In early 2012, I had the privilege of seeing one of our broadcasting partners at work in Ghana. He sat in a broadcast booth, just like George Atkins (Farm Radio International’s founder) would have 40 years ago when he hosted his farm radio program on CBC. But times certainly have changed! Our Ghanaian partner held a cell phone in one hand, while with the other he tapped away on a laptop. He was using the cell phone to conduct a live interview with a farmer. On his laptop he was queuing up the next song to play. Talk about multi-tasking!
Today’s new information and communications technologies have been transformative. Smartphones and social networking websites create exciting new ways to spread information, share opinions, and get people talking about important issues. The majority of small- scale farmers in Africa cannot access the internet and smartphones. So our broadcasting partners provide the link, using these technologies to create better, more interactive radio programs that farmers can access. Our work in 2011-12 demonstrated the re-emerging power of radio as a highly effective way to help African farmers. We developed innovative ways of providing resources like radio scripts to African radio stations, increased broadcasters’ skills through training and coaching, developed and produced high-impact radio programs with partner stations, and integrated new – and affordable – technology into the production process. Our new web-based social network for African broadcasters (Barza), our on-line learning programs, and our experimental uses of interactive voice response, and low- cost digital recording and editing are important areas of innovation. They are helping our broadcasting partners to serve their rural communities like never before, sharing knowledge and giving voice to farmers.
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. I take this opportunity to offer profound thanks to everyone that has contributed to Farm Radio International’s work over the past year. It is a privilege to continue working with you.