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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 #27

2. Uganda: Improved seeds improve livelihoods for women’s group (New Vision, International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT))

Some 20 years ago, a handful of women from Iganga District, in eastern Uganda, came together to improve their livelihoods. The group began with modest goals. They trained to grow vegetables and produce handicrafts. They also produced dramas aimed at improving the lives of other rural women. But it took a major challenge to launch the group on the path towards its greatest success.

Throughout the 1990s, members of the Bakusekamajja Women’s Development Farmers’ Association found improved seeds hard to come by. Improved seeds were too expensive and difficult to access.

Grace Bakaira is chairperson of the association. She said the traditional seeds that they used produced low yields. They were also more susceptible to pests and disease. In 1996, the women’s maize crops were hit by streak virus. It was then that the group started working with the National Crop Research Institute to use and reproduce improved seeds.

The association now boasts 450 members and supplies maize and rice seeds to several seed companies and NGOs. Its success in seed production is due to strict quality standards and cooperative work.

Individual members of the association grow seeds in their own fields, under the guidance of a site selection committee. In order to maintain the purity of the seed variety, production plots must be separated in distance or time from other varieties. This ensures that pollen from other varieties doesn’t reach the improved seed crops. Fields are monitored by association executives throughout the season.

When it comes time for harvest, work is done communally. Most members keep some rice or maize for their families, and sell the rest to the association. Seeds are taken to the head office for drying, shelling, and processing.

Edith Basele is secretary of the association. She explains that, by selling maize and rice seeds in bulk, the association saves on costs such as transportation and increases profit margins. Last year, the association produced 560 metric tonnes of maize seed, which sold for almost 200 million Ugandan shillings (about 120,000 American dollars or 80,000 Euros).

By assisting women to produce their own food with higher-yielding varieties and earn money selling seeds, the Bakusekamajja Women’s Development Farmers’ Association has reached its goal of improving rural women’s lives. But the benefits extend beyond members of the association. It has also made improved seeds available to more farmers in the area. And while association members enjoy good profits, their seeds still sell for 20 to 40 per cent less than other improved seeds.
Click here to see the notes to broadcasters on improved seeds

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Warm greetings to all!

This week, we return to the subject of climate change and how it affects farmers. As the daily work and livelihood of farmers relies on weather and climate, farmers are among those most immediately affected by climate change.

This week’s news stories examine how farmers in different parts of the continent – southern Benin and western Zimbabwe – are coping with dramatic changes to the conditions in which they work. Farmers in both countries note that rainfall patterns are becoming more unpredictable. And rains that arrive quickly following periods of drought can destroy food crops and wash away land.

But we promise that both stories provide hope in the midst of these harsh conditions. Farmers in southern Benin are working to track climate and weather changes and understand the new agricultural cycle. Farmers in western Zimbabwe are learning new techniques to preserve water and produce food during periods of drought.

We have a poll on our website that asks, “Which issues related to agriculture and climate change interest your listeners the most?” Why not take a moment now and answer the poll by clicking on one of the answer buttons on the left-hand side of the page at: http://weekly.farmradio.org/.

And remember, for more on this subject, stay tuned for Farm Radio International’s next script package, where the winners of the CTA-Farm Radio script competition on African Farmers’ Adaptations to Climate Change will be published.

On a personal note, Farm Radio International was fortunate to receive two visitors from African partner stations in our Ottawa, Canada office, last week. We thank Bestway Zottor from the Tongu Community Multimedia Network in Ghanafor stopping by, and Joseph Sekiku, from FADECO FM in Tanzania, for sharing the story of his community radio station with our staff and donors. We would also like to welcome our newest African FRW subscribers, Brian Nyambe from the Mkushi Ministry of Africulture and Cooperatives in Zambia, Jacques Randriarimalala from the NGO RFA in Madagascar, and Gbamele Koffi Edouard from the organization AJSM in Ivory Coast.

Happy reading!

