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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 #31

Hello to all!

Welcome to another issue packed with news on African agricultural developments. We extend a special greeting to our newest subscribers, Tou Zoumana, from the NGO CIRDES, in Burkina Faso, and Tigistu Amsalu Oljira, from the Agriculture and Rural Development Office of Oromia Regional State, Ethiopia.

This week, we bring you the story of a major development in agricultural marketing – the new Ethiopia Commodity Exchange. Based in the capital of Addis Ababa and reaching out to farming communities around the country, this new exchange system is designed to make trading fair and reliable for farmers and traders. It’s been called a model that other African countries should follow – read the story and see what you think!

Two other stories update you on important agricultural diseases. H5N1 bird flu has once again been detected in parts of Nigeria. We explain some of the factors that can make a country susceptible to bird flu, and describe the steps farmers can take to keep it out of their farms. In Ghana, coastal regions have been hit with coconut lethal yellowing disease. We explore the impact of this disease on livelihoods, and one proposed way to mitigate the problem.

If you have not yet visited the Farm Radio Weekly website (http://weekly.farmradio.org/), why not check in out today? You can use the website to browse through past editions, cast your vote in a poll, and use the comments section to discuss the issues of the day with other readers.

Through the month of July, readers left thoughtful comments, telling how issues in the news resonate in their area. Responding to a news story about drip irrigation in Senegal, Emily Arayo wrote about an adaptation of this by Ugandan farmers. “In Uganda, farmers are using the plastic mineral water bottles to irrigate crops. This is done by making a small hole at the bottom of the bottle, which is placed at the root of the plant. This allows water to drip down to the roots of the plant,” she explained.

Reader Wikano was interested in an initiative supported by Farm Radio to help Nigerian farmers cope with climate change, and said it’s time for Kenyans to take action against climate change. Wikano writes, “It’s sad to witness people here in Kenya fell trees anyhow, clear the only standing rain forests. It’s so sad that even the struggle to curb the menace falls on deaf ears. Let us care about our every action as human beings.” We hope that this week’s news stories inspire you to share your thoughts with other readers.

Happy reading!

-The Farm Radio Weekly Team

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In this week’s Farm Radio Weekly:

African Farm News in Review

1. Ethiopia: Commodity exchange encourages farmers to produce more and better crops (Blog World Hunger, International Food Policy Research Institute)

2. Nigeria: Bird flu detected in two poultry markets (CIDRAP News, Daily Champion, Leadership, African Radio Drama Association)

3. Ghana: Coconut harvesters see their livelihoods affected by lethal yellowing disease (Inter Press Service)

Upcoming Events

September 2, 2008: Apply to cover the International EcoHealth Forum in Mexico

Radio Resource Bank

Communication Initiative Network shares experiences on avian flu reporting

Farm Radio Action

Farm Radio produces new research on rural radio

Farm Radio Script of the Week

Biosecurity – A new way to look at avian flu prevention

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1. Ethiopia: Commodity exchange encourages farmers to produce more and better crops (Blog World Hunger, International Food Policy Research Institute)

Aweke Teshome was in for a pleasant surprise the first time he brought his crops to the Ethiopia Commodity Exchange. Although he is an experienced farmer, he never knew the market price for his produce or how it rated. At the exchange his crops received the lowest grade, but he knew that he was paid a fair market price. He left with a strengthened resolve to produce larger yields of higher quality.

The Ethiopia Commodity Exchange, or ECX, opened its trading floor in April. It is a new system to connect farmers and traders around the country, making commodity trading easier and more reliable for both parties.

Farmers are now assured a fair market price for their products. Previously, Mr. Teshome was at the mercy of local traders. He was unable to negotiate price, but rather forced to sell his product for whatever price was offered. Through the ECX, farmers can access information about market prices at any of 200 locations.

Mr. Teshome explains that the ECX also ensures that he can sell any surplus. Since he does not have any storage facilities, he used to lose money during times of surplus. The ECX, however, runs six storage warehouses spread throughout the country, so farmers are always able to sell their crop. Mr. Teshome explains that the system encourages him to produce higher yields for this guaranteed market.

