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Farm Radio Weekly is a news and information service for rural radio broadcasters in sub-Saharan Africa. It is published by Farm Radio International.

Issue #1

Hello to all!

We are very excited and pleased to introduce you to the first official issue of Farm Radio Weekly (FRW) and welcome you to the Farm Radio Weekly community. FRW is a service of the Developing Countries Farm Radio Network (www.farmradio.org). It was created to help you – our radio partners and other interested organizations – to access some of the latest agricultural and rural development news affecting African farmers, and to share information and resources on the art and science of rural radio broadcasting. It is our hope and belief that this information will help you better serve your listeners with current, relevant, and accurate information.

This April and May, we carried out a pilot study of the FRW concept, and our partners who received it told us it was a valuable addition to their information sources. We, in turn, received useful feedback on how FRW news stories were used – sometimes adapted for the local audience, sometimes read as-is on the air, and sometimes the inspiration for original, locally-researched stories. We also learned what other types of information you find valuable. In fact, one addition to the online version of FRW responds directly to a common request – a link to a site which features weather forecasts for all parts of Africa.

In addition to providing useful news and information, it is also our desire that Farm Radio Weekly help build a community of African rural radio broadcasters. At the FRW website, you will find a space to share resources, connect with one another, learn from each other, and, together, build a stronger voice for small-scale farmers in Africa.

Starting today, FRW will be a regular service delivered to e-mail inboxes and posted on-line each week at http://weekly.farmradio.org/Our success will depend on your feedback and participation. We want to know how we can help meet your needs and the needs of your listeners. So please let us know which news and information pieces you find useful (and which ones you don’t!) And when you develop a local news story, or hear about a resource, event, or tip that may interest other radio organizations – please share it!

We invite you to share you thoughts, ideas, and information with us and with other subscribers by posting comments to the online version of FRW. We also welcome e-mails sent directly to us at farmradioweekly@farmradio.org.

We look forward to working with you! And we hope you enjoy our first regular issue of Farm Radio Weekly.

-The Farm Radio Weekly Team

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In this week’s Farm Radio Weekly

African Farm News in Review

1. Locusts destroy crops and pastures in Kenya, threaten farm lands in Sudan (Various UN Sources)
2. West Africa: Countries step up measures to combat bird flu (Agence France Presse, Daily Trust, and Ghanaian Chronicle)
3. Senegal: Low cost white fly traps save mango crops (United Nations’ Integrated Regional Information Networks)
4. Gabon: Poor road conditions hamper banana industry (Gabonews)
5. Uganda: Fruit cannery drives demand (The Monitor)
6. Africa: Tiny but powerful – bees and chilies can keep elephants away from crops (Various Sources)

Upcoming Events

- November 25-December 10 – 16 Days of Radio Activism Against Gender Violence
- December 3-14 – United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

Radio Resource Bank

- Free and Open Source Audio Software
- E-Learning course in broadcast journalism basics

DCFRN Action

-Scriptwriting Competition on Climate Change
-DCFRN’s archived scripts are always available on-line

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The following news stories may be of interest to your listeners. If these stories are relevant to you, you are more than welcome to use them in any way that meets your needs. We would love to hear which stories you found most relevant and how your radio organization used them!

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East Africa: Locusts destroy crops and pastures in Kenya, threaten farm lands in Sudan (Various UN Sources)

Swarms of Desert Locusts are destroying crops in northeastern Kenya and threatening farm lands in northern Sudan. It’s a potentially dangerous situation requiring close monitoring and rapid response, the United Nations’ food agency has warned.

Desert Locusts can destroy crops quickly because they eat so much. An adult consumes roughly its own weight in food every day, while even  a small section of an average swarm can eat as much food as 2,500 people every day.

In Kenya, Desert Locust swarms are ravaging food crops and pasture lands in the Mandera district, near the Ethiopian border. According to a local organization, more than 200 farming families are already in need of assistance after losing their vegetable and cereal crops. Herdsmen also fear for their livestock as the locusts are attacking their pastures.

Officials in the Mandera district say they are confident that the locust swarms in their area will be contained. However, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization says it is likely that new swarms, formed by locusts recently hatched in Ethiopia, will enter Kenya in January.

In northern Sudan, unusually favourable breeding conditions have resulted in the formation of small swarms of adult locusts and small bands of so-called “hoppers” – which are immature, wingless locusts that will become adults in a matter of weeks.

The infestation is worst in the Tokar Delta region, which is also the most important agricultural region on Sudan’s Red Sea coast.

The Sudanese government and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization are working to combat this outbreak. They have already treated with pesticide more than 11,000 hectares of land threatened by the Desert Locusts.

Experts anticipate that more swarms of locusts will form in the interior of Sudan and move to the Red Sea coast this month. And still more locust eggs are scheduled to hatch in the Tokar Delta region.