-The Farm Radio Weekly Team

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In this week’s Farm Radio Weekly:

African Farm News in Review

1. Benin: Farmers learn to work with an uncertain climate (Farm Radio Weekly, International Development Research Centre)

2. Zimbabwe: Livestock farmers adapt to new climate (Zimbabwe Standard)

Upcoming Events

August 10-12, 2008: Gender and Media summit in South Africa

Radio Resource Bank

Network of Climate Journalists of the Greater Horn on Africa

Farm Radio Action

Farm Radio partner speaks to Canadians about the power of community radio

Farm Radio Script of the Week

Farmers have important knowledge about weather and environmental change

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Benin: Farmers learn to work with an uncertain climate (Farm Radio Weekly, International Development Research Centre)

The crop cycle in southern Benin used to be familiar and predictable. In the township of Tori-Bossito, farmers planned their maize crops around two dry seasons and two rainy seasons. Maize grown between March and July dried under September’s sun, ready to be planted next season.

Climate change has dramatically altered this familiar planting cycle. Rains now come during the traditional dry season, rotting maize that has been left to dry. When rainy seasons come, they often arrive in storms that can wash away seeds and soil. Drought is also more common.

Nathalie Beaulieu is a Senior Program Officer for the International Development Research Centre, or IDRC, Climate Change Adaptation Program. She says the agricultural calendar is being rewritten. IDRC is working with local and international NGOs to support Beninoise farmers coping with this change.

Farmers in 35 Beninoise villages are now working together to track changes in climate and weather. The project has two parts. The first is a pre-alert system for short-term weather patterns that affect farmers’ planting decisions. Communities are working with local NGOs to collect information about the risk of droughts and tropical storms. Through community radio, entire communities will be warned if severe weather is predicted.

In the second part of the project, farmers will reflect on the changes to rainy and dry seasons that they have observed over the past 30 years. Ms. Beaulieu says that, while predicting short-term weather is important, it is even more important for farmers to familiarize themselves with new seasonal patterns.

The project also aims to shore up farmer skills at mitigating the impact of drought and flood. Farmers are gathering in field schools to experiment with techniques developed in countries with similar climatic conditions, such as Burkina Faso.

Farmers will experiment with landscaping techniques that can help land retain water so that heavy rains are less likely to wash away soil. They will also work with organic fertilizers such as compost and manure. Unlike chemical fertilizers, organic fertilizer helps land conserve moisture.

Lastly, farmers’ field schools will study drought resistant crops and short-season varieties to determine what works best in the Beninoise climate. Ms. Beaulieu explained that when climate is uncertain, short-cycle and drought tolerant crops are crucial to ensuring food security.

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Zimbabwe: Livestock farmers adapt to new climate (Zimbabwe Standard)

Raphael Shirto farms in an arid region of Zimbabwe, in western Matabeleland Province. In recent years, the effects of climate change on his dairy farm are obvious. Pastures are browning and dusty in patches. Thorn scrub is growing where grass used to grow. Boreholes are becoming weaker and weaker.

Mr. Shirto has been forced to make major changes to the way he feeds his animals and grows his crops. He can no longer rely on rain to water pastures or crops.

Standing in one of his several cow pens, Mr. Shirto explains that he now practices zero grazing. Rather than grazing in rain-fed pastures, his livestock are confined to pens and he brings food to them.

Mr. Shirto has never irrigated his fields of sorghum and millet in the past, but now he must. He has learned the technique of drip irrigation. This method delivers water directly to the roots of the plant, making efficient use of scarce water.

Professor Ntombizakhe Mpofu is a livestock specialist researching the effect of climate change in. He says the area has always been dry, but rains are becoming more unpredictable. Earlier this year, rains came suddenly as flash floods.

Joseph Ndlovu is also a grain and livestock farmer in Matabeleland. He says the rainy seasons are not the same as before. This year, flash floods, followed by drought, destroyed his one acre of maize.

Mr. Ndlovu’s sorghum and finger millet fields survived and promise a good harvest. He says he’s thinking of switching all of his fields to millet and sorghum, because these crops are more resilient. He’s also considering short-season maize varieties.

Mr. Ndlovu’s search for drought resistant varieties also extends to his beef cattle. He says extension officers have advised him to consider crossing his indigenous breeds with exotic ones to enable them to better cope with dry conditions.

Professor Mpofu has an additional suggestion for livestock farmers coping with the uncertainty of climate change. He says farmers should preserve more stock feed in bales or silos to prepare for poor pastures and poor feed harvests.