Eleni Zaude Gabre-Madhin is an Ethiopian economist who was the driving force behind the founding of the exchange. She was struck by the fact that Ethiopia can have a bumper harvest one year and severe shortages the next. Or that there can be surpluses in one region and famine in another.

Ms. Gabre-Madhin worked with farmers, traders, and the Ethiopian government to develop the ECX. She says the exchange will help to balance out the surpluses and shortages by improving farmers’ access to the larger domestic market. It should also open up access to the export market.

Ms. Gabre-Madhin expects that more farmers like Mr. Teshome will be encouraged to produce more food, thus reducing the risk of severe food shortages in the future.
Farmers will also have more information to help them decide which crops to plant.

So far, six commodities are traded through the ECX: coffee, sesame, haricot beans, wheat, maize, and a traditional grain called teff. It’s expected that small scale farmers will make up 95 per cent of the contributors to the ECX.
Click here to see the notes to broadcasters on the Ethiopia Commodity Exchange

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2. Nigeria: Bird flu detected in two poultry markets (CIDRAP News, Daily Champion, Leadership, Africa Radio Drama Association)

Birds infected with a highly infectious strain of avian influenza have been found in two Nigerian poultry markets. On June 27, veterinary officials detected the virus in a chicken at a live bird market in Kebbi state, in northwestern Nigeria. On July 19, animal health workers found the virus in a duck at a live bird market in Gombe state in the east-central part of the country. Both cases involved the highly pathogenic bird flu virus known as H5N1.

Junaidu Maina is the agricultural director for the livestock department at Nigeria’s Ministry of Agriculture. He said that immediate action was taken to control the latest outbreak. According to Mr. Maina, all poultry at affected farms have been culled, and the farms have been disinfected.

Bird flu was first detected in Nigeria in early 2006. The disease spread through 25 of the country’s 36 states before it was contained. These were the first incidents of the virus in sub-Saharan Africa. Since then, the virus has been detected in several West African countries.

Earlier Nigerian outbreaks led experts to detail reasons why the disease can spread easily in this country. Dr. Joseph Domenech is chief veterinarian for the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization. He said the sheer number of poultry raised in Nigeria is a factor. Poultry are raised in high density. They are also part of everyday life for the majority of Nigerians.

The Africa Radio Drama Association’s research department analyzed the link between Nigerians’ love for chicken and the risk of avian flu. Chicken is a favourite meal – whether for weekday meals or holiday feasts. Live chickens are also part of the household, whether clucking around the table at mealtime or bunking down alongside children. This kind of human interaction with poultry goes against biosecruity guidelines recommended to decrease the spread of avian flu.

Basic hygiene can help stop the spread of the H5N1 virus. People should avoid unnecessary contact with poultry. Farmers should keep their poultry in fenced areas and wash their hands and boots after they visit the chicken coop. To prevent cross-contamination between farms, other poultry farmers should not visit the coop.

Farmers may have less control over other factors that encourage the spread of bird flu. These include the migration of wild birds and the cross-border trade in eggs and day-old chicks.

The H5N1 bird flu is a serious concern because it can be passed from birds to humans. To date, over 240 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.
Click here to see the notes to broadcasters on avian flu

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3. Ghana: Coconut harvesters see their livelihoods affected by lethal yellowing disease (Inter Press Service)

Augustine Yanney has always helped his mother to produce oil from the coconuts that grow along the beach in the Ankobra region of Ghana. Like many other Ghanaians, Mr. Yanney’s mother makes her living by extracting oil from dried coconut meat. But the beaches no longer offer an abundance of green coconut trees like they used to. They have been struck by coconut lethal yellowing disease.

Coconut lethal yellowing disease is caused by bacteria carried by insects. The bacteria enter the veins of the coconut tree and begin to destroy it. It causes the coconuts to fall and the leaves to yellow and eventually fall. The trees die in a matter of months, leaving behind a field of bare trunks. Scientists have not yet found a cure for the disease.

