Taking a break from the midday sun under a tree, Mindey Ndoinyo tunes the radio on his mobile phone to 107.7 Loliondo FM. The 20-year-old lives in a remote Maasai village called Ololosokwan, 15 kilometres south of the border with Kenya.
Mr. Ndoinyo is joined by two friends dressed in traditional red and black Maasai robes. The men fall silent as they listen to the music and chattering voices coming from the phone’s loudspeaker. Mr. Ndoinyo says: “I like to listen to music and news on the Maisha Mix program. I also enjoy the Maasai cultural program and the environmental lessons it teaches us.”
Loliondo FM is the first and only radio station broadcasting from Tanzania’s Ngorongoro district. Founded in 2013, the mandate of the non-commercial, community radio station is to provide a voice to Tanzania’s pastoralist and agro-pastoralist communities.
The villages of Loliondo division are located in Ngorongoro district, north of Ngorongoro Crater and east of Serengeti National Park, two of Tanzania’s major tourist attractions. Local land disputes involving international investors have created a huge rift between Maasai herders and the Tanzanian government, making headlines around the world.
After a protracted two-year application process, Loliondo FM received its licence and started broadcasting last November. The tensions around land ownership disputes made the authorities wary of granting the licence. Joseph Munga is Loliondo FM’s Station Manager. He says: “In Tanzania, political leaders have a problem with community radio because it speaks from the grassroots. This scares leaders in our country.”
Across the border in Kenya, radio stations are allowed to broadcast in the language of their choice. For a long time, the only radio voices villagers heard late in the evening were in Swahili from the Tanzania Broadcasting Corporation and a Maasai language station in Kenya.
Broadcasting regulations are different in Tanzania. Mr. Munga explains: “There’s a government regulation that we broadcast in Swahili, not in our Maasai language, so [that] we don’t promote conflict between different tribes or spread hate.”
Broadcasters on Loliondo FM do speak Maasai from time to time. Many callers cannot speak Swahili, and news reports are translated for these listeners one hour after the original broadcast. The station’s news service focuses on both its own community and on broader Tanzanian affairs.
Musa Leitura is a Loliondo FM broadcaster who was born and raised with his four brothers and two sisters in Ololosokwan. The 28-year-old says, “I’ve been trained by UNESCO as a community journalist. I’ve attended workshops on investigative journalism, ethics and corruption.”
He adds: “I like being a presenter because now I’m a leader in the community. The radio is a great channel to create harmony between clashing tribes, and to educate everyone in Loliondo.”
As Mr. Ndoinyo’s mobile phone battery weakens, the group of friends move off to borrow a radio from a local shop owner and continue listening to Loliondo FM.
Mr. Ndoinyo says: “Ngorongoro district is isolated. We don’t receive newspapers in Ololosokwan village. Many people listen to the radio to get information.”
Published online @ Farm Radio Weekly