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Notes to broadcasters on farmers adapting to climate change:

In a recent news release, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) reiterated an oft-cited fact: “although Africa produces only four per cent of the world’s total carbon dioxide emissions, its inhabitants are poised to suffer disproportionately from the consequences of global climate change.” At the time, UNEP was launching a new atlas of Africa, which features more than 300 satellite photos illustrating environmental change over the past 30 years. The effect of an overall rise in global temperature was dramatically marked by shrinking glaciers atop Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro and Uganda’s Rwenzori Mountains.

But to see the impact of climate change on everyday life, one need look no further than average farmers, such as those in this week’s news stories. Maize farmers in southern Benin can no longer predict the timing of dry and rainy seasons. Livestock farmers in western Zimbabwe can no longer depend on rain-fed pastures. These farmers and countless others have seen their livelihoods suffer from alternating droughts and floods as rain patterns have become less predictable.

Changes to rainfall patterns and erratic rainfall are among the greatest challenges that climate change poses to small-scale farmers. This week’s news stories mention several adaptation techniques that farmers can use to cope with erratic rainfall:

Adaptation practices promoted through the project in Benin:
-landscaping techniques that prevent flooding and encourage water to infiltrate into the ground
-organic fertilizers, such as manure and compost, that help soil retain water
-drought resistant, short-cycle crop varieties

Adaptation practices used or considered by Zimbabwean farmers:
-drip irrigation to use scarce water most effectively
-zero grazing to reduce reliance on natural pastures
-crossing indigenous animal breeds with exotic varieties to enable them to better cope with a dry environment
-switching to more resilient crops, such as sorghum and finger millet
-experimenting with short-season maize varieties

Please follow the links below for more information on these stories:
-To read more about the project in Benin (in French only), go to:http://www.parbcc-benin.org/
-To find out about all the climate change adaptation projects supported by Canada’s International Development Research Centre and the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development, visit:
-For more information on the impact of climate change in Zimbabwe, see: http://allafrica.com/stories/200805220560.html
-For all the details on UNEP’s “Atlas of Our Changing Environment,” refer to: http://weekly.farmradio.org/2008/06/16/unep-publishes-africa-atlas-of-our-changing-environment/

Some of the adaptation techniques discussed in this week’s news story may be useful for farmers in your area. Consider the following Farm Radio International scripts for additional information and resources:

Choosing crops for drought prone areas (Package 73, Script 3, January 2005)
Supply water directly to plant roots with pitcher and drip irrigation (Package 71, Script 10, June 2004)
Farmer Phiri uses infiltration pits to combat drought (Package 64, Script 6, July 2002)
The role of native breeds in maintaining livestock health: Story ideas for the radio (Package 63, Script 3, April 2002)
Dr. Compost talks about compost piles (Package 61, Script 6, October 2001)
A farmer practices zero grazing (Package 51, Script 3, February 1999)

You may also consider producing a call-in and text-in show, or a locally researched news story, on one or both of these topics:

1) Local climate change observations:
-What differences to seasonal temperature and rainfall patterns have people observed
-Have floods and/or droughts been more frequent in the last 20-30 years than they were in previous decades?
-What differences in the properties of soil have been seen in recent decades?
-What differences in vegetation have been seen, including crops, pasture, and wild plants?

2) Local adaptation techniques:
-What crops have farmers struggled with, and which have proven well-suited to these new conditions?
-What sorts of feeding and care techniques have livestock farmers used to cope with new conditions?
-What techniques are farmers using to prevent flooding and make the best use of available water?
-What other steps have farmers taken to maintain food security in the case of severe drought or floods?

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August 10-12, 2008: Gender and Media summit in South Africa

Gender Links, in partnership with the Gender and Media Southern Africa (GEMSA) Network and the Media Institute of Southern Africa, will hold the third Gender and Media summit from August 10-12, 2008 in Johannesburg, South Africa. The theme of the summit is: “Whose news, whose views? Critical citizens, responsive media.” The summit will bring together media practitioners, trainers, gender activists, and all those who subscribe to the GEMSA slogan “making every voice count, and counting that it does” to share best practices in creating a more responsive media.

The summit will feature the third Gender and Media awards, recognizing good practice in mainstreaming gender in reporting across the Southern African Development Community. This year the awards will also recognize progressive institutional practice in adopting and implementing HIV and AIDS policies as part of the Media Action Plan on HIV and AIDS and Gender.

For more information on the summit, visit: http://www.genderlinks.org.za/page.php?p_id=400.

