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2017 George Atkins Communication Award winner Filius Jere says winning brought him recognition and acclaim

Filius Jere, winner of the 2017 George Atkins Award, says that when farmers see him, they expect to be recorded.

He says, “They want to talk, they don’t want to keep it inside themselves.”

Mr. Jere is the producer of the farmer program at Breeze FM in Chipata, Eastern Zambia, where he broadcasts his long-running program, “Farming is a business.” The program started in 2008 when the radio station was established and has since become a listener favourite. 

When asked why the program began, he says simply: there was a need. 

He explains: “The economy in this part of Zambia is only farming. The problem is that most of these farmers are not very literate in farming … The farmers don’t have access to simple knowledge, especially climate-smart agriculture.”

Mr. Jere says that this simple knowledge can help farmers achieve better harvests without needing to rely on expensive chemical fertilizers and pesticides. 

The program has two main goals. The first is to help farmers produce as much food as possible in a small area and on a budget. The second is to help farmers have a surplus to sell, and treat their farm like a business.

Mr. Jere says the most important thing about the program is that it’s created outside the studio, by speaking to farmers in the field. 

He explains, “To produce a very good program, you must understand the people you are producing the program for.”

Speaking to farmers in the field helps Mr. Jere to understand his listeners, but also puts farmers at ease to speak freely and at length about their farming practices.

When Mr. Jere won the George Atkins Communication Award in 2017 for his work on “Farming as a business,” the news came as a surprise. 

He recalls, “It was a most wonderful thing because it gave me recognition. And that recognition gave me even more confidence. Now when I go on the radio, I am very confident.”

Mr. Jere has been working with Farm Radio since the beginning of his career as a broadcaster, even working with George Atkins himself. 

Mr. Jere recalls: “I started off with [George Atkins] in 1972. He trained me when I was a boy. So it was wonderful to be recognized in 2017. It gave me recognition in the community. So I became an authority in farming as a business.”

Now Mr. Jere uses this recognition and decades of broadcasting experience to help mentor young broadcasters, and build their skills to create quality farmer programs. 

He laughs, “Unfortunately, youth think farming is a boring subject. It is not!”

Mr. Jere says he has built his own skills over the years using Farm Radio’s self-guided e-learning modules, and recommends these to youth as well. He especially notes the need for young broadcasters to learn how to package programs, interview experts, and write for radio. 

He continues, “I don’t think you can do it alone. I would advise these youth to cling onto Farm Radio, and take the online courses.”

Mr. Jere also continues to rely heavily on Farm Radio resources, even writing a few himself. 

He explains, “One script can produce two, three, or four radio programs” and mentions using scripts on soybeans in particular. He also draws on information from other southern African countries and shares the relevant information on air with Zambian listeners.

Mr. Jere says: “For me, I think without Farm Radio, I would feel like something is missing in my career. Because it’s like an encyclopedia. With Farm Radio, you can investigate into any subject, and it’s like you’re going into a library, and you can touch on any topic.”

He is especially happy to have resources on emerging topics such as climate change, and to be able to bring the information to his listeners. 

To the George Atkins Communication Award hopefuls for 2022, Mr. Jere says that broadcasters must love their work, and put passion into every script.

He says, “Listen to the farmers, know their situation, and don’t produce a program from the studio.” 

He advises broadcasters to interact with farmers and other broadcasters as much as possible, exchanging knowledge on and off the air.