Mr. Yanney says that his mother’s income dropped sharply following the arrival of lethal yellowing disease in the Ankobra region. A severe economic impact has been felt in other coastal regions as well.

Phillippe Courbet is a French researcher studying lethal yellowing disease in Ghana. He says the disease was first discovered in Ghana in 1932 around the Cape Saint-Paul area of the Volta region in eastern Ghana. The disease reappeared some thirty years later, but in the west of the country, at Cape Three Points. It is currently spreading along the coast.

Faustina Sewornu lives in a small coastal fishing village in the southeast of Ghana. She used to live well off the coconut trade. Now, she has nothing but an empty hut where she used to produce coconut oil.

For people who live in coastal areas, there are few alternatives. Fishing is the other principal source of income, but it is also suffering due to low fish stocks.

One proposed solution to coconut lethal yellowing disease is to replace the diseased trees with hybrids. But Mr. Courbet says these hybrids are still not immune. The only advantage of hybrid coconut trees is that they take only two years to bear fruit. Traditional varieties take about five years. So hybrid trees may give people the chance to collect coconuts before the disease strikes again.

At a workshop on coconut lethal yellowing disease held recently in Accra, scientists declared that the disease had affected some one million trees across Ghana over the past 30 years.
Click here to see the notes to broadcasters on coconut lethal yellowing disease

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Notes to broadcasters on Ethiopia Commodity Exchange:

A common concern among African farmers is that they are at the mercy of local traders. Without access to markets or market information, many farmers feel powerless to negotiate with traders. The Ethiopia Commodity Exchange (ECX) is being hailed as a revolution in Ethiopian agriculture and a model for trading systems in other African countries because it creates a system where farmers are guaranteed a fair market price and traders are guaranteed a good product. In researching this story, we found that South Africa has the only other “viable” commodity exchange in Africa.

In countries where such exchange systems are not available, communication technology is helping some farmers gain access to market information to ensure they get a fair price. Some radio organizations research current market prices and broadcast them regularly. Market information is also more readily available online, and in some areas, farmers can access this information through their cell phones. Another way that farmers can improve their bargaining power is to build good storage facilities for harvested crops. Proper storage ensures that farmers do not have to sell their produce at a time when the market is flooded and prices are low, but rather that they can wait until market prices are favourable.

To learn more about the ECX, visit:
-The official website of the ECX: http://www.ecx.com.et/
-A PowerPoint presentation created by ECX’s CEO and founder, Eleni Zaude Gabre-Madhin in 2007: http://www.unctad.org/sections/wcmu/docs/c1em33p10_en.pdf

More information on ways farmers can ensure they get the best price for their produce (and how radio organizations can help) are found in the following Farm Radio International scripts:
-A five-part series entitled “To market, to market” (Package 66, Script 6-10):
-“Market News on MEGA FM” (Package 83, Script 3, March 2008): http://www.farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/83-3script_en.asp

You may wish to host a call-in/text-in show that allows farmers to discuss the local market situation – the challenges they face and methods they have used to obtain better prices. Here are some questions to ask:
-How do farmers in your area typically sell their produce? Do they feel that this system allows them to earn a fair price?
-What methods do farmers use to obtain information about current market prices?
-Do farmers in your area store their crops until the market price is favourable? How do they prevent damage to their stored product?
-Are there farmers who organize themselves into cooperatives to obtain bargaining power when selling their crops?

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Notes to broadcasters on avian flu:

In January of this year, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) issued a press release to emphasise that the H5N1 strain of bird flu remains a global threat. The FAO advised that between December 2007 and January 2008, avian flu outbreaks were identified in 15 countries around the world: Bangladesh, Benin, China, Egypt, Germany, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Myanmar, Poland, Russia, Ukraine, Turkey, and Viet Nam. Dr. Joseph Domenech, the FAO’s chief veterinarian, said that “globally, much progress has been achieved in keeping the H5N1 avian influenza virus under control” yet “the H5N1 avian influenza crisis is far from over.”

