While traveling by bus in Zambia in 1975 with two other farm broadcasters, George Atkins (the voice of CBC’s noon farm radio broadcast for 25 years) was struck by the idea of sharing practical farm information in a world-wide exchange. His colleagues in developing countries were telling their audiences about commercial fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides, and tractor maintenance: information about expensive techniques that they could not afford, wasted on the poor farmers who listened to their radio programs.
What the broadcasters needed, they agreed, was appropriate information about affordable techniques, such as how to fertilize their crops with animal manure or compost, or how to raise oxen. George was convinced that the information they needed was waiting to be found: in the next village, or a neighbouring country, or even halfway around the world. He also knew there were hundreds of farm broadcasters who, if “networked”, could share that information to benefit millions of small-scale farmers.
From that original idea, the Network took shape. In 1979, 34 broadcasters in 26 countries received the first package of scripts. As word of the Network spread, more communicators joined, and the demand for materials increased. Today, more than 250 participating radio partners in over 35 African countries help us to gather and share the practical information that goes into our radio scripts and newsletter.
Our program is still based on George’s original idea. The Network is not a mailing list. Our scripts reflect the contributions and requests of our partners and their audiences, while our training activities help broadcasters produce programs that meet farmers’ needs.