Date Posted: March 16th, 2009
As I write this, I am sitting at my desk in Ottawa, Canada, thinking about the people around the world who may open this week’s Farm Radio Weekly and read this article. I often think about you, the readers, while I work. I wonder if your story meetings are anything like the story meetings I participated in when I was a newspaper reporter, or the story meetings we have here at Farm Radio – and I wonder if the stories we choose for FRW will spark your interest. I also think about the farmers who listen to the agricultural programs you produce. I wonder if their farms are anything like the ones from my home town, or anything like I picture in my head when I read about African farmers.
Just a few weeks ago, I had many of these questions answered when I had the honour of meeting with some of FRW’s subscribers, farmers who listen to farm radio programming, and others who advocate for farmers in Kenya and Tanzania. I saw such a variety of radio stations – such as the Sudan Radio Service – an organization funded by USAID and equipped with new computers – and Radio Maria, a religious radio service with a lovely chapel just inside its main doors. I was struck by the fact that the broadcast booth always seemed to be the focus of resources, with good equipment…and some very creative materials used to soundproof the walls! I learned more about the kind of content East African broadcasters are looking for – whether, like Trans World Radio-Kenya, they need as much good content as they can get their hands on to fill their air waves, or, like the radio producers at Tanzania’s Ministry of Agriculture, they struggle to fit as much relevant agricultural information as possible into a short weekly program. At every turn, I met people who were absolutely dedicated to broadcasting and to learning about any new resources that may help them improve their radio content, despite their busy schedules.
Before departing Tanzania, I also had the opportunity to visit a small village that enjoys a weekly agricultural show produced by Radio Maria. Farmers from this village generously shared their time with me, and patiently answered my questions about their challenges and hopes for farm radio programming. (Stay tuned for a story on what I learned from these farmers in an upcoming issue of FRW.)
I would like to thank all of those broadcasters who welcomed me into their offices and all of those farmers who welcomed me to your community and homes. Now that I am back in snowy Canada, I have a vivid picture in my head of broadcast booths were Farm Radio programs may be presented, and the sun-drenched fields where small-scale farmers grow grain, raise chickens, and listen to radio programs. It is only a snap-shot of what life and work are like for our audience of African farmers and broadcasters, but it is one I will carry with me always, in hopes that it will help me serve you better.