Bird flu remains 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. But the gravest concerns over bird flu stem from the fact that it can be passed from birds to humans. Experts worry that the H5N1 virus could mutate and become transmissible from person-to-person, at which point it would become far more dangerous.

Here are some resources to learn more about H5N1 bird flu, the threat it poses to humans, and what poultry farmers can do to prevent its spread:
-The World Health Organization’s home page on the disease:
-The World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) home page on the disease:
-The Poultry Site’s home page on the disease:
-Wikipedia’s entry on the disease:

Your radio organization can play a role in stopping the spread of avian flu by raising awareness of the disease and of its prevention measures. The following Farm Radio scripts may help you develop programming:
-“Biosecurity – A new way to look at avian flu prevention” (Package 79, Script 7, November 2006)
-“Avian Influenza Spots” (Package 79, Script 2, November 2006)

You could also hold an on-air round table discussion with local experts on avian flu. Try to include people knowledgeable about both the human and animal health risks, and at least one farmer who is taking measures to protect their farm from the disease. Ask the experts to explain what the local threat is (for example, whether infections have been identified in the area, or if there are factors that make the area vulnerable) and the best way for people to reduce their risk. Be sure to allow time for listeners to call or text in with any comments or questions.

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Notes to broadcasters on coconut lethal yellowing disease:

Lethal yellowing is a disease that affects more than 38 species of palm trees. As we noted in the story, the first warning signs of the disease in coconut trees are coconuts dropping prematurely, followed by the yellowing of leaves. Eventually, the leaves turn brown. In the span of six months, all of the foliage falls, leaving the trunk bare. By killing the trees, this disease destroys the livelihoods of those who sell coconuts or produce products like coconut oil.

And it’s not only in Ghana that lethal yellowing disease is ravaging coconut trees. The adjacent coast of Togo is also affected, and also Nigeria. The coastline of Ivory Coast, another of Ghana’s neighbours, seems to have been spared. In East Africa Tanzania and Kenya are affected.

The International Coconut Genetic Resources Network (COGENT), in association with Biodiversity International, is a network of coconut producers. The network’s goals are to improve the production and use of coconut and to conserve the biodiversity of coconut trees. Through the organization’s website (http://www.cogentnetwork.org/index.php?page=membercountries) you can find resource people, listed by country. You may wish to interview a local resource person for a program on coconut trees. To obtain free copies of COGENT’s publication, contact Yeow Giap Seng at: g.yeow@cgiar.org.

You can also find out more about coconut growing through discussion groups hosted on Yahoo! and Google. The Yahoo! group is dedicated to coconut lethal yellowing disease while the Google group discusses everything about coconuts. If you have questions about coconuts, discussion forums can be a good place to find answers.

The Centre de Coopération International en Recherche Agronomique Pour le Développement (CIRAD) website provides several interesting resources (available in French only):
-This link introduces a study on coconut lethal yellowing disease in Ghana. You can also find details about an international workshop on the disease that was held in Accra, last June: http://www.cirad.bf/fr/lyd.php.
-An article published in March 2006: “Lethal yellowing in coconut trees in Ghana, a new hybrid is tested”: http://www.cirad.fr/fr/actualite/communique.php?id=508
-A presentation entitled: “Lethal yellowing disease in Ghana: one researcher’s impressions and observations”: http://www.cirad.fr/fr/web_savoir/curieux/animations/cocotier/cocotier_fr.html

Finally, the following Farm Radio International scripts may complement your programming on coconut lethal yellowing disease:
-“Grow vegetable crops with coconuts” (Package 55, Script 3, April 2000)
-”‘Survival’ crops provide food during times of need” (Package 67, Script 2, June 2003)

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September 2, 2008: Apply to cover the International EcoHealth Forum in Mexico

Five journalists will be given the chance to interview the world’s top experts on health and the environment at the International EcoHealth Forum in Merida, Mexico, this December. The World Federation of Health Journalists, in collaboration with Canada’s International Development Research Centre, has announced a competition offering journalists a chance to cover the forum.

