All posts in ED Update

Farm Radio International’s Annual Report 2010/2011 is now available online. The following is the Executive Director’s Report.

The name Farm Radio International seems to capture the imagination. When people first hear about Farm Radio International, they often ask: “where can we find you on the radio dial?” or “how many listeners do you have?” Some wonder “do you distribute radios?” or even “do you set up new radio stations?”

These are all reasonable questions. But, in fact, since our foundation in 1979, Farm Radio International’s role has been to help broadcasters at existing radio stations improve the quality and effectiveness of their programs for small-scale farmers.

For most of the years since, we have provided this support in the form of radio scripts about farming and rural development issues and practices. The script service responded to the reality that most rural radio broadcasters in sub-Saharan Africa do not have access to the information they need – in the format they need – to create accurate, relevant, engaging programs for small-scale farmers.

Over the last year, we have made some exciting changes to our services. Our core mission remains the same, but we are working in a variety of new ways to achieve it.

Recognizing that radio stations need more than scripts to serve small-scale farmers and rural communities, we have enhanced our script service to a more comprehensive Resources for Broadcasters strategy. This includes our electronic news service, Farm Radio Weekly, and the development of an online social network. As before, our Resources for Broadcasters are available, free of charge, for any and all radio practitioners to use.

We have also added the new core strategies of Impact Programming and Training and Standards.

Impact Programming involves working directly with a select group of radio stations to plan and implement a radio strategy that aims to have a specific impact in a particular area. For example, Farm Radio International developed the Participatory Radio Campaign (PRC) methodology through the African Farm Radio Research Initiative (AFRRI), an initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Over the past year, we established the capacity to implement PRCs beyond AFRRI, by opening offices in Ethiopia, Ghana, Mali, and Tanzania, and forming strategic partnerships in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Malawi, and Uganda.

We also launched a new Training and Standards service that helps radio station staff gain the skills they need to research, produce, and sustain high-quality rural radio programming. At the same time, Farm Radio International has become a leading expert in the integration of new communication technologies with radio, and is helping broadcasters take advantage of the opportunities offered by these developments.

Our expansion into these new areas would not have been possible without the remarkable support of our donors, volunteers, partners, dedicated and capable staff, and strong Board of Directors. In particular, I am indebted to Doug Ward, the President and Chair of the Board of Farm Radio International, for inspirational leadership grounded in deep and rich experience in radio and social justice.

Kevin Perkins, Executive Director

Read more of the Annual Report.

Next week, I am heading to Washington DC for the final stage of the Saving Lives at Birth competition! I would really appreciate your vote for World University Service of Canada (WUSC) and Farm Radio International’s project.  Click here to register.  Receive an email with your password.  To vote, look for: Empowering WomenThrough Radio: A Demand Driven Communication Strategy to Transform Maternal and Newborn Health in Tanzania and Uganda.

Farm Radio International has proven that participatory radio campaigns are an excellent way to help African farmers learn about and put into practice new sustainable agriculture methods. We have proposed to Saving Lives at Birth that we use participatory radio strategies combined with voice-based services to; share knowledge and improve access to information, strengthen links between families, service providers and policy makers, contribute to a stronger voice for expectant mothers, and, ultimately, through new practices and behaviors, produce remarkable gains in maternal and newborn survival and health.

Out of over 600 applicants, WUSC and Farm Radio International’s project idea was one of only 70 to reach this stage! Half of the short-listed applicants will receive grants from the Saving Lives at Birth program. If we win this vote, I will get the opportunity to present our project idea to a larger group of decision makers which will in turn boost our chances of being selected for a grant to implement it.

We know that radio can enhance and save lives with vital information that can reach millions of people in Africa! Click here to vote now! The final day for voting is July 27.

Thanks for your help!

Kevin Perkins

Farm Radio International, Executive Director

The year 2009-2010 was a remarkable period of reflection, celebration, loss and hope for Farm Radio International. We marked the 30th anniversary of the organization, reflecting on our roots and celebrating the distance we have come since then. Then, on November 30, 2009, we received word that George Atkins, the founder of Developing Countries Farm Radio Network, its first executive director and an active board member until 2008, had died at the age of 92. It was a tremendous loss. But it was also a time to recommit to the vision that inspired Farm Radio International and to carry on in our efforts to strengthen and improve our services.

