The year 2009-2010 was a remarkable period of reflection, celebration, loss and hope for Farm Radio International. We marked the 30th anniversary of the organization, reflecting on our roots and celebrating the distance we have come since then. Then, on November 30, 2009, we received word that George Atkins, the founder of Developing Countries Farm Radio Network, its first executive director and an active board member until 2008, had died at the age of 92. It was a tremendous loss. But it was also a time to recommit to the vision that inspired Farm Radio International and to carry on in our efforts to strengthen and improve our services.
2009-2010 was also a year of great learning and innovation for everyone involved in Farm Radio International. Through our third scriptwriting competition, we discovered the power of facilitated e-learning in helping farm broadcasters develop new skills and support each other over the Internet. Careful evaluation of our Participatory Radio Campaign model revealed to us that well-produced radio strategies aimed at smallholder farmers lead to significant, measurable changes in the practices of farmers and in the ways that extension services are offered to them. Experiments in the use of mobile phones, digital audio devices (MP3 players) and interactive voice response systems revealed to us that, rather than replacing the “old technology” of radio, these new devices are most powerful when they are linked with radio. We found new ways to use information and communication technologies to make radio more interactive and more responsive to farmers’ needs, and more effectively give farmers a voice.
In the midst of these exciting developments, our reflections on George’s life and his strong values served to remind us that, in the end, it is all about the farmer. When all was said and done, this is what mattered to George. It is with humility that I thank our many donors, volunteers, partners, participants, dedicated and capable staff and strong board of directors for making this service possible. In particular, I am indebted to Doug Ward, the President and Chair of the Board of Farm Radio International, for inspirational leadership grounded in deep and rich experience in radio and social justice.