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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 #33

Hello to all!

We are thrilled that word of Farm Radio Weekly is spreading across the African continent, as we see new subscribers signing up each week. From Ghana, we welcome Kakraba Quarshie from Radio Peace and Frank Osei Wusu from Nkosuo Radio, from Kenya, Lydiah Kiburu of the Africa Communication and Development Institute and John K. Cheburet from The Organic Farmer, from Benin, Kassim Zato from Radio Communautaire FM NONSINAN, from Togo, Philippe Kossi Kpoble Togbe from Radio Horizon – la voix du Zio, and from Uganda, Patrick Luganda from Vision Voice FM Radio.

This week’s news stories touch on two large and complex issues. From a variety of news items published in South African and Namibian media, we have produced a story featuring examples of farm workers obtaining improved employment rights, including better living conditions and access to education and medical care. We also drew upon excellent reporting by The Monitor newspaper in Kampala to produce a story about farmers and scientists raising concerns about the increasing use of hybrid crops and their calls for the preservation of traditional crops. These are just two examples of important issues that cannot be fully covered in an individual news story, but which broadcasters can decide to explore over time.

Finally, we would like to remind everyone about our survey. The survey asks how you use FRW, what you like or don’t like about the service, and what you’d like to see in the future. We have already received some great feedback and look forward to reading more responses. You can find the survey online at: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?sm=9HOchcedv077TyFYi_2bXMPQ_3d_3d. We have noticed that a number of people started to answer the survey, but did not complete it. If this happened to you, you can always return to the survey to answer the remainder of the questions.

Happy reading!

-The Farm Radio Weekly Team

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In this week’s Farm Radio Weekly:

African Farm News in Review

1. Southern Africa: Some progress towards defending farm workers’ rights (BuaNews, World Socialist Website, New Era, AfricaNews)

2. Uganda: Farmers, scientists encourage preservation of traditional crops (The Monitor)

Upcoming Events

September 30, 2008: Apply for scholarships to study journalism in South Africa

Radio Resource Bank

Looking for a journalism fellowship? Here’s the place to start

Farm Radio Action

Farm Radio makes strong showing at OUR MEDIA 7 (by Modibo Coulibaly and Benjamin Fiafor)

Farm Radio Script of the Week

Fissel farmers don’t pick up straw after harvesting, a method that protects land from heat

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1. Southern Africa: Some progress towards defending farm workers’ rights (BuaNews, World Socialist Website, New Era, AfricaNews)

Like many other South African farm workers, David Mashele used to live in a mud hut. Typical mud huts are drafty and do not protect against heavy rains. He never imagined that he would move into a house with four rooms, big windows, a ceiling, and a toilet. But Mr. Mashele and his family did just that when a block of 118 houses was handed over to farm workers in Limpopo, South Africa, courtesy of the government and their employer.

The provision of homes to farm workers in Limpopo is one of the recent news items that reflect moves to improve conditions for farm workers in Southern Africa and defend their rights. Farm workers are typically housed on the farm of their employers. For years, human rights advocates have said that this arrangement makes farm workers and their families extremely vulnerable. Often, if the man of a household becomes unable to work, his wife and children will lose their home as well, even if the woman and children also work.

A report released three years ago found that, between 1993 and 2004, over 900,000 people were evicted from South African farms. The problem of farm worker eviction is similar in neighbouring countries. In Namibia for example, nine farm workers and their dependents were kicked off their farm after the farm changed ownership. Their situation gained national publicity, as the evictees ended up living on the side of a road for years before the government allotted them a home and farmland.

Raimar von Hase is president of Namibia’s National Agricultural Union, or NAU. He said that commercial farm owners have cleaned up their practices and “no member of the NAU has evicted and dumped workers in the street in the last 12 months.”

There are also encouraging signs that farm workers have better access to health care and education. Earlier this year, Namibia’s Agricultural Employers’ Association formulated a policy to support HIV-infected farm workers. According to the policy, employers are obliged to facilitate access to affordable HIV treatment, including anti-retroviral drugs, for all employees who need it. The Association also pledged that workers would not be refused employment if they were HIV positive.

In South Africa, employers in the agricultural town of Christiana are backing a basic education program for farm workers. The government and a private media company also contribute to the program which teaches farm workers basic literacy, math, and computer skills. Mieta Booysen is one of the program facilitators. She says the farm workers are all eager to learn. The training also benefits employers, as it means that their workers will have higher skills and can do more complex tasks, such as taking measurements.

