Symposium will mark 45th anniversary of rural extension studies on campus
BY ANDREW VOWLES
U of G will play “radio host” to an international gathering on using communication and information technologies, especially radio and video, in rural and remote areas of Canada and in developing countries.
Called “Celebrating Communication for Social and Environmental Change,” the symposium runs Oct. 5 and 6 in Peter Clark Hall and will be opened by president Alastair Summerlee.
About 200 people from Canada, the United States and countries in Asia, Europe, Africa, South America and the Caribbean are expected to attend the event, which will recognize Canadian and international achievements in development communication.
Symposium co-ordinator Prof. Helen Hambly Odame, School of Environmental Design and Rural Development (SEDRD), says communication technologies such as radio and video are essential for poverty reduction and environmental sustainability.
“In our ‘information society,' large proportions of the global population are information-poor,” she says.
Four out of five people in developing nations lack regular access to a mobile or main-line telephone. Television and print materials are irrelevant for largely non-literate populations living without electricity.
Hambly Odame says Canada has played an important role in development communication, beginning with broadcasts here at home over the National Farm Radio Forum from the mid-1940s to 1960. The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) helped establish the first rural radio stations in India, Ghana and Kenya in the 1960s.
The keynote lecturer at the symposium will be Alfonso Gumucio-Dagron, managing director of programs at the Communication for Social Change Consortium in New Jersey. He has worked as a writer, filmmaker, photographer and development communication specialist in projects on five continents.
This event is presented by SEDRD, the Don Snowden Program for Development Communication and the Developing Countries Farm Radio Network (DCFRN).
Supported by a trust fund in OAC and offered through the School of Rural Extension Studies since 1996, the Snowden program teaches Guelph students and faculty about participatory approaches to using technology in community development. It is named for the late Don Snowden, who in the 1960s filmed fishing outports in Newfoundland to share knowledge between communities and governments and to prompt policy changes in community development. He died in 1984 while working in Bangladesh.
The DCFRN was established 25 years ago in Zambia by George Atkins, a Canadian farm broadcaster who graduated from OAC in 1939 and received an honorary degree from Guelph in 1989.
The Ottawa-based organization provides information on successful low-cost practices for small-scale farmers in sustainable agriculture, nutrition, health and community development. The network's radio scripts reach some 600 million farmers in about 70 countries.
Hambly Odame, who joined the University in 2003, is co-ordinator of the Snowden program and is a board member of the DCFRN.
The symposium will also mark the 45th anniversary of the School of Rural Extension Studies, one of three academic units — along with the schools of Landscape Architecture and Rural Planning and Development — that make up SEDRD.
Other supporters of the event are U of G, CIDA, the International Development Research Centre, the National Film Board of Canada, the Commonwealth of Learning, the European Union/ACP Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Development, the Sustainable Rural Communities Program and Scotiabank.
For more details, contact Hambly Odame at email@example.com or visit the website www2.uoguelph.ca/snowden/projects.htm.
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