‘Small but mighty’: Farm Radio International honoured in Canadian Senate

Kevin Perkins and Senator Stan Kutcher

Executive director Kevin Perkins stands with Senator Stan Kutcher at the Senate of Canada on April 3.

Canadian Senator Ratna Omidvar honoured Farm Radio International during a session of the Senate of Canada on April 3.

“It might be small, but it is really mighty,” said the senator, who is herself an internationally recognized voice on migration, diversity and inclusion.

During her speech from the chamber, Sen. Omidvar discussed the work Farm Radio does across sub-Saharan Africa.

“It informs, educates and supports small-scale subsistence farmers with essential information on subjects such as seeding, irrigation, soil management, animal handling and so on,” she said. “It doesn’t cost too much money but it reaches so many farmers, improving the quality of their lives and contributing the the sustainability of local food systems.”

Sen. Omidvar herself was recently honoured with the 2018 Lewis Perinbam Award, an award recognizing Canadians who are engaged in improving the lives of those in developing countries; inspiring Canadians to undertake volunteer action; or offering new ways of thinking and addressing the challenges of development.

In the Senate, she also spoke to the breadth of our work as a development organization.

“One of its secrets is its creativity about its programming. Its impact goes well beyond the dos and don’ts of farming,” she said, adding that Farm Radio’s mental health programming in Tanzania and Malawi was an example of that.

From 2012 to 2016, Farm Radio International worked on a team with now-senator Stan Kutcher to develop a radio soap opera on mental health.

“I think we all appreciate that mental health is everywhere, and through this effort the radio audience is better able to recognize how to detect signs [of depression] and how to deal with and assist members in their communities.”

Executive director speaks at special senate committee

The recognition followed the appearance of Farm Radio International’s executive director, Kevin Perkins, at a meeting of the Special Senate Committee on the Charitable Sector. There, he discussed some of the challenges and opportunities faced by charities within Canada, particularly those involved in international cooperation. He highlighted the need for greater legal flexibility for charities to work in equitable partnerships with similar organizations in other countries, and the value of responsive funding opportunities within Canada’s international assistance program to allow organizations to propose innovative solutions to global challenges.

“We were deeply honoured by Sen. Omidvar’s recognition of Farm Radio,” said Perkins. “Her words of support inspire us to continue our efforts to bring life-changing information to all African farmers over the airwaves.”

Celebrating our history

This year, Farm Radio International celebrates its 40th anniversary. From our humble beginnings as an organization that sent informative scripts and tapes around the developing world from the living room of our founder, George Atkins, we’ve grown into an organization supports nearly 800 radio stations in 40 sub-Saharan African countries. We also work directly with more than 100 radio stations to deliver carefully designed radio series with specific and measurable development goals to rural audiences in 11 countries. But there is still room to grow.

“It is my hope that our work here in the Senate can allow organizations like Farm Radio, not only to simply exist, but to thrive and to succeed,” said Sen. Omidvar.

“In the meantime, please join me in applauding this fantastic work they do on behalf not just of Canadians, but all global citizens. Thank you.”

Read Senator Omidvar’s full statement on her website.

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