2009-2010 was also a year of great learning and innovation for everyone involved in Farm Radio International. Through our third scriptwriting competition, we discovered the power of facilitated e-learning in helping farm broadcasters develop new skills and support each other over the Internet. Careful evaluation of our Participatory Radio Campaign model revealed to us that well-produced radio strategies aimed at smallholder farmers lead to significant, measurable changes in the practices of farmers and in the ways that extension services are offered to them. Experiments in the use of mobile phones, digital audio devices (MP3 players) and interactive voice response systems revealed to us that, rather than replacing the “old technology” of radio, these new devices are most powerful when they are linked with radio. We found new ways to use information and communication technologies to make radio more interactive and more responsive to farmers’ needs, and more effectively give farmers a voice.

In the midst of these exciting developments, our reflections on George’s life and his strong values served to remind us that, in the end, it is all about the farmer. When all was said and done, this is what mattered to George. It is with humility that I thank our many donors, volunteers, partners, participants, dedicated and capable staff and strong board of directors for making this service possible. In particular, I am indebted to Doug Ward, the President and Chair of the Board of Farm Radio International, for inspirational leadership grounded in deep and rich experience in radio and social justice.

Kevin Perkins, Executive Director

To read more from our 2009-2010 annual report: click here

Last fall, I visited the village of Omotol in the Seroti District of north-eastern Uganda. This is one community that has been reached by a special program that was broadcast by the Voice of Teso radio station in Seroti with Farm Radio International’s assistance (as part of the African Farm Radio Research Initiative, AFRRI) on the topic of disease resistant cassava. Cassava is an essential food crop that meets the basic food needs of most households in this area, and is also a very important cash crop sold to markets. The varieties of cassava that have been planted in the past in this area are very susceptible to two diseases: mosaic and brown streak. These diseases are spreading rapidly, and pose a serious threat to food security in Uganda and elsewhere.

Alasso Rose in cassava field

In this community I met two women – Asege Winnie Odaret and Alasso Rose. These women are leaders of a community organization called the Dakabela Rural Women Development Association. Together, the women who make up his group have purchased land – one hectare at a time – by farming and marketing cassava. Their early success in cassava production has helped them establish an orange orchard, a beekeeping operation, and a piggery. These enterprises have improved food security and generated income for members of the association, their families, and their whole community.

A year ago, they were getting very worried about the cassava diseases they were hearing about. There were reports that farmers were losing their entire cassava farms to brown streak and mosaic. They also knew that there were some new varieties of cassava that could resist these diseases and thrive in their gardens.

“We knew that these disease-resistant varieties had been developed, but we didn’t know how to get the planting materials or how to cultivate and grow them.”

Asege Winnie Odaret

Asege Winnie Odaret (left) in akena cassava field

The radio program on Voice of Teso (which broadcasts to 8 million people and which 80% are small-scale farmers) answered their needs perfectly. By running a half-hour program every Wednesday, featuring discussions with farmers and extension workers, special call-in shows, music and poems about cassava varieties, and other entertaining features, Winnie and Rose and the other members of their group learned how to save their cassava farms by planting the disease-resistant akena cassava. What they loved about the program was that they could hear their own voices and the voices of other farmers on the program.

“We feel that we own this program as our own. We always made sure we were ready to hear the show when it was on. Even our children made sure we knew it was time for the program to start. They would say mom, mom, come, it is time for our program to start.”

The farmers of Omotol were not alone. Our evaluation of this program revealed that over 80% of farmers in the communities reached by the program had started planting akena. Uganda’s national agricultural extension service was overwhelmed by the demand for akena, and scrambled to meet the need for planting materials. We checked in a community that wasn’t reached by Voice of Teso’s program, and found that only 45% even heard of the akena variety.