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Network of Climate Journalists of the Greater Horn on Africa

The Network of Climate Journalists of the Greater Horn of Africa (NECJOGHA) was created following a series of discussions between journalists and climate scientists at the Climate Outlook Forum of 2002. The group realized that the general public was limited in their ability to use climate information and prediction services because information was produced in technical, jargony language.

The network’s goal is to enhance the interaction between climate scientists and journalists and, in so doing, to disseminate climate information in ways that are easily understood by all, including policymakers and the general public in the Greater Horn of Africa. There are 10 countries in the network: Burundi, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda.

Patrick Luganda of the NECJOGHA Secretariat describes the importance of climate journalism in an opinion piece: “The Media, Climate and Society – The Africa Story.”

NECJOGHA provides many resources on its website, including:
-News stories about climate, posted by members on the homepage: http://www.necjogha.org/
-A forum to discuss reporting and recent news, or debate issues surrounding climate change, natural disasters, and government policy: http://www.necjogha.org/forum

To become a registered user of the NECJOGHA website, go to: http://www.necjogha.org/user/register.

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Farm Radio partner speaks to Canadians about the power of community radio

Last week, Joseph Sekiku came to Canada to present at the Growing Inclusive Markets Forum in Halifax. From Halifax, he flew to Farm Radio International’s office in Ottawa. With his infectious smile and his knack for storytelling, Mr. Sekiku presented to Farm Radio International staff and donors as well as WUSC staff about how FADECO’s new FM radio station came to be and the impact it has had on the people in his community.

Joseph Sekiku is the founder and director of the Family Alliance for Development and Co-operation (FADECO), a rural development NGO in the village of Karagwe, northwestern Tanzania. FADECO strives to help farmers raise their standard of living by disseminating vital information and tips on agricultural practices.

In July 2007, by using recycled parts of an old computer and locally fabricated antennas, Joseph launched the first radio station in Karagwe: FADECO community radio 100.8 FM. The station is currently taking part in Farm Radio International’s African Farm Radio Research Initiative project. As an organization, FADECO works on many development issues. But Joseph says that 70 per cent of the station’s programming is focused on agriculture, with topics ranging from production to processing and value addition.

All of FADECO FM’s programs are in Kiswahili. Joseph says that one of the most popular programs on FADECO FM’s airwaves is Market Focus. Market Focus is a daily compilation of market prices. Devota Martine, a volunteer manager and, according to Joseph, the “bone marrow” of FADECO FM, hosts the show. Market prices are compiled from various sources such as the Kenya Agricultural Commodities Exchange and FOODNET in Uganda. Local Tanzanian market information is gathered by volunteer reporters who are dispatched throughout the country. They send text messages with crop prices or sometimes call the station for a live update using Skype, a free online calling tool.

What has been the impact of a radio program like Market Focus on the farmers in Karagwe? Joseph explains that before this radio program, farmers were exploited. A farmer producing maize, beans, or bananas wouldn’t know at what price to sell his crop. But now, if a buyer quotes a price, the farmer has more bargaining power because he or she is informed about market prices in various regions.

During his visit, Joseph toured the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s (CBC) station in Ottawa. Joseph was happy to see that, although CBC has a lot of equipment and resources, FADECO FM achieves the same result as CBC – disseminating information to the people; only FADECO FM does it with very few resources. As an example of how FADECO FM operates with limited resources, Joseph brings his laptop to the field and plugs his microphone directly into the laptop to record farmers’ voices. As FADECO FM prepares to celebrate its first year on the air, Joseph emphasizes that radio is the poor man’s path out of poverty because it gives power and knowledge even to those who are not literate.

To listen to Joseph’s presentation, click here:


Joseph sitting behind the mike in the CBC Ottawa studios.


Joseph talking about FADECO FM community radio.

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Farmers have important knowledge about weather and environmental change

This week’s featured script is a two-part drama on this week’s theme – farmer adaptation to climate change. In the first part, elder farmer Baba explains the local signs of drought to his granddaughters. In the second part, Baba advises his son on the best crops to plant when drought is predicted. The drama emphasizes that farmers who have been monitoring weather patters for decades have important knowledge about predicting and coping with difficult conditions.

You can also view this two-part drama online:
-Part I: Learning about local signs of drought (Package 75, Script 5, June 2005): http://www.farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/75-5script_en.asp
-Part II: Preparing for drought (Package 75, Script 6, June 2005):

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