When the desert locust plague first arrived in Timbuktu in Mali in the summer of 2004, the town’s four radio stations used a mobile suitcase radio station donated by UNESCO to mobilize citizens to help fight against the invading swarms of insects.
The mobile radio station, manufactured by Wantok Enterprises, a Canadian company, is a complete FM radio broadcast unit – including a set of two MP3/CD players, two cassette recorders, a six-channel audio mixer and a microphone – that fits in a single suitcase. A high gain antenna comes in an accompanying tube.
Although the station is fully portable it can also be used as a permanent community radio station. It readily accepts any audio source for rebroadcasting, including satellite, off-air or off-net programming. The station comes in two versions: one with a 30 watt transmitter (covering a radius of 15 km), and a 100 watt version, which can reach up to 60 km. Both versions operate on a single 13.8 volt DC power source, permitting battery operation from solar or other charging sources. In Timbuktu, the suitcase radio station is used not only during locust infestations but also for the production of agricultural information programmes on location.
For more information, including an article on the use of the suitcase radio station in Mali, visit the Wantok website.