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2. Uganda: Farmers, scientists encourage preservation of traditional crops (The Monitor)

At 70 years old, Ephrance Nakamya knows how to grow maize. For years, she has worked through the cycle of planting seeds, tending plants, harvesting yields, then saving seeds to start again next season. During the first rainy season of 2007, Ms. Nakamya thought she found a way to increase her profits. But the experiment backfired.

In 2007, Ms. Nakamya’s daughter gave her some hybrid seeds purchased in a nearby city. The seeds grew well and at the end of the season, she harvested 800 kilograms of maize from her three acres, becoming the envy of her village in Kayunga District, central Uganda. Unfortunately, that was Ms. Nakamya’s last good harvest. She saved seeds from her hybrid maize harvest and planted them the next season. But the seeds would not germinate. She tried again the following season, only to be disappointed again.

Hybrid seeds, often called “improved” seeds, are engineered to include preferred plant characteristics. They typically resist disease and produce high yields. But since hybrids are created from more than one species of plant, seeds saved from hybrids may not grow. Farmers who use hybrid seeds usually have to purchase new seeds each growing season.

Hybrid crops were the topic of discussion when scientists met for the Open Forum for Agriculture Biotechnology in Africa, held in Kampala, Uganda. John Tabuti is a Professor of Botany at Uganda’s Makerere University. He says the widespread use of hybrids could result in the loss of traditional crops.

Mr. Tabuti urged farmers to constantly look for and acquire different varieties of crops for their farms. This diversity could be crucial to maintaining livelihoods in the face of unanticipated economic or environmental changes.

The Monitor newspaper in Kampala spoke with several farmers concerned about the disappearance of traditional crops in their area. Joseph Magezi represents the Mityana Farmers Association of central Uganda. He uses his farm to preserve traditional crop varieties such as wild passion fruit, climbing peas, and sweet pepper.

Mr. Magezi was invited by the National Agriculture Research Organization to establish a demonstration farm at the Entebbe Botanical Gardens. He also travels to farmers’ shows in Kenya and Uganda to promote traditional crops.

He believes that traditional crops are important to farmer independence and food security. He notes that small-scale farmers such as Ms. Nakamya may not know that the hybrid seeds that produce one season cannot be saved for the next. Mr. Magezi has researched the causes of increased famine in the traditional kingdom of Buganda since 2004, and believes that hybrids are the culprit.

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Notes to broadcasters on farm workers rights:

As this story reveals, farm workers are among the most vulnerable people in many African countries. Living arrangements that are tied to employment contribute to this vulnerability, as do low income and low rates of formal education. Under these circumstances, farm workers have few options available to them. However, farm workers are finding ways to stand up for their rights. This July, for example, the Farm Workers Summit in Northern Cape, South Africa, brought together local farm workers so they could arrive at a consensus about their employment concerns and propose possible solutions. This story also cites examples of employers and the government taking action to improve the quality of life of farm workers.

The following links lead to further discussion of some issues raised in the story:
-“Nearly one million farmer workers evicted since 1993,” a story from the World Socialist Website published in 2005: http://www.wsws.org/articles/2005/oct2005/afri-o24.shtml
-Excerpt from “Ethics in agriculture: An African perspective,” an academic description of the circumstances that make farm workers vulnerable:
-“Sisal farm workers refuse to surrender spartan life,” a recent news story by The Nation about the struggle of farm workers to obtain regular pay: http://allafrica.com/stories/200804151277.html
-Farm Radio International script: “The grim fate of farm labourers in the Western Cape, South Africa” (Package 81, Script 5, August 2007): http://farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/81-5script_en.asp

Broadcasters can play an important role in giving a voice to vulnerable people and exposing human rights abuses. If there are large commercial farms that employ farm workers (especially workers who live on the farm) in your area, you may consider conducting an investigative report to discover whether their living conditions and employment conditions are acceptable to the workers and meet the standards set by the laws of your country. A farm workers’ association may be a good place to start. A human rights NGO may also be able to alert you to reported or suspected problems. Radio programs about farm workers obtaining better living and working conditions also have great value. They can validate the efforts of employers endeavouring to improve labour conditions and give farm workers knowledge of what can be accomplished.

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Notes to broadcasters on traditional crops:

The benefits of traditional crop varieties versus hybrid or “improved” crops have long been debated by farmers, scientists, and rural development specialists. The experience of Ephrance Nakamya illustrates some of the pros and cons of planting hybrid crops. While hybrids are typically engineered to resist pests and produce high yields, their seeds cannot usually be saved. Thus, farmers who use hybrid seeds must purchase them anew each year. Another common concern about hybrid seeds is that they require more inputs, such as chemical fertilizer and pesticides. Even still, many farmers have found that hybrid seeds are the best option for their farms.