We are receiving many more life-changing stories coming out of AFFRI that we will share with you in the upcoming weeks. Stay tuned…..

Kevin Perkins

– Executive Director of Farm Radio International

George AtkinsIt is with deep sadness that we announce the death of founder George Atkins, in his 93rd year, on November 30, 2009.

George Atkins listened to farmers. And his best advice to broadcasters was just that: listen to the farmers. George learned from farmers. In fact, we don’t think George ever met a farmer from whom he didn’t learn something.

George was a well known CBC farm broadcaster in the fifties, sixties and seventies. Always an advocate for farming and the family farmer, he signed off his radio reports with “Serving agriculture, the basic industry, this is George Atkins.”

In 1979, following retirement from the CBC, George created Developing Countries Farm Radio Network (since renamed Farm Radio International), the world’s only organization dedicated to supporting small farmers and their families through the use of radio – the one medium they all use. Since then he has sustained that organization with his leadership, vision and boundless energy.

Our thoughts are with his wife Janet, their four daughters and their families, as they come to terms with the loss of a loving husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather.

At Farm Radio International, we will miss his regular encouragement, good humour and sense of celebration. We are strengthened by the example of his persistence, and we will honour that memory in our work every day.

In the video posted below,  Atkins tells us the story of how he founded Farm Radio International following a bus trip in Zambia in 1975. Hundreds of millions of people around the world now receive appropriate, timely and relevant information through Farm Radio International’s network, all because of a little idea that came from George.

If you have a memory or reflection to share, please post a comment by clicking the “Comment” button below and leave a reply.  We will be sure the family receives all or your messages.

If you are interested in supporting the work that George started you can click here.George AtkinsC’est avec une profonde tristesse que nous annonçons que George Atkins, fondateur deRadios Rurales Internationales, est décédé le 30 novembre 2009.

George Atkins était toujours à l’écoute des agriculteurs. Il n’y a pas un seul agriculteur duquel George ne pouvait pas apprendre quelque chose. Et un de ses meilleurs conseils aux organismes de radiodiffusion était justement cela: être à l’écoute des agriculteurs.

George Atkins était bien connu comme chroniqueur agricole de la CBC dans les années cinquante, soixante et soixante-dix. Toujours un défenseur du petit agriculteur et de l’agriculture familiale, il terminait toujours ses topos à la radio avec la phrase suivante : ” Au service de l’agriculture, l’industrie de base. C’était George Atkins. ”

À la retraite, George a créé le Réseau de radios rurales des pays en développement en 1979, le seul organisme au monde avec la mission de soutenir les petits agriculteurs et leurs familles à travers l’utilisation de la radio – un moyen de communication qu’ils utilisent tous. C’est grâce à son leadership, sa vision et son énergie sans pareil que l’organisation a grandi.

Nos pensées sont aujourd’hui avec son épouse, Janet, leurs quatre filles et leurs familles, alors qu’elles composent avec la perte d’un époux aimant, un père, un grand-père et un arrière grand-père.

À Radios Rurales Internationales, nous nous souviendrons toujours de ses encouragements réguliers, de sa bonne humeur et de sa joie de vivre. Nous sommes encouragés par l’exemple de sa persistance et nous honorerons la mémoire de son travail acharné dans notre travail quotidien.

Si vous avez des histoires ou des réflexions à partager, veuillez laisser un commentaire en cliquant sur «  comment » et soumettez vos commentaires dans la section « Leave a Reply ». Nous nous assurerons de transmettre vos messages à la famille de George Atkins.

Si vous êtes intéressés à supporter le travail que George a commencé il y a de cela 30 ans, cliquez ici!

From its earliest days, Farm Radio International has endeavoured to provide small-scale farmers with information about practical, low-cost, sustainable solutions to their daily needs.  Through radio scripts and other services, we have shared information about, for example, techniques for enhancing soil fertility, protecting crops from pests, and improving family and community health.  But it must be said: some things are more important to small-scale farmers than how they prepare compost or the seeds they plant.  Topping the list is the need for secure access to land.  If farmers can be dispossessed of the land they till at any time, they are forever vulnerable to poverty and hunger.  And, with this threat hanging over them, what incentive is there to conserve the soil through tree-planting or terracing?

