Seydou Camara: 2019 George Atkins Communications Award Winner
Seydou Camara describes himself as a “country lover.” And, as the son of a farmer, he knows a lot about agriculture. These qualities help him to prepare his radio programs, and particularly to prepare for field visits. Seydou has worked at Radio Wassoulou in Yanfolila, Mali, for seven years, where he is a host.
“Naturally, I like to serve people and in my opinion, media is a great way to put into practice this ambition,” he says.
He is responsible for many radio programs, but he is in charge of “La parole paysanne” (The words of the farmer). For this weekly show, he travels to produce his episodes from the field and other locations. The program invites producers who are experienced in their respective agricultural sector (crop production, orchards, fishing, etc.) to share their experiences with listeners. Seydou’s experience is not limited to farming programs. He presents programs on other important rural development topics, including public health and the environment. He also moderates debates on issues in the news.
Seydou used this debate platform to examine a major problem for farmers in his region. The government decided to provide subsidized fertilizer to farmers in an effort to improve their production, but the fertilizer was diverted by state agents and sold to businessmen, who then re-sold it to farmers at a higher price. Seydou hosted a debate between the president of the Chamber of Agriculture, a farmer who didn’t receive fertilizer, and a fertilizer dealer who was planning on re-selling the fertilizer in his store.
“The debate was very heated because the offenders did not admit the facts, but the prefect followed the debate and the next day he summoned the Agriculture Sector Chief and ordered him to recover all fertilizers sold illegally. Since that day, the fertilizer is distributed in a transparent and equitable way because he always has an eye on their deeds and actions,” says Seydou.
Seydou received a lot of feedback on this debate. For the next debate, he opened the phone lines to listeners to express their own opinions on the issue. It was a popular episode.
Seydou uses a number of methods to amplify the voices of farmers: interviews, vox pops, and call-in shows. Every program is broadcast in the local language so that it is easier for the farmers to understand But, to ensure that his shows are entertaining, Seydou uses music and “le cousinage à plaisanterie,” a type of inside joke particular to Francophone West Africa, with his audience.
Radio Wassoulou has been a broadcasting partner of Farm Radio International since 2000. Seydou says that he uses Farm Radio’s resources to help him with research and to produce quality episodes. He has participated in many Farm Radio trainings, particularly on using resources and following the VOICE standards, and has participated in e-discussions. He adds, “Farm Radio is a reliable partner because its activities are based on concrete examples; the information gathered around the world greatly helps the family farmers.”
Mr. Camara recently benefited from in-station and gender training as part of the Scaling Her Voice project.
“I was also convinced through this training on gender that society deprives women of many of their rights, because I understood that women are at the oven and at the mill first, for the welfare of their family and also for the development of the locality.”
“When they announced that I had won the George Atkins Communications Award, I couldn’t believe it. The day of the ceremony, I was very touched, because it’s the first personal award that I’d received in my life. I had members of my family around me, local administrative and political officials, my broadcasting presenters — in short, the whole community of Yanfolila congratulated me.”
Not long after Seydou learned he had won the award, his wife gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. Together, and spontaneously, they named the child Bakary Georges Atkins Camara after Farm Radio’s founder. It’s an honour we won’t soon forget.
“This prize has made me think of the future, and I’ve already started preparing for next year,” he says.
Farm Radio International presents the annual George Atkins Communications Awards to radio broadcasters who excel in providing programs to help small-scale farmers feed their families and increase their incomes. The award is named after the late Dr. George Atkins, the founder of Farm Radio International.