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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 #34

A warm welcome to all!

This week, we offer a special welcome to our newest subscribers: Wellington Mpeniasah from the African Farm Radio Research Initiative and Kakraba Quarshie from Radio Peace, both in Ghana, Alice Van der Elstraeten from the Ministry of Agriculture in Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Newton Samangwe, a farmer at Villaton Farms in Zambia.

This week’s news stories will bring you up to date on a number of current issues in African agriculture. Biofuels may be the hottest topic in agriculture today, as proponents call it an opportunity for rural wealth and development, and critics fear that it will lead to food shortages by replacing food crops with “fuel crops.” Nourou-Dhine Salouka and Jade Productions visited the Nayala province of Burkina Faso to speak with farmers who have a plan to process jatropha into biodiesel for their own use, in hopes of increasing their profits and local food security.

We also have some important news on the growing trend of urban agriculture. The International Water Management Institute has released a report on the risks of using wastewater in agriculture. We review the key points from this report as well as some techniques used by farmers to make wastewater safer. Finally, we turn to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a country looking to revive its fishing industry. At a time when many countries are experimenting with fish farming, we see how this country is rebuilding a once bustling industry.

Finally, we have good news for those who have not yet completed the FRW subscriber survey. The deadline for completing the survey has been extended to September 1. Please take a few moments today to help us better understand how you use FRW and what you’d like to see in future issues. The survey can be found online, here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?sm=9HOchcedv077TyFYi_2bXMPQ_3d_3d. We look forward to hearing from you!

Happy reading!

-The Farm Radio Weekly Team

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In this week’s Farm Radio Weekly:

African Farm News in Review

1. Burkina Faso: Burkinabe farmers say food comes before fuel (by Nourou-Dhine Salouka/Jade Productions for Farm Radio Weekly in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso)

2. Africa: Wastewater in urban agriculture is harmful to health, but it also ensures subsistence for urban poor (IWMI, CBC Dispatches, Le Monde, One World)

3. Democratic Republic of the Congo: A country that loves fish rebuilds its fish industry (Toronto Star, World Bank)

Upcoming Events

September 11-13, 2008: Media & Development Forum in Burkina Faso

Radio Resource Bank

What are the main considerations in selecting field recording equipment?

Farm Radio Action

It’s not too late to have your voice heard in the FRW subscriber survey!

Farm Radio Script of the Week

Mangoes to the rescue: A local response to climate change

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1. Burkina Faso: Burkinabe farmers say food comes before fuel (by Nourou-Dhine Salouka/Jade Productions for Farm Radio Weekly in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso)

After hearing about jatropha from biofuel companies and a traditional chief, Burkinabe farmers decided to give it a try this season. Jatropha is a plant used to produce biodiesel. But the farmers say it won’t take priority over their cereal crops. Also, they want to see the jatropha processed and used locally, not exported as cotton is.

In the Nayala province of northwestern Burkina Faso, the production of jatropha is well underway. The plant is growing on 200 hectares of land this year and is expected to grow on10,000 hectares by 2010.

Aimé Charles Ki is president of a farmers’ group known as La Fédération des Groupements de Producteurs de Nayala. He says biofuels present an opportunity that shouldn’t be missed. In order to learn the best practices for growing jatropha, his organization undertook a study tour to Mali this past February. Malian farmers have been experimenting with jatropha production for some 15 years. Upon their return, the Burkinabe farmers decided to follow the Malian model of processing jatropha locally and using the biodiesel for local needs – particularly to fuel tractors and mills.

Jatropha has given rise to hope in the Nayala region and beyond. Marie Thérèse Toé is president of a women’s organization that fights poverty, known as “Claire Amitié” or “Bright Friendship.” She sees jatropha as an important supplemental source of income. Léon Moussiané farms in the town of Toma in Nayala province. He has a grander vision. Mr. Moussiané is convinced that biofuels represent the fastest route towards rural development.

However, development won’t happen at any cost. The farmers refuse to hand jatropha processing over to industry, as Western firms are encouraging them to do. Mr. Ki says that the farmers’ priority is food security, so cereal production remains their focus. Instead of devoting entire plantations to jatropha, farmers use the tall plants to mark the boundaries of their fields. Jatropha is also planted within fields to separate different crop varieties.

Burkina Faso’s farmers also refuse to export raw jatropha seeds to be processed for biodiesel. They want to avoid the type of misadventure they experienced with cotton. They say the exportation of raw materials does not promote local development. Instead, farmers lose their bargaining power and have no control over the selling price.

To boost local development, the farmers’ federation has a simple plan – to install a local processing plant. The plant would be managed by three groups of stakeholders. The first group is farmers, who will provide the basic materials. The second group will bring capital and the third group, technology. This new type of business arrangement is Mr. Ki’s dream, and would be at the centre of the jatropha industry. In anticipation of this stakeholder-run company, Burkinabe farmers are experimenting with jatropha this year. But until this structure is in place, they don’t believe the jatropha industry is a viable choice for their community.

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2. Africa: Wastewater in urban agriculture is harmful to health, but it also ensures subsistence for urban poor (IWMI, CBC Dispatches, Le Monde, One World)

If you walk through the streets of Accra, don’t be surprised to see heads of lettuce sprouting beneath power lines or cassava growing in culverts. The urban landscape is becoming increasingly green, and Ghanaians are increasingly eating fruits and vegetables grown in cities.

This is what’s known as urban agriculture, and it’s being welcomed across Africa, where nearly all countries face food shortages. But urban agriculture has its own scarcity problems – particularly a shortage of clean water.

Many of the crops grown by urban farmers are irrigated with wastewater from household or industrial use, or a mix of the two. Not all of this wastewater is safe. As a result, some fruits and vegetables grown in cities are actually unsuitable for human consumption.

Karim Salifou moved from the countryside to Ghana’s capital to look for work. When he couldn’t find a job, he started growing lettuce to sell in the market. Mr. Salifou has only one source of water for his crops, a polluted pond. He has seen the water quality in the pond deteriorate. People used to fish in the pond, but now it’s filled with chemicals that have killed the fish and made the water unsafe to drink.

A new study on the use of wastewater in agriculture in developing countries was released by the International Water Management Institute, or IWMI, last week. The report revealed that wastewater is most often used in the production of vegetables and cereals. This leads to health risks for consumers, especially