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West Africa: Countries step up measures to combat bird flu (Agence France Presse, Daily Trust, and Ghanaian Chronicle)

Three West African countries that have been hit by bird flu recently announced new measures to stave off the spread of the disease.

The most dangerous strain of bird flu, H5N1, first reached Africa in January 2006, when an outbreak was detected in Nigeria. Fears of the disease resurfaced in April of this year when an infected chicken was found in Ghana.

Côte D’Ivoire reported two cases of bird flu last year, but has since kept the disease at bay by closely guarding its borders. The government recently banned imports of poultry and poultry products from Great Britain, after reports of a new outbreak there. Côte D’Ivoire also maintains a ban on poultry products from Burkina Faso, Ghana, Nigeria, and Togo – all of which reported cases of bird flu earlier this year.

Nigeria has been less successful in combating the disease, with outbreaks of bird flu reported in 35 states and the federal capital territory of Abuja. To help Nigeria in its struggle to contain the disease, the Chinese government has donated almost 600,000 US dollars, or 400,000 Euros, to buy laboratory and disinfection equipment, and an incinerator.

The H5N1 bird flu is a serious concern because it can be passed from birds to humans. To date, over 200 people around the world have died from the disease. One person in Nigeria is reported to have died from bird flu in the only case of bird flu death reported in sub-Saharan Africa. However, experts worry that the disease could mutate and become transmissible from person-to-person, at which point it would become far more dangerous.

Meanwhile, the deputy director of veterinary services for Ghana, Dr. George Opoku-Pare, says that live birds in marketplaces and unhygienic slaughtering conditions put people at risk. He has called for a national plan for the slaughtering of fowls to help prevent future outbreaks of bird flu in the country, but did not detail when such a plan would be implemented.

Currently, bird flu remains a health concern and a serious threat to the livelihoods of poultry farmers. The control of outbreaks requires massive culling of any birds that may be infected and leaves farmers waiting for government compensation that may or may not come.

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Senegal: Low cost white fly traps save mango crops (United Nations’ Integrated Regional Information Networks)

Mango farmers in the Casamance region of Senegal are learning a low-cost method of trapping and killing a pest that has been devastating their crops.

Mango production became particularly important in the Casamance region following a civil conflict that left much of its farmland littered with mines. With the landmines yet to be removed, but mango orchards offer farmers an alternative. Mangoes require much less land than crops traditionally grown in the area, such as groundnuts, watermelons, and millet.

For the past four years, however, mango production in Casamance has been threatened by the white fly, which lays eggs in ripening fruit. The eggs hatch into maggots that cause the fruit to rot and fall to the ground. It’s a problem the farmers are now combating, with the help of government agricultural workers and aid organizations.

This past growing season, a simple but effective technology was tested. Attract-and-kill traps were made from recycled water bottles and a mix of methyl eugenol – a naturally occurring substance that attracts flies – and a pesticide that kills them. During the test, traps attracted and killed an estimated 60,000 flies each over 10 days.

The locally-made traps cost about 6 US dollars, or 4 Euros each. Imported traps, by comparison, sell for up to 27 US dollars, or 18 Euros, each.

The traps are a relief to farmers who were losing up to 90 per cent of their mango crops to the white fly.

Mango orchards are the primary source of income for many families, who are being hit by food shortages  due to poor rains. They are also one of the few crops that grow well during the rainy season.

Ibou Goudiaby has five hectares of mango trees in the Casamance region. He says the new trap will allow farmers to recover their plantations, which are their only source of revenue until landmine removal is complete.

Government agriculture workers and aid organizations trained a group of farmers to use the new, low-cost white fly traps. Now these farmers are training other mango producers. They will need to start using the traps soon, as mango trees will start to flower in January.

Experts note that keeping plantations clean and free from debris is the first line of defense against the white fly. They also recommend that any fruit that falls from the tree be buried at least 50 centimetres under the ground, to prevent any larvae in the fruit from reaching the surface.

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Gabon: Poor road conditions hamper banana industry (Gabonews)

The poor condition of roads in Gabon is driving up the cost of transportation and narrowing profit margins in the Gabonese banana industry.

Bananas make the long journey from their local growers to intermediary markets in the country’s interior, and then to larger markets in the capital city of Libreville and the economic capital of Port Gentil.

With poor road conditions, made worse by the heavy rains the country has seen in the past few months, the journey can take up to three days.

Merchants say the transport costs have risen dramatically in the past year, making it more difficult for them to earn a profit in bananas.

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Uganda: Fruit cannery drives demand (The Monitor)

Fruit farmers in the Masaka district of Uganda should enjoy higher demand for their crops as a local juice processor plans to expand its production.