This story also deals with concerns about hybrid crops that extend beyond the individual farmer and their yields. A large civil society movement is working to preserve traditional crops, fearing the long-term impact of losing biodiversity through monoculture farming. They point out that beneficial genes can be lost if plant varieties disappear due to lack of interest by farmers. And while farmers may, in the short term, gain the highest profit from hybrid maize, they may need access to different varieties in the future if the environment or market conditions change. This is why Joseph Magezi encourages all farmers to seek out and grow a variety of traditional crops. He also emphasizes that many traditional crops have known medicinal properties or cultural significance, which would be lost if the plants disappear.

In the past few months, Farm Radio Weekly has produced other stories looking at farmer success with hybrid seeds and traditional crops:
“Improved seeds improve livelihoods for women” (FRW #27, July 2008)
“Traditional vegetables make a comeback” (FRW #22, May 2008)

You may also refer to these Farm Radio International scripts which discuss the benefits of crop diversification for family income and health, as well as tips for experimenting with new varieties:
“Comparing crop varieties: Start small, go slowly” (Package 68, Script 8, September 2003)
“Diversify crops to keep your family healthy” (Package 65, Script 1, October 2002)
“Diversity beats disease in the rice field” (Package 58, Script 3, January 2001)
“Radio spots: Grow many different crops and crop varieties” (Package 56, Script 4, July 2000)

For even more scripts related to this important subject, visit Farm Radio International’s script banks on biodiversity (http://www.farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/biodiversity.asp) and crop production (http://www.farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/crop.asp).

You may consider hosting an on-air panel discussion among experts, including farmers, about traditional crops and the use of hybrids. Be sure to allow time for farmers to call or text-in to ask questions or describe their experiences. Some questions you may consider important for discussion include:
-What are the area’s traditional crops? What are some of the benefits of these crops, such as adaptation to the land and climate, nutrition, taste, etc? Do many farmers still grow these crops, and on what scale?
-Do farmers in the area use hybrid seeds? Where are they purchased and how much do they cost? Are chemical inputs such as fertilizer and pesticides required to grow these hybrids? What precautions should farmers take to protect their family’s food security when trying a new hybrid variety?

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September 30, 2008: Apply for scholarships to study journalism in South Africa

Young African journalists or aspiring journalists (under the age of 35) can apply for the Fitzgerald Prize to complete a Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of the Witwatersrand’s Journalism Programme in Johannesburg, South Africa. The scholarship covers fees, accommodation, and a modest living allowance. The successful candidate will join Reuters News thereafter for six months’ work experience.

Applicants should have an undergraduate degree or at least three years of professional experience in journalism and must be nominated by a senior journalist, publisher, or academic. They must be fluent in English. To apply, submit a letter of interest, curriculum vitae, writing samples, and at least two letters of recommendation by September 30, 2008, to: fitzgeraldprize@thomsonreuters.com.

For more information, visit http://www.journalism.co.za/opportunities/the-fitzgerald-prize-2.html.

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Looking for a journalism fellowship? Here’s the place to start

The National Campus and Community Radio Association (http://www.ncra.ca/) has compiled the following list of journalism fellowships. They include academic and hands-on training opportunities for journalists at various stages of their careers, from beginners to experienced practitioners. Many of these fellowships are offered in the United States. Follow the links for details on each program, including how and where to apply.

-Alfred Friendly Press Fellowship: http://www.pressfellowships.org/
-Duke University: http://www.pubpol.duke.edu/centers/dewitt/fellows/index.html
-Fulbright Scholar Program: http://www.cies.org/
-Harvard University: http://www.nieman.harvard.edu/
-International Centre for Journalists: http://www.icfj.org/OurWork/Fellowships/tabid/221/Default.aspx
-Institute for International Education: http://www.iie.org/Template.cfm?Section=Security&Template=/Activity/ActivityDisplay.cfm&activityid=479
-International Women’s Media Foundation: http://www.iwmf.org/programs/7666
-Poynter Institute for Media Studies: http://www.poynter.org/content/content_view.asp?id=9260
-Reuters Foundation: http://www.foundation.reuters.com/fellowships/
-Stanford University: http://knight.stanford.edu/
-University of Michigan: http://www.mjfellows.org/
-World Press Institute: http://www.worldpressinstitute.org/fellowship.htm

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Farm Radio makes strong showing at OUR MEDIA 7 (by Modibo Coulibaly and Benjamin Fiafor)

This year’s OURMedia conference was held in Africa for the first time, specifically in Ghana, from August 11-15 2008. There were over 100 participants, including academics, journalists, community development specialists, researchers, and NGO representatives from all over the world.

