2020: A year unlike any other

Well… 2020 was quite a year wasn’t it?

Suffice it to say that this year was not what any of us expected. In many ways, it feels strange to be celebrating. After all, there is so much for the world to think about as we head towards 2021. Vaccination efforts are just starting. Lockdowns and market closures have left vulnerable populations more food insecure, and the pandemic is far from over.

But at the same time there is so much to be thankful for. Which is why we are choosing to celebrate what our team and our partners have achieved this year. In this year-unlike-any-other there was so much good that happened. Radio stations did amazing work to ensure that rural communities stayed safe and healthy — despite the threat of COVID-19. Distance-led and remote approaches made some programs more accessible than ever. Individuals came together, while apart, to support different causes and made it possible to continue to do the work that we do. 

So, here’s Farm Radio International’s 2020 Top Ten. 

  1. Millions of lives changed: This year our work reached 13 million listeners, of whom 2.7 million made a change in their farming, health and nutrition practices. At our core, this is an ultimate goal. We want to support individuals with the knowledge and information they need to make choices that will improve their lives. Read some more about how we did just that in our annual report.
  2. Reacted with agility to the COVID-19 pandemic: There is no doubt that COVID-19 has made an impact in all of our lives. When the pandemic was declared we leapt into action. We mainstreamed COVID-19 information across all our programs, and partnered with broadcasters to immediately support them in getting relevant, local, and essential information to underserved communities across Africa. We worked in 20 languages across 12 countries and launched a broadcaster hotline that recieved over 3000 calls.  It provided a spot where broadcasters could ask their own questions about how to support communities during the pandemic.
  3. COVID-19 support fund: When it comes to keeping people safe, good information and trust in that information are essential. Radio stations are trusted by local people, and can ensure those same people get good information — but they were also hit hard by the pandemic, losing key ad revenue that kept them on the airwaves. We distributed $170,000 in COVID-19 support funding to 140 stations, thanks to funding from the Government of Canada through Global Affairs Canada, to keep stations safe, on the air and communities well-informed.
  4. Education over the airwaves: Working with CODE, another Canadian NGO, we launched the Distance Learning in Crisis project in two countries new to Farm Radio: Sierra Leone and Liberia. Designed to support learning and literacy that has been interrupted because of the COVID-19 pandemic — and to promote health practices, gender equality, and good learning habits — the Reading on the Waves programs are running for 13 weeks across 10 stations in the two countries. 
  5. Development at a Distance: We can’t forget that we did all of this largely at a distance. As COVID-19 pushed everyone who could to stay safely at home we adjusted our work so we didn’t put anyone at risk. We also considered the implications of this on international cooperation in general. Watch our webinar on Development at a Distance to see what works, what doesn’t and what this means for the future of international cooperation. 
  6. Welcomed our 1000th broadcasting partner: Since our beginnings as an organization we’ve made it one of our goals to partner with existing radio stations to support them in improving their programs for farmers. This year we hit a major achievement: We welcomed our 1000th radio partner to our network of stations across 41 countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
  7. Celebrated World Radio Day across eight countries: Before the pandemic, we joined with radio stations, partners and staff to celebrate World Radio Day and discuss the ways in which radio can be better, and its importance in facilitating dialogue.
  8. Projects, projects, projects: This year we started strong and didn’t stop. We ran 31 projects in 12 different countries. We continued our Scaling Her Voice on Air project, that launched radio dramas addressing gender based violence. In Ghana, we worked with the Ministry of Food and Agriculture to start building a Digital Advisory Service across the country, with the goal of ensuring all farmers, everywhere, will receive agricultural support. We also worked on multiple projects on climate smart and sustainable agriculture with GIZ, the German development agency in Uganda, Nigeria and Ghana. Across sub-Saharan Africa our work has addressed topics like food security, agriculture, gender equality, health and nutrition and climate change — all continuing throughout the pandemic. And we don’t plan on stopping when the pandemic ends.
  9. Satisfying endings: We also said goodbye to several of our projects this year. Our Reducing Post Harvest Loss project supported by the Rockefeller Foundation saw groundbreaking results through approaches that worked with local participatory video and TV, as well as interactive radio. We ended a long, fruitful partnership with the Uniterra project, a WUSC and CECI program that aimed to improve economic development across 14 countries, where we worked with volunteers, radio stations, and local radio stations to change attitudes in different sectors, improve gender equality, and augment value chains. We also closed the second iteration of our maternal and infant health project with WUSC, PASME2, where we used fun and innovative techniques — like the Best Husband Contest — to involve both men and women in improving women’s health.
  10. Launched a new Strategic Plan: We took a hard look at ourselves as an organization and revamped our strategic intentions in 2020. For the next five years we have ambitious goals to improve our organizational capacity, to mobilize our partners, donors and supporters to help us achieve our goals, and, of course, to continue to improve interactive radio, making it a channel of choice for sustainable rural development. Read the new strategic plan here. 

We are proud of what we achieved this year, despite less-than-ideal conditions. But we are happy, to say the least, to be moving into 2021. Here’s hoping (fingers crossed) that 2021 will bring us closer to a more just and prosperous world. 

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