The recent food crisis has led to an increase in the acquisition of agricultural land in Africa by foreign governments or private companies seeking to ensure food security for their people, or simply to make a profit.  Some say that this is nothing less than a second “Scramble for Africa”- a rush for the best African farmland, threatening the return of a kind of colonialism. Others counter that foreign interest in agricultural lands could generate income and employment for rural communities, if only local farmers and farming communities had more influence on the purchase or lease of their farmland. But that is currently not the case. The recent trend of “land grabbing” is causing small-scale farmers and rural communities to lose access to land and locally-produced food.

Is there a role for radio in helping farmers address the issue of land tenure?  We think there is.  Recently, we launched a new series of stories in Farm Radio Weekly on the topic of “land-grabbing”.  We have recruited African reporters to interview farmers that are being threatened by land grabs, and finding out what they are doing about it.  We are finding stories of farmers finding ways to have more influence over these transactions and to protect their access to land.  As always, we are ensuring the principle of journalistic balance in our articles, but we are also remaining true to our mandate to be “on the side of the farmer”.  I invite you to check these articles out (and all other Farm Radio Weekly stories, for that matter) by going to

The health and survival of women during pregnancy and childbirth is an important issue throughout the world, but particularly for rural families in resource-poor countries.  The 5th Millennium Development Goal adopted by the world in the year 2000 is to improve maternal health by reducing the incidence of maternal mortality by 75%, and by achieving universal access to reproductive health services.  Tragically, this MDG remains elusive, particularly the target of reducing maternal mortality rates in sub-Saharan Africa, where a woman’s risk of dying from treatable or preventable complications of pregnancy and childbirth over the course of her lifetime is 1 in 22, compared to 1 in 7,300 in countries like Canada.

In 2007, long-time Farm Radio International supporter Anne Burnett offered us a way to address the challenge of maternal health by producing radio scripts on the topic. We readily agreed, and made contact with Family Health International ( – an organization that specializes in maternal health – to help us understand the most important messages that radio can provide to prevent maternal death.   We learned that two factors are critical to help save expectant mothers’ lives.  One is that the couple make advance arrangements to give birth in a health facility with a skilled attendant.  A second is that both partners – mother and father – be involved in making plans and preparations for the birth.

To help illustrate these messages, we asked one of our freelance scriptwriters – Lazarus Lazer in Tanzania – to identify a couple that was planning to have a child and interview them regularly throughout the course of the pregnancy as they make plans and preparations for the birth of their child.  The result is a very stirring series of “reality radio” scripts. The series chronicles the story of a Maasai couple as they decide to have a child, adjust to pregnancy and the prospects of parenthood, and make plans for the birth of their child.  The first installment in the series appeared recently in Farm Radio Weekly:  One new episode will be released each week until the series is complete.  We’re excited about this new approach to radio scripts – bringing real-life, personal testimonies of ordinary villagers making decisions, trying new approaches, and overcoming challenges.

   from left to right: Rex Chapota of Malawi, Modibo Coulibaly of Mali, Doug Ward, President of the Board of Farm Radio, & Charlie (the language interpreter)

from left to right: Rex Chapota of Malawi, Modibo Coulibaly of Mali, Doug Ward, President of the Board of Farm Radio, & Charlie (the language interpreter)

Last month, it was my great pleasure to travel to Mali to meet with most of the team implementing the African Farm Radio Research Initiative (AFRRI).  The whole Africa-based group of staff gathered in Bamako to review progress and plan future activities. The team includes Rex Chapota of Malawi, Ben Fiafor of Ghana, Margaret Kingamkomo of Tanzania, Emily Arayo of Uganda, Modibo Coulibaly of Mali, Martine Ngobo (the Senior Research Manager), and Gizaw Shibru (the Program Director).  Also in attendance was Bart Sullivan, our ICT guy and the lone (but not lonely!) Canadian on the team, and Doug Ward, President of the Board of Farm Radio, (and past Vice President of CBC English Radio – his experience in radio has greatly enriched AFRRI). During our time in Mali, we had an opportunity to visit Radio Fanaka, one of the stations participating in AFRRI.  