Creps is a company that makes juice from pineapple, passion fruit, banana, and lemons. It began by processing juice solely for local consumption. But Creps recently underwent an expansion in order to reach a much larger market, including the capital city of Kampala.

The company now employs 20 people and says it can now produce 1000 crates of bottled juice per month.

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Africa: Tiny but powerful – bees and chilies can keep elephants away from crops (Various Sources)

The sound of bees or the scent of chilies may be small annoyances to most people. But they may also be solutions to one great big problem faced by farmers in many African countries: elephants.

Since the 1980s, conservation efforts have brought African elephants back from the brink of extinction. It’s now estimated that more than half a million elephants roam the continent. And when the giant beasts enter farming communities, the results can be disastrous. They trample fields, eat crops, and can even destroy houses and raid grain silos.

Recently, a herd of elephants from a national park invaded the Bukonzo East district of Uganda.  Several acres of crops were destroyed, leaving many families with no food. A local politician told a newspaper the elephants  would be killed unless the wildlife authority took them away.

Meanwhile, researchers from Oxford University have been looking for methods to keep elephants away from farms without hurting them by exploiting something elephants naturally fear – bees.

During recent field trials in Kenya, the researchers found that a  simple recording of angry bees will cause a herd of elephants to flee an area in about a minute. The research group is also developing a beehive fence. An elephant passing one of these fences would start bees flying and buzzing, scaring the invader away.

It is believed that elephants have learned to avoid bees because they can inflict painful stings inside their trunks.

It has also been discovered that elephants dislike capsaicin, the chemical in chili peppers that makes them hot.

Studies conducted in South Africa have shown that a few rows of chilies around valuable crops can deter elephants from barging through. Even more effective are so-called “chili-dung bombs” promoted by the Elephant Pepper Development Trust in Cape Town. Composed of crushed chilies and animal dung, the bricks, or “bombs”, create a noxious smoke when lit and send elephants scampering away.

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Notes to Broadcasters on Locusts:

Farmers have every reason to fear locust swarms and their massive appetites. But the good news is that they do not have to stand by and wait for the pests to devour their crops – there are steps they can take to help control the pests.

Keith Cressman, a Locust Forecasting Officer for the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), told FRW that “the most useful activity farmers and NGOs can do is to help be our eyes and ears on the ground, and to inform the local authorities whenever they see any Desert Locusts.” Farmers that see locusts can be of great assistance if they carefully observe the pests and report them to government plant protection and local agricultural officers. In particular, farmers should take note of:

1. the colour of the locusts
2. the behaviour (flying, egg laying, settled on the ground, on bushes or trees, etc.)
3. if they have wings (adults) or are wingless (hopper nymphs)
4. when (date) and where (place name, latitude/longitude coordinates if possible) they are observed
5. size of infestation (small, medium, big) and density (low, medium, high).

Cressman also recommended that only well-trained, specialized staff from the national plant protection services should carry out locust control operations by using small amounts of highly concentrated pesticides.

Whether or not you broadcast in an area currently threatened by Desert Locusts, you may wish to engage farmers with questions such as:
-How do farmers’ organizations in your area work together to combat locust swarms or other pests that cannot be controlled by individual farmers alone?
-What measures do individual farmers or farmers’ organizations in your area take to prepare for food shortages caused by natural disasters? What other measures could they take?

A DCFRN script published in 1994 deals with the related issue of grasshoppers and non-swarming locusts (Control Grasshopper and Locusts on Your Farm, Package 32, Script 2, April 1994). Unlike the swarming Desert Locusts, grasshoppers and non-swarming locusts can be combated on individual farms without the use of pesticides.

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Notes to Broadcasters on Bird Flu:

Though bird flu has had the greatest impact on Asian countries – particularly Indonesia and Vietnam – this story reminds us that bird flu still poses a threat in sub-Saharan Africa. Following are some ideas for stories that you might consider researching in your own area:
-If massive bird culling has been required in your area, what impact did this have on poultry farmers? Were they compensated for their losses? Did they pursue other income generating activities to support their families?
-If there has never been a case of bird flu in your area, are people concerned about the disease? What precautions do poultry farmers take when handling sick fowl or slaughtering fowl?

You may also be interested in the following online resources related to bird flu:
-A DCFRN script with some answers to common questions (Avian Influenza Spots, Package 70, Script 2, November 2006).
-The World Health Organization’s home page on the disease:
http://www.who.int/csr/disease/avian_influenza/en/
?The World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) home page on the disease:
http://www.oie.int/eng/info_ev/en_AI_avianinfluenza.htm
?The Communication Initiative Network’s page for shared knowledge on the disease:
http://www.comminit.com/en/avianinfluenza.html

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Notes to Broadcasters on Mango Fly Traps:

This story illustrates that simple, low-cost technologies can mean the difference between a bountiful crop and severe losses. It also demonstrates the resilience of a group of farmers against difficult odds. For every story such as this that is reported in the media, there are surely countless others that few people hear about. We would love to learn and share the stories of farmers in your area who have faced adversity with creativity and courage. Please e-mail FRW editor Heather Miller at hmiller@farmradio.org if you have a story that you would like to contribute to a future edition of FRW.

