Because of its unrivalled access and its low production costs, radio is the technology that best meets the information and communication needs of farmers, world-wide.
Here in Canada, where so many of us are “plugged in” to so many communications technologies, it is easy to overlook the vital connection that radio makes for farm families in the developing world.
We have superb telephone services. Most of us grew up with radio in our homes, and many now have more than one television. About four out of five homes in Canada have a computer, and can access the internet. And even without communication technologies, most of us in this literate nation have access to information through a wide range of books, journals and magazines, available by mail or at our public library. If we want to learn about something or share information, we have the means.
Compare that to the situation of hundreds of millions of farm families in developing countries. They need practical information about low-cost farm methods so that they can increase their food supplies and improve their lives. How do they get it?
Most of these farmers won’t have internet access in their lifetime. About four-fifths of the world’s people don’t even have regular access to a telephone! In very low income countries like Niger, Somalia and Afghanistan, there is only one telephone for every 500 people; in Zaire, Cambodia and Chad, there is one phone for every thousand people. And although an increasing number of communities have access to a television, there is a shortage of content that is locally determined, relevant, appropriate – and accessible in local languages. Printed materials are often unsuitable as a learning tool for the Network’s audience. Even when available in local languages, they do not help the farmers who are illiterate – in some countries, that is more than 70 percent of the population.
That’s why, at Farm Radio International, our primary medium of choice is radio.
Radio can reach communities at the very end of the development road – people who live in areas with no phones and no electricity. Radio reaches people who can’t read or write. Even in very poor communities, radio penetration is vast. There are more than 800 million radios in developing countries. An average of one in ten people has a radio.
Most farmers in developing countries won’t have internet access in their lifetime. About four fifths of the world’s people don’t even have access to a telephone.
Radio scripts can be adapted by Network members to suit local conditions. Production is cheap, especially compared to other mass media. Broadcasters can actively involve listeners in their programs. That way, listeners – the farmers we aim to help – can determine the content.
Radio encourages farm communities to help themselves. Network partners and their farm audiences share their experiences using our scripts, and provide new information that we can share with others.
Some day, new technologies and improved education might give farmers everywhere access to the information we have in our homes today. For now, radio is our medium of choice in our mission to share knowledge for a better world.