Regular readers of Tuning In will know that Farm Radio International led its first learning tour to Tanzania in February 2017. I was part of that adventure.
When I first got the invitation, my automatic response was “I’d never do that — it’s too far outside my comfort zone!” But the more I thought about it, though, the more I thought “Why not?”
When I worked with George Atkins in the Farm Radio Toronto office back in the ‘80s, newly married and hoping to start a family, I was content to leave the traveling to others. Now I was getting a second chance! And all I had to do was write a cheque, renew my passport and pack my bag. FRI was booking all our travel and accommodations.
I didn’t know any of my traveling companions, but any anxiety was soon laid to rest. We found we had so many similar interests. Apart from FRI, we supported many of the same causes, volunteered in our own communities, even listened to the same radio programs. We were a diverse group of senior(ish) farmers, doctors, nurses, engineers and social workers.
In Arusha, the local staff were so eager to show us the best their country had to offer, we felt like visiting dignitaries. (Or like visitors from another planet: a whole day could go by without seeing a familiar tree, flower or bird.)
The trip was billed as a learning tour, and there was so much learning we could scarcely take it all in. We enjoyed eating new foods and picking up some essential phrases in Swahili. For me, the highlight was our visit to the World Vegetable Center, AVRDC. “Back in my day” the FRI library would regularly receive publications from agricultural research centers around the world, including AVRDC. The thought that I was actually visiting one of them sent chills up my spine! I could have spent the whole day there!
But we had so much else to see: FRI’s partner radio stations; farms where information from radio campaigns had improved lives; a visit with a village listening group.
In Dar es Salaam, we visited the Canadian High Commission to learn more about Canada’s humanitarian goals in East Africa. We also visited the Tanzanian ministries of agriculture and health to hear about their own priorities and challenges.
We couldn’t visit Tanzania without going on safari, so we spent three days getting up close with wildlife we would otherwise only meet in National Geographic. After all our hard work, we had a few days to recover in paradise on the Indian Ocean side of Zanzibar.
Part of the plan going into this trip was to find ways of giving back to FRI once we returned home. For my part, I put together a slide show — Kevin Perkins set up a website where we could share our best photos — and my collection of souvenirs (fabrics, spices, tea, coffee, beadwork) and made myself available as a speaker. Over the ensuing year I have spoken to church congregations, a sorority, a Women’s Institute, and several church women’s groups. Most of these groups, and a few individuals, have made donations to FRI.
One of the couples on our trip, Don and Sue, run a market garden just down the road from the Outdoor Farm Show in Woodstock, Ontario, and was able to secure space at last fall’s Farm Show for an FRI table. The office sent down display materials, and we took turns as greeters, along with another couple, Art and Thea, from Sarnia. While I was there I had the pleasure of meeting Glen Powell, one of George Atkins’ CBC colleagues.
Looking back, if I had the chance, would I go again? In a heartbeat!
In February 2019 we will be packing our bags for a tour of Ghana. Join us to see the impact our work has had on broadcasters and farmers in West Africa. To learn more, contact Soula Dimitrey at 613-761-3715 or [email protected]