The theme of the five-day workshop was Identity, Inclusion, and Innovation — Alternative Communication in a Globalized World. Farm Radio International was well represented. Modibo Coulibaly from AFRRI Mali, Benjamin Fiafor from AFRRI Ghana, and Helen Hamley Odame from Farm Radio International Canada participated, through their presentations, contribution to a panel discussion, and the registration of new Farm Radio Weekly subscribers. Also in attendance were representatives from some AFRRI partner stations such as FADECO-Tanzania, Radio Ada, Simli from Ghana, and many Farm Radio Weekly subscribers from across Africa.

Farm Radio’s two presentations in French and English centred around AFRRI (the African Farm Radio Research Initiative) and Farm Radio Weekly and dealt with the topics of “Support to Journalists and Building the Capacity of Farm Radio Broadcasters.” The presentations raised questions about sustainability of the AFRRI project, the capacity of community radio stations, and the challenges of developing campaigns in multiple languages, among others.

The conference also provided the opportunity to meet new people and interact with key players in the media scene. There were many interesting presentations relevant to our work, such as “The Practice of Participatory Media Production as a Tool of Self Empowerment and Social Inclusion,” “Community Radio Identity, Inclusion, and Innovation,” and “Including the Often Excluded: Community Radio as an Instrument in Ensuring Marginalized Women’s Inclusion in Social Development Processes.” This and many other presentations will be available on the Our Media website (http://ourmedianetwork.org/).

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Fissel farmers don’t pick up straw after harvesting, a method that protects land from heat

This week’s featured script was written by one of FRW’s own subscribers, Mariama Sy Coulibaly from Radio Convergence Panafricaine in Senegal. Ms. Coulibaly was one of 15 winners of the Farm Radio International-CTA scriptwriting competition: “African Farmers’ Strategies for Coping with Climate Change.” Her script explores methods that farmers in Fissel, a rural community in the Thiès region of western Senegal, use to cope with more frequent drought. These include focusing on small plots so that land and water are easier to manage, growing drought-resistant crops such as millet and cassava, and planting trees close together on the edges of fields.

Over the next two weeks, we will feature prize winning scripts from two other FRW subscribers, Kwabena Agyei from Classic FM in Ghana and Joshua Kyalimpa from Opsett Media/African Farm Radio Bureau in Uganda. All 15 winning scripts on climate change adaptation are featured in Farm Radio International script package 84. This package has been mailed to Farm Radio partners and will be posted online.

Notes to Broadcaster

Rainfall deficiencies in some areas of Senegal go hand in hand with harvest shortages. Fissel, a rural community situated in the Mbour department in the Thiès region near the peanut-growing zone is no exception to this rule. To adjust themselves to this fact, the farmers introduced growing methods to deal with climate change. At the “9e édition de la Foire Internationale de l’Agriculture et des Ressources Animales Fiara” (9th edition of the international agriculture and animal resources fair) that was held at the end of February in Dakar, we met Ousseynou Gueye, program head of the Fédération des organisations non Gouvernementales FONGS Action Paysanne de Jig–Jam / Fissel (federation of non-governmental farmer action organizations or NGOs of Jig-Jam / Fissel) who was representing his community at this fair. Ousseynou explains to us the methods used by the farmers in his locality. Moreover, he finds the aid granted by the government to revive agriculture in this zone affected by drought since the 1970s to be extremely inadequate. We also hear from Sidi Bâ, the political adviser for the “cadre de concertation des producteurs d’arachide” (a group of peanut producers) in the regions of Kaolack and Fatick Tamba.

Host: Mr. Gueye, what kind of difficulties are farmers in the rural community of Fissel facing

Ousseynou Gueye: We are facing three major difficulties. The first is the poor condition of the soil. As you know, the soil has been worked for years, and nothing has been returned to the soil. In other words, the fields are no longer fertile. Also, the trees have disappeared. This is due to human activity as well as the work of nature. It is also very difficult to find quality seeds. Our equipment is also in need of repair. These are the difficulties that farming faces today in the rural community of Fissel.

Host: Do the farmers receive aid from the government in order to help them with their work?

Ousseynou Gueye: The seed that is given to producers by the government is not quality seed, nor is it given in sufficient quantity. Farm inputs are almost impossible to find, even though they are subsidized by the State. The State also subsidizes agricultural equipment, but it is far too little. In a rural community, the arrival of thirty machines, thirty hoes or twenty carts represents next to nothing for a population of thirty to forty thousand inhabitants. Nobody says that the State is doing nothing, but the State must get more involved in boosting agriculture in this zone.

