Many people in the Farm Radio “family” are familiar with the story of how the organization was formed 30 years ago by George Atkins after a life-changing meeting with radio broadcasters in Zambia.
Below is an excerpt from an email Farm Radio International received from Michael Pickstock of WRENmedia, based in the UK. He was one of the two journalists/ trainers that joined George Atkins in Zambia at the Commonwealth Secretariat rural radio training workshop in May 1975. Like George, Michael Pickstock was deeply influenced by the experience in Zambia, and was also inspired to increase the availability of materials to strengthen farm radio broadcasts. Here he shares his recollections of the workshop and how it contributed to the creation of Farm Radio International.
“Regarding the conception of DCFRN (now Farm Radio International), I believe that it came about because of an unusual, if not unique, set of circumstances. The rural radio training workshop that the Commonwealth Secretariat initiated in May 1975, and which was held in Lusaka, was unlike any of the many workshops with which I had been involved before or since.”
At Lusaka, we had two participants from every Commonwealth country in Africa with a total of 12 countries but 26 participants, as Zambia had four participants. A wide background was represented of culture, experience and skills, coming from significantly different rural broadcasting systems.
The three trainers also were diverse, reflecting experience of three continents: George, as senior Farm Radio Officer in CBC had long experience of the North American approach; Pradip Dey was senior Farm Broadcasting Officer for West Bengal and brought the experience of India and the Phillipines, where he had also worked; and I, from BBC World Service, who had spent two years as Broadcasting Advisor in Lesotho 1967-69 and had subsequently led workshops in Africa for various organisations, including British Council and UN Agencies. A further ‘difference’ was that the workshop was for 4 weeks, not the usual two or three weeks.
During this month the participants and trainers were thrown together on many occasions and the trainers got to learn about and understand the different needs and constraints of participants from this wide range of countries, and got to discuss how these needs might be met.
One day-long bus journey provided us with a unique opportunity to get really close to people and understand the challenges that they faced in delivering useful and practical information to their rural listeners. It was from this that we trainers became aware that such a workshop could only be a beginning and that rural broadcasters needed and would welcome on-going support in the form of regular transcription recordings and scripts to strengthen their own broadcast materials.
George was about to retire from CBC, had good links with Massey Ferguson, who were persuaded of the need, became initial funders, and DCFRN was launched!
I hope that my memories complement George’s reminiscences. Meanwhile, carry on the good work!
With kindest regards, Michael.