We travelled to two communities that have been listening to Radio Fanaka’s programs about composting and on new methods of processing Shea Butter. It was remarkable to see first hand how popular and important these programs have been to famers. Throughout the week, what really stood out for me was that farm radio works best when it engages listeners in discussions, dialogue and debate, and when it continually seeks direct feedback from farmers.   When local farmers can be heard on the airwaves, describing what they have done, the challenges they have faced, the solutions they have found, and the questions they have, the radio programs that result are more popular and effective.      

In one sense, it is not surprising – most people love to hear themselves on the radio or see themselves on TV – something Andy Warhol once said springs to mind . . .  But it also reveals that farmers have enormous respect for each other: they trust that, if similar farmers in another village tried something and it worked, it will probably work for them too.   This is a lesson that we can apply to all of our work, including our scripts, Farm Radio Weekly stories, and broadcaster training programs. By highlighting the ideas, innovations, and most of all the stories of ordinary farmers, radio programs can help them to create better lives for themselves and their families.  Whether you’re a donor, partner, staff member, volunteer, or a quiet cheerleader – thanks for being part of it!   Until next time, Kevin


de gauche à droite :  Rex Chapota de Malawi, Modibo Coulibaly de Mali, Doug Ward, président - Radios Rurales Internationales, et Charlie (l'interprète de langue)

de gauche à droite : Rex Chapota de Malawi, Modibo Coulibaly de Mali, Doug Ward, président - Radios Rurales Internationales, et Charlie (l'interprète de langue)

Le mois dernier, j’ai eu le grand plaisir de voyager au Mali pour une réunion avec le groupe responsable de la mise en œuvre de l’Initiative de recherche sur les radios rurales en Afrique (IRRRA). Tout le personnel  basé en Afrique s’est réuni à Bamako pour évaluer le progrès du projet et pour planifier de futures activités.  L’équipe est composée de : Rex Chapota du Malawi, Ben Fiafor du Ghana, Margaret Kingamkomo de la Tanzanie, Emily Arayo de l’Ouganda, Modibo Coulibaly du Mali, Martine Ngobo (gestionnaire de recherche) et Gizaw Shibru (Directeur de programme). Bart Sullivan, notre expert en TIC et le seul Canadian sur l’équipe ainsi que Doug Ward, Président du conseil d’administration de Radios Rurales International (son expérience comme ancien vice-président de CBC Radio a beaucoup enrichi l’IRRRA) étaient aussi présents.

 Au Mali, on a eu la chance de visiter Radio Fanaka, une des radios qui participent à l’IRRRA. Nous avons également visité deux communautés qui ont écouté les émissions produites par Radio Fanaka au sujet du compostage et des nouvelles méthodes d’utiliser le beurre de karité.  C’était remarquable de constater la popularité et l’importance de ces émissions pour les agriculteurs.

Pendant mon séjour au Mali, j’ai constaté que la radio rurale fonctionne mieux lorsqu’elle permet à ses auditeurs de participer dans des discussions, des dialogues, des débats et lorsqu’elle cherche constamment à connaître les opinions de son auditoire. Lorsqu’on entend la voix des agriculteurs locaux sur les ondes, qui décrivent ce qu’ils ont fait, les défis auxquels ils font face et les solutions qu’ils ont trouvées,  les émissions deviennent plus populaires et efficaces.


Dans un sens, cela n’est pas surprenant car la plupart des gens aime entre leurs voix à la radio ou se voir à la télé. Ceci  révèle que les agriculteurs  ont beaucoup de respect pour l’un l’autre. Ils ont confiance qu’une méthode qui a fonctionné pour un agriculteur dans un autre village sera également bénéfique pour eux.