Host: We are seeing changes in the climate much more often. How are you able to farm normally under these circumstances?

Ousseynou Gueye: As far as climate change is concerned, we have two possibilities to cope, and we are doing both. First of all, families can work a small piece of land, on which it is easy to manage the land and the water well. When families farm this small piece of land, they can harvest enough food for the family even if the cash crops they grow on larger pieces of land fail because of climate change or other problems. The second solution is reforestation. You are aware that all of our forests have disappeared. We really have to think about reforestation. We do have a method for reforestation. We plant trees close together around the edges of the field. These trees protect both the soil and the crops from heat and the wind. There is a third solution as well. After the harvest, we do not pick up the straw. We leave it on the ground to protect the soil from heat.

Host: Fissel is located in a very dry zone. What kind of crops do you grow?

Ousseynou Gueye: In this zone, we grow millet crops that can withstand these conditions. There is also the peanut, but that is disappearing slowly. It is disappearing because there are a large number of producers who don’t have a lot of seed. We also have alternative crops such as the watermelon, bissap (Editor’s note: Hibiscus sabdariffa, probably better known as rozelle in English speaking West Africa), and cassava. Cassava can grow in this soil, as can the sorghum plant that also likes hard, dry soil.

Host: You also practice “culture sur table” (growing a crop on top of a table).

Ousseynou Gueye: “Culture sur table” involves taking a table 4 metres long by 2 metres wide, and covering it with sand and livestock waste. It’s easy to water, and you save time. You put the table in the shade. In that way the plants are protected from the heat even though there are plants that need heat. But the sun’s rays that come through the trees arrive directly on the table. This kind of farming allows us to have a good diet, especially with vegetables.

Host: We will now hear from Sidi Bâ, the political adviser for the “cadre de concertation des producteurs d’arachide” in the regions of Kaolack and Fatick Tamba. Mr. Bâ, how do you think farmers will manage in the face of climate change?

Mr. Bâ: Many people focus on population growth and climatic hazards as the causes of the Senegalese agricultural crisis. To this, you can add the technical delays that farmers face and their lack of entrepreneurial spirit. Some blame the State for interfering in the market.

All these reasons are real, but they are not the main reasons for the crisis. Drought is not a new phenomenon in the Sahel. Droughts are not more frequent today than they were during the last three decades. Although Senegal has experienced a significant drop in total rainfall during the 1970s, there have been no declines in the past 20 years.

Host: This is rather surprising. What accounts for the changes in rainfall that farmers have seen?

Mr. Bâ: The distribution of rainfall has become more erratic, and this has affected certain crops and varieties more than others. We should also consider the human contribution to climate change. Some scientists say that the massive deforestation in West Africa since the beginning of the century is strongly to blame for the increasing strength of droughts. We must also say that the effects of drought, such as soil erosion, are more dramatic than in the past. This is because drought and other climate events are acting on environments in which many ecological balances have been disrupted by modern systems of agriculture and raising livestock.

Host: Mr. Bâ, what methods are being used to deal with climate change?

Mr. Bâ: The systems currently used in Senegal are in part traditional and in part modern, depending on the region and the crop. Many scientists are turning today to techniques such as: fallow, improved fallow, the use of organic fertilizer, seeds which are suited to specific farming areas, crop rotation, crop diversification, integration of livestock and forestry with agriculture, efficient management of water, use of plants as green manure, use of stone lines, strip cultivation along the contours of slopes, and recycling the remains of crops.

Host: Mr. Bâ, what are the consequences of these difficulties we are experiencing in the rural areas?

Mr. Bâ: It leads people to migrate to urban areas which, today, means a transfer of poverty since the chances of finding adequately paid employment in the cities are very limited. Even if this migration can reduce pressures on the environment, and possibly increase family incomes, it reduces labour in rural areas. This leads to declining farming production and a vicious cycle that could end in the destruction of the agricultural sector.

Host: Thank you, Mr. Bâ. Listeners, you have heard what kinds of methods are being used in farming to cope with climate change. Mr. Gueye has talked about some of the crops and some of the methods that he uses as a farmer. Mr. Bâ has mentioned other methods, and has reminded us of the consequences of continuing difficulties in the agricultural sector in Senegal. We hope that these words will help you understand the importance of adapting to climate change, and will inspire you to take positive actions. Thank you for listening and good-bye.

Contributed by: Mariama Sy Coulibaly, Journalist, Radio Convergence Panafricaine, Senegal.
Reviewed by: John FitzSimons, Associate Professor, School of Environmental Design and Rural Development, University of Guelph, Canada.

Program undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada provided through the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA)

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