If you would like to generate discussion about these themes, perhaps during a call-in show, you might consider asking farmers questions such as:
-What pests try to attack their crops? What methods do farmers use to protect the crops? Are these methods affordable, accessible, and effective? Do any farmers’ organizations or other groups in your area facilitate knowledge sharing on pest management?
-If your area has suffered a conflict in recent years, how has it affected farmers? What have farmers done to rebuild their livelihoods and their communities?

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Notes to Broadcasters on Elephants:

This is another example of how simple solutions can resolve the biggest of problems – even the problem of roaming elephants averaging 5,000 kilograms each. If you want to see for yourself how buzzing bees can make these massive beasts flee, check out a video clip on this site:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2007/oct/08/animalbehaviour.worldnews

The last package of DCFRN scripts (Package 81) included four scripts that were developed at a scriptwriting workshop hosted by the Africa Rice Center (WARDA) in Benin earlier this year. Each of these scripts was designed to share information about a local agricultural innovation (A Local Plant Prevents Pest Damage to Stored Seeds; Powder of Little Pepper Protects Stored Rice; The Speaking Scarecrows; and New Technique Reduces Work Needed to Thin Millet; Package 81, Scripts 1-4, August 2007). When you hear about local innovations developed by farmers in your area, please share them with the FRW community by posting a comment to FRW’s online version or by e-mailing hmiller@farmradio.org .

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We created this section to share information on events related to agriculture, rural development, and radio broadcasting. If you know of an event that may interest other radio organizations, please post a comment on FRW’s website or e-mail us at farmradioweekly@farmradio.org.

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November 25-December 10 – 16 Days of Radio Activism Against Gender Violence

The Women’s International Network of the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters encourages all community radio stations to air programs that highlight efforts to end gender violence.
-To find out more about the campaign or listen to what other broadcasters are doing, visit: http://www.amarc.org/16days
-Look for a script on the subject of gender violence in the next DCFRN script package, which will be delivered to radio partners by regular mail in early December.

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December 3-14 – United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

Representatives from more than 180 countries, together with observers from intergovernmental organizations, NGOs, and the media will meet in Bali to negotiate a plan to address climate change. The official website of the conference is: http://unfccc.int/2860.php
-Look for news stories related to climate change and agriculture in upcoming issues of FRW.
-Check out the DCFRN Action section of this issue for details on a scriptwriting competition entitled African Farmers’ Strategies for Coping with Climate Change…and a chance to win a high quality digital audio recorder while making a difference in the fight against climate change!

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When we hear about a resource that may help you in your radio work, we will post it here in the Radio Resource Bank. This is a great place to share your best tips and top online resources with those who share the challenges and rewards of rural radio broadcasting in sub-Saharan Africa. Please post a comment below, or e-mail farmradioweekly@farmradio.org.

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Free and Open Source Audio Software

NGO-in-a-Box has compiled a range of open source software for creating, accessing, editing, and distributing audio files. Visit http://av.ngoinabox.org/?q=node/61 to check out the software available for free download.

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E-Learning course in broadcast journalism basics

The SA Writers’ College in South Africa is offering an online course for writers who wish to enter broadcast journalism, whether for TV, radio, or documentaries. The online course can be started at anytime and completed at the student’s own pace. The cost of the 10-module course is 2,495 South African Rand (about 370 US Dollars or 250 Euros). More information is available at: http://www.sawriterscollege.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=192&Itemid=48

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When DCFRN has news about our organization, we will post it in this section. More importantly, we would like to post news about your radio organization in this section. Please e-mail FRW editor Heather Miller at hmiller@farmradio.org with news about you!

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Scriptwriting Competition on Climate Change

All African radio organizations – including broadcasters, production organizations, NGOs with a radio project, and farmers’ associations with a radio show – are invited to participate in a scriptwriting competition entitled African Farmers’ Strategies for Coping with Climate Change. This DCFRN and Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) competition is looking for radio scripts on the following themes related to local adaptation to climate change:
-Water and soil management
-Cropping strategies emphasizing drought-resistant plants
-Livestock management practices
-Fisheries and Agroforestry
-Other (for original topics related to coping with climate change that are not listed above).
The scripts will be reviewed by an international panel of judges. The top 15 entries will win high quality digital audio recorders. For all the details, visit: http://scriptcompetition.net/

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