Tiny 'bush' radio brings vital information to fishing town

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Maxamuud Cumar, aas-aasaha iyo maamulaha raadiye macmal ah oo laga dhageysto Banderbeyla/Cabdiraxmaan/Ergo Photo | Mohamud Omar, founder of Radio Horyal

Mohamed Shariff 16 November, 2015 BARI


(ERGO) - It is just before 3pm. As usual on Wednesday, people in the ancient fishing community of Bandarbeyla, 368 km from Bosaso, are tuning their radio sets to catch the weekly health programme on Radio Horyal. The presenter, Badriya Dayib, goes through her notes scribbled on pages torn from an old notebook before she goes on air. There are no chairs, tables or computers. Just a microphone, a mattress and a mat, where Dayib sits to interview her guest from the village health commission.

Radio Horyal, meaning ‘ideal’, consists of a one-room building on higher ground on the outskirts of Bandarbeyla. Inside, there are numerous cables, bits of old recording and telecommunications kit and a battery-pack. The room serves as store, studio and sleeping quarters for Mohamud Omar, the 51-year-old divorced father of five, who set up and runs the radio.

Omar built the station with just $30 cash and a collection of old equipment he had gathered from various places put together from his experience in mechanics and electronics. With no formal education, Omar is now a well-known and popular person in the town.

“It took me a year and a half to build the antenna and connect it to the transmitter so we could broadcast. Now with such a small FM, we can save lives,” said Omar.

Horyal broadcasts on 97.7 FM and is heard across five square kilometres for nine hours a day. It has become a vital source of information and entertainment for the entire community in this small town in the remote coastal area of Bari in the northeast. Bandarbeyla is a meeting point for fishermen, pastoralists and crop farmers.

Omar’s love for radio began in 2002 when he was working as a mechanic in a small garage. He was also asked to fix electrical items including damaged radio sets. “I always had an interest of learning anything that relates to engineering and mechanics,” said Omar.  He dreamed of setting up an FM station, knowing that this would bring much needed local news to the town which was reliant on shortwave radio broadcasts including Radio Ergo for its information.

Horyal FM went on air in 2010. Since then, Omar has invested $75 raised from local advertising in solar panels to replace the battery powering the transmitter.

On today’s health programme, Dayib, a 21-year-old recent high school graduate, discusses how to protect against infectious diseases. Dayib is one of four journalists, two men and two women, working as reporters and presenters. They have had no formal journalism training but they believe passionately in what they are doing.

“We used to be a very cut off area. We didn’t know what was happening around us and we totally relied on stations like Radio Ergo for natural disaster warnings about floods and storms and so on. Now we also fill that gap,” said Dayib. “We are on air at the three prime listening times for three hours each in the morning, afternoon and evening.”

The station broadcasts local events, community meetings, health, education and business news all from the perspective of the local community. The Horyal team records and replays programmes from Radio Ergo, BBC and VOA Somali service to complement its own content. As there is no phone-in facility, people often come to the station in person to make a report about missing children, or the opening of new shops, or to request songs to be played.  Local advertising brings in about two million Somali shillings a month (roughly $100).

Bandarbeyla residents are in awe of Omar for bringing them Radio Horyal that gives their town an identity. “He is an amazing guy,” said Bille Nor, a frequent listener and businessman, whose shop is advertised on the station. “If more people like him get financial support and encouragement from the community, they can contribute to the development of the country.”  

For Omar, who has a night job as a guard at the local school, providing information has become a vocation. Horyal has passed critical messages to the community to ensure safety when storms are approaching or when flooding is imminent. As the little radio approaches its sixth anniversary next month, Omar wishes other remote communities could benefit from similar initiatives.

Mohamed Shariff

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