The name Farm Radio International seems to capture the imagination. When people first hear about Farm Radio International, they often ask: “where can we find you on the radio dial?” or “how many listeners do you have?” Some wonder “do you distribute radios?” or even “do you set up new radio stations?”
These are all reasonable questions. But, in fact, since our foundation in 1979, Farm Radio International’s role has been to help broadcasters at existing radio stations improve the quality and effectiveness of their programs for small-scale farmers.
For most of the years since, we have provided this support in the form of radio scripts about farming and rural development issues and practices. The script service responded to the reality that most rural radio broadcasters in sub- Saharan Africa do not have access to the information they need – in the format they need – to create accurate, relevant, engaging programs for small-scale farmers.
Over the last year, we have made some exciting changes to our services. Our core mission remains the same, but we are working in a variety of new ways to achieve it.
Recognizing that radio stations need more than scripts to serve small-scale farmers and rural communities, we have enhanced our script service to a more comprehensive Resources for Broadcasters strategy. This includes our electronic news service, Farm Radio Weekly, and the development of an online social network. As before, our Resources for Broadcasters are available, free of charge, for any and all radio practitioners to use.
We have also added the new core strategies of Impact Programming and Training and Standards.
Impact Programming involves working directly with a select group of radio stations to plan and implement a radio strategy that aims to have a specific impact in a particular area. For example, Farm Radio International developed the Participatory Radio Campaign (PRC) methodology through the African Farm Radio Research Initiative (AFRRI), an initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Over the past year, we established the capacity to implement PRCs beyond AFRRI, by opening offices in Ethiopia, Ghana, Mali, and Tanzania, and forming strategic partnerships in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Malawi, and Uganda.
We also launched a new Training and Standards service that helps radio station staff gain the skills they need to research, produce, and sustain high-quality rural radio programming.
At the same time, Farm Radio International has become a leading expert in the integration of new communication technologies with radio, and is helping broadcasters take advantage of the opportunities offered by these developments.
Our expansion into these new areas would not have been possible without the remarkable support of our donors, volunteers, partners, dedicated and capable staff, and strong Board of Directors. 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.