As someone who grew up on a small farm in southern Nigeria, I know the power of radio.
In the small farming community where I spent my childhood, most families engaged in mixed farming, crops and livestock. My father grew rice and raised poultry.
There was no electricity then, so our radio was how we got most of our information. For my father, listening to the radio meant learning about the latest government farming programs, new kinds of farm equipment, and best practices for everything from fertilizers to seeds and irrigation to sources of energy. The radio brought the outside world to our door, allowing him to make informed choices for the next day, month and year.
Radio helped his farm thrive.
My father’s rice fields paid, in part, for my education. I went away to school and came home on breaks to help out on the farm. Eventually, I had the opportunity to study in Europe and earn my PhD in agriculture. My studies focused on field crops and water efficiency.
When I came to Canada in 2002, it was one of the driest years on record. I was lucky to get a job at the Alberta Research Council (now Alberta Innovates), working on cultivating drought-resistant crops.
Before long, I married and began to raise a family. My children grew up in Canada, and learned to take information channels like the Internet and TV for granted. It’s not surprising they have a hard time understanding just how central the radio was to my family growing up in Nigeria.
And yet, in many parts of Africa, things have not changed much since my childhood. Rural families still use the radio as their main source of information and entertainment.
FRI’s work is crucial for small-scale farmers like my father. It addresses their needs through programming that mixes entertainment with content about best farming practices adapted for the local environment. And FRI partners with local radio stations and offers training to improve their ability to offer quality programming.
Knowing the power of radio, I’ve been grateful to the supporters of Farm Radio International ever since joining the board in 2006.
I’ve met many donors face-to-face, and have been inspired by their commitment to FRI’s work.
About four years ago, I met a retired couple in rural Alberta. They were both in their early 80s then; although I’ve heard that the husband has since passed on. They’d heard about FRI through their church, and had remained staunch supporters every year.
I’ll never forget the look on their faces as I sat down and related my experiences growing up on a small Nigerian farm. I talked about the important role that radio had played in our lives. I could see that they were excited about and so committed to our cause.
It struck me that even though they had never met the farmers who listened to FRI programming, they could see the impact their donations were having in Africa.
I feel a special responsibility to our donors. On the board, we all work together to make sure that checks and balances are in place to keep close tabs on where and how the money is spent.
I’ve worked with a lot of NGOs over the years, and I’ve never seen an operation as lean and efficient as Farm Radio International.
As my seven years as a Board member come to a close, I’d like to thank all Farm Radio International donors for your support and to assure you that we are making the most out of every dollar we receive.