Farm Radio International was founded by George Atkins, a leading CBC farm radio broadcaster, after he realized that agricultural radio in Africa wasn’t serving its listeners: small-scale, family farmers. He had met a number of African broadcasters who told him that their broadcasts shared information about large-scale, commercial farming because that’s the type of information they had access to. George had a plan to change that and, in the late 1970s, he put it into action.
Since 1979, Farm Radio has been providing radio broadcasters with practical information about productive and sustainable farming practices, nutrition, and health for them to share with small-scale farmers. These resources help broadcasters produce radio programs that truly address the day-to-day information needs of listeners in rural communities.
Over the years, we have learned more about radio and the needs of small-scale farmers. We discovered that the power of agricultural radio is greatest when it goes beyond sharing information and features the voices of women and men farmers themselves — letting them share their experiences, questions, feedback, and opinions. Thankfully, the advent of affordable mobile phones and other new technologies have made interactivity among broadcasters, listeners, and decision makers possible in ways that George could only have dreamed of in the early years of Farm Radio.
Today, we put more focus on broadcaster training, emphasizing the skills needed for participatory, farmer-centred radio programs. We are creating new types of services and resources for more than 640 radio partners in Africa, including “broadcaster how to” guides, online training courses, and issue backgrounders. Our team at The Hangar, our radio and ICT innovation lab in Tanzania, is focused on finding new ways to use mobile phones and computers to make radio more accessible, dynamic, and interactive. And we work directly with partner radio stations to design high-quality farm radio programs with measurable results.