operation. Photo credit: Internews

Kimbobo, a rural town in the Democratic Republic of Congo, is isolated. Though the provincial capital, Kindu, is only 150 km away, the roads are difficult to traverse. Twice a year, trains from Lubumbashi or Kalemie bring goods from Southern Africa or Dar Es Salaam, causing much celebration along the route. There is no power supply in Kimbombo, so the local community radio station, Radio Television Communautaire 117, relies on gas generators that they can only afford to operate for two hours a day.

There is no advertising market in Kibombo and the radio station struggles to make ends meet. The only reliable source of income in the region is agriculture. That gave Bernard Djunga Mashka, Radio Television Communautaire 117’s manager, an idea.

With a small grant, Djunga Mashka bought rice-processing equipment and entrusted the management of the equipment to the listeners’ club in Lowe village. The rice-processing workshop can hull about two tons of paddy per day. Part of the proceeds go to the members of the radio listener’s club as salary and to support the club and the rest goes to the radio station.

“Members of the listeners’ club are today more than engaged towards our radio,” says Djunga Mashka. “Along with managing this workshop, they also organize the production of radio programs about rice breeding and how to improve nutrition in the communities. They are also willing to raise awareness in other communities about buying this kind of equipment and diversifying their agricultural production.”

Radio Television Communautaire 117 had lost some veteran journalists and volunteers in the lead up to the 2015 local elections, lured away by the promise of management positions at new radio stations being established to covered the campaigns.

“The increased revenues [from the rice processing] help us to maintain our independence and to keep our staff on the team,” says Djunga Mashka. “Some who had left came back to us,” he added with a smile.  A part of the processed rice is also given to journalists and staff, who prefer to get a part of their salaries in food rather than money.

This article first is from Karim Benard-Dende who is the Internews Chief of Party in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Charles Ntiryica, Internews journalism adviser, contributed to this article. The enterprises at Radio Television Communautaire 117 and Radio Bandundu were launched with small grants through Internews’ Open Media Fund in DRC, part of the Media Sector Development Program, which is implemented by Internews and funded by USAID.