Roots’ Radio Debut

March 13, 2013

Part of La Voix des Montagnes (Voice of the Mountains) office in Bafoussam

Part of La Voix des Montagnes (Voice of the Mountains) office in Bafoussam

The time had finally come for Roots’ solo radio debut. I had been on the radio twice before, both times to accompany Christophe, the GIC Sondason employee in charge of the weekly radio show. Every Sunday from 5:00 to 6:00 GIC Sondason had a slot with a local radio station, La Voix des Montanges (Voice of the Mountains) to talk about sustainable development and the latest news from the GIC. This is a part of the “social engagement” aspect of Utamtsi and GIC Sondason’s mission, to reach out to a broad coalition of Cameroonians and spread the word about organic agriculture, Fair Trade, sustainable development, and so on.

The previous week, I had gone to the radio only to find that the electricity in the neighborhood had been cut and the show was cancelled for the day. This week was to be my first time doing the radio show by myself.

Top Left: Christophe on the radio, Top Right: My first day at the radio, Bottom: Radio show host at the Planter's Party interviewing a delegate

Top Left: Christophe on the radio, Top Right: My first day at the radio
Bottom: Radio show host at the Planter’s Party interviewing a delegate

I had written a script in French and edited it with the help of Grace, Sarah, and a French-English dictionary. I practiced pronunciation of difficult French words and wrote out questions and topics for the radio show host; I was ready. The first time I had been to the radio I was too nervous to try speaking in French; I had responded to all questions in slow and deliberate English.

Despite the fact that Cameroon is a bilingual country, certain regions are anglophone (English speaking) while others are francophone (French speaking). Bafoussam, where we are based, is the capital of the francophone West Region. Furthermore, most Anglophone Cameroonians speak “British English,” as a result of Cameroon being a former British colony. Cameroonians often have difficulty with “American English” and our accents. The language barrier is therefore multi-faceted and necessitated that I speak in French if I wanted to the majority of listeners to get my message.

Editing my final radio show script

Editing my final radio show script

However, after all my preparation and a fair amount of anxiety, our boss told me on Sunday afternoon that they had decided to cancel the radio show from here on out. Serious problems with electricity in Bafoussam (and Cameroon in general) have caused nearly half of the radio shows per month to be cancelled. It was no longer economical for the GIC to pay for a monthly radio slot only to miss half the radio shows. GIC Sondason cancelled their radio commitment until La Voix des Montagnes purchases a generator to guarantee that the show will go on even in the face of constant electricity cuts.

The problem of unreliable electricity plagues all regions of Cameroon, and it is something that we as a group have had to navigate in our work. Sometimes you do a PowerPoint presentation, only to find that there is no electricity to power the projector. You may write up a document only to find that there is no electricity when you go to print it. These situations are hard to navigate, but we are learning how to prepare for two scenarios; one with and one without electricity. Thus, in the face of rampant electricity shortages, GIC Sondason will have to find a new way to reach out to the masses, and I will have to find a new road to stardom.

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