Ceci est une leçon que l’on peut transférer à notre travail, que ce soit pour les textes radiophoniques que nous produisons, les histoires d’Agro Radio Hebdo ou nos programmes de formation pour les radiodiffuseurs. C’est en soulignant les idées, les innovations et surtout les histoires des agriculteurs  que ces émissions de radio pourront aider à améliorer la vie des agriculteurs et de leurs familles.

J’aimerais remercier tous ceux qui ont contribué à ce projet que ce soit nos donateurs, nos partenaires, les membres de notre personnel ou nos bénévoles — merci à vous tous!

À  la prochaine,


Welcome to Farm Radio Live – the blog of Farm Radio International!  We have created this blog to keep the Farm Radio community – including our supporters, partners, and anyone with an interest in farm radio in Africa – up-to-date with our activities, accomplishments, discoveries, plans and ideas.

Kevin Perkins in Bamako, Mali

Kevin Perkins with the rest of the AFRRI field staff planting a mango tree in Bamako, Mali

I will be offering a new post every 2 weeks, telling you what I’ve been up to and what’s going on at Farm Radio International.  We will have regular posts about our program activities from our partners and staff, news from and about the Circle of Producers, updates on how we are using new communication technology to enhance the effectiveness of radio, and special guest posts from a variety of people involved in farm radio.  The blog will also bring you audio and video clips from African radio programs, photographs, and local stories, giving you a real experience of what farm radio sounds and looks like.

We hope you’ll participate in this blog – not only as a reader, but also as a contributor, by posting your own comments, stories and observations.  If you sign up for the RSS feed by clicking here, you’ll be sent brief email updates whenever there is a new post on the blog, allowing you to follow the stories and updates that are of greatest interest to you.

In 2009, we are proud to be celebrating the 30th anniversary of Farm Radio International.  The Farm Radio Live blog will be bringing you stories from our earliest partners and donors, and reflecting on how the organization has evolved and grown – and how it has stayed true to its founding vision – over the last 30 years.

Until next time . . .

Kevin Perkins

(Executive Director of Farm Radio International)

Bienvenue à Farm Radio Live – le blogue de Radios Rurales Internationales! Nous avons créé ce blogue pour garder la communauté de Radios Rurales Internationales – y compris nos bailleurs de fonds, nos partenaires et toute personne ayant un intérêt pour les radios rurales en Afrique – à jour sur nos activités, nos réalisations, nos découvertes, nos plans et nos idées.

Kevin Perkins, à Bamako, Mali

Kevin Perkins, à Bamako, Mali

Je vous propose un nouveau billet à toutes les 2 semaines, pour vous dire ce que je fais et ce qu’il y a de nouveau à Radios Rurales Internationales. Nous publierons fréquemment des billets à propos de nos activités en provenance de nos partenaires et nos employés, ainsi que les dernières nouvelles en provenance du Cercle des producteurs, des mises à jour sur la façon dont nous utilisons les nouvelles technologies de la communication pour accroître l’efficacité de la radio, et des billets spéciaux d’une multitude de personnes impliquées dans le domaine des radios rurales. Le blogue vous permettra également d’écouter des éléments audio et de visionner des vidéo-clips de programmation radiophonique africaine, des photos et des histoires locales, vous offrant une véritable expérience de ce à quoi ressemble une radio rurale africaine.

Nous espérons que vous participerez à ce blogue – non seulement en tant que lecteur, mais aussi en tant que contributeur, en y laissant vos commentaires, vos histoires et vos observations. Si vous vous inscrivez au fil RSS en cliquant ici, vous recevrez de brèves mises à jour par courriel chaque fois qu’il y a un nouveau message sur le blogue, vous permettant de suivre les histoires et les mises à jour qui vous intéressent le plus.

En 2009, nous sommes fiers de célébrer le 30e anniversaire de Radios Rurales Internationales. Le blogue Farm Radio Live vous amènera des histoires sur nos premiers partenaires et donateurs, qui vous présenteront leurs réflexions sur la manière dont l’organisation a évolué au fil des années – et comment elle est restée fidèle à la vision de son fondateur – tout au long des 30 dernières années.

Jusqu’à la prochaine fois…

Kevin Perkins

(Directeur Général, Radios Rurales Internationales)