I have been a happy supporter of Farm Radio International for a number of years now and have recently returned from a trip to Tanzania with my sister Carol. The purpose of my visit, other than a little tourism, was to have a look at Farm Radio International’s operation in Arusha and to visit some local farms and radio stations.
Farm Radio has always had a special place in my heart as the work they do and the service they provide is of immeasurable value. It all started many years ago when I bumped into George Atkins in an elevator in an Ottawa hotel. I commented on the Order of Canada pin on his lapel and he began to tell me his story and that of Farm Radio.
I was very pleasantly surprised.
Radio has the ability to provide a level of education and information which is of very high demand in many regions of the world. Radio is a medium that is inexpensive, universal, does not require literacy and can be scaled exponentially with only modest incremental cost. My participation in Farm Radio has been modest but I felt important. My funding has helped to provide training to local African radio producers and broadcasters so they can better involve listeners in a close and personal way on each broadcast.
I was recently invited by Kevin Perkins to Tanzania to see first-hand the impact of Farm Radio, and I jumped at the opportunity, booking my ticket to Tanzania.
Central to my visit was a trip to rural communities to see farmers in action. I think that the premise was to show me what impact radio has on individual farmers but more truthfully, I think the farmers appreciated the cheap labour I provided. No sooner had I arrived in Kikwe village than they put me to work. I tilled a small plot of land, weeded it and planted what is locally called ‘Chinese lettuce.’ It was a great experience and though I watered much of the soil with the sweat of my brow, I understood how much farmers value what they learn from Farm Radio and how it can be shared between them.
Apaikunda Anderson told me how she learned about water rights and how she kept the course of a stream from being diverted from her plot of land. This inspired some of her neighbours to do the same. The radio also gave them a voice where they thought they hadn’t the right to speak.
Our next visit was with Mamma Ana and her family. I must say that I was not only amazed at the different ways they produce food, for not only their own consumption but for resale. They seem to be involved in just about everything from growing coffee to honey production to making several varieties of cheese. Mamma Ana was able to organize several of her neighbours to increase milk production for the purpose of making a variety of cheeses sold in distant hotels, restaurants and markets. She demonstrated how a bit of knowledge with lots of hard work could benefit not only her family but neighbouring families too.
Though I knew that Farm Radio was doing some great works in Africa, it was good to see first-hand how information changes lives and empowers people. I’ve always been a dedicated supporter of Farm Radio and my involvement with them will continue to grow in the coming years.