The forum will bring together researchers, policy-makers and practitioners to discuss the impact of social and ecological changes on the global environment and, in turn, on human health. Special emphasis will be placed on “ecohealth” research in developing countries. The event will be held from December 1-5, 2007. For more information on the event, visit: http://www.ecohealth2008.org/anuncio.php.

To enter the competition to cover the event, you must send the following electronically to info@wfsj.org: your CV, coordinates, copies of the identification pages of your passport, three articles or audio/video files on health and environmental issues (in the original language), and a one-page essay in English on why you should win the competition. The deadline for entering the competition is September 2, 2008.

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Communication Initiative Network shares experiences on avian flu reporting

Media organizations take on a heavy responsibility when they report threats such as the H5N1 bird flu. It is important to keep people informed of the risk, but it is also important to keep the situation in perspective, so that the audience doesn’t panic. When a threat like bird flu persists for many years, effective communication becomes a greater challenge. If the audience has not experienced the threat first hand, they may dismiss it over time. Accurate reporting remains crucial and creative communication methods may be needed to keep the audience engaged and informed about what they can do to reduce their risk.

The Communication Initiative Network highlights many ways that communication groups around the world are working to raise awareness of avian flu and promote prevention. For example, in Indonesia, the country which has experienced the highest human death toll from bird flu (110 deaths), a cultural group travels from village to village, spreading awareness through traditional songs, dances, and drumming. In Latin America, a radio series called “Mas vale prevenir…” (”An ounce of prevention…”), tells the story of a long-time poultry farmer who decides to implement inexpensive biosafety measures. To learn more about what other media organizations are doing, visit: http://www.comminit.com/en/avianinfluenza.html.

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Farm Radio produces new research on rural radio

As many of our readers know, Farm Radio International is undertaking a three-and-a-half year action research project known as the African Farm Radio Research Initiative (AFRRI). With funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Farm Radio is working with radio partners in Ghana, Mali, Malawi, Tanzania, and Uganda to discover and document best practices for using radio-based communications to enhance food security in Africa. In two preliminary studies, researchers commissioned for AFRRI sought to summarize existing knowledge about communicating with radio and provide an overview of the economics of rural radio. These reports are now available online:

Communicating With Radio: What Do We Know? Findings from Selected Rural
Radio Effectiveness Evaluations
, researched and written by Linje Manyozo.
This study revealed that radio-based rural education can be effective in disseminating knowledge, especially when:
-It is combined with other extension activities;
-It features testimonials, voices of other farmers, and farming communities;
-It is entertaining, involving dramas with role models relevant to the local context;
-There are organized group-listening activities with a discussion facilitator;
-Local communities are involved in creating content;
-Broadcasts deal with local issues in local language.
The study can be found online at:

Economics of Rural Radio in Africa: An Introductory Study into the Costs and
, researched and written by Chris Yordy.
This report revealed the following:
-The cost of programming for farmers varies greatly across different types of radio organizations and across different countries;
-Community stations tend to invest more resources in farmcasting than other types of radio stations but have problems sustaining such programming due to limited resources and dependency on donors;
-There are many opportunities for stations to generate revenues to support farmcasting which require further exploration;
-There is limited research available in the area of radio economics in Africa and additional research is needed at the country level to identify more specific avenues for investment.
This study can be found online at:

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Biosecurity – A new way to look at avian flu prevention

This week’s news story about a new outbreak of H5N1 bird flu in Nigeria reminds us that the virus remains a serious threat. If you broadcast this story, you may also wish to help poultry farmers by reminding them of the steps they can take to prevent bird flu.

In this script, the host interviews a chicken farmer who explains the biosecurity approach to preventing the spread of bird flu. She says farmers need to “keep it out” –
keep bird flu off their farm – and “keep it in” – make sure they don’t spread bird flu if their farm is infected. The interviewee says the prevention measures are easy and cost almost nothing. She also explains why all poultry farmers should be vigilant and take steps to prevent bird flu, even if there has not been an outbreak in their country.

You can also view this script online at:

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