The seed for Farm Radio International was planted nearly 40 years ago in rural Zambia when a man named George Atkins had a simple, but really good idea. It was 1975, and George, a Canadian farm radio broadcaster with the CBC, was running a workshop for his African colleagues. When he asked a fellow journalist from Sierra Leone about the content of his latest program, George was surprised to hear the focus was about the spark plugs on tractors. According to his math, of the broadcaster’s audience of 800,000, only about ten listeners actually owned a tractor.
Other broadcasters shared similar stories. When George asked why, they told him they simply didn’t have access to information about farming techniques that could help small-scale farmers. Most of the information available had to do with the large-scale, mechanized farming of developed countries. There, the concept for Farm Radio International, first called Developing Countries Farm Radio Network (DCFRN) was born. Over the next four years, George travelled around the world recording and collecting innovations farmers were using that could be applied anywhere.
On May 1, 1979, George sat around his kitchen table, stuffing tapes and scripts into envelopes. With a Canadian stamp marking their origin, George slipped the envelopes into the mailbox and out across the globe. The rest, as they say, is history. Here’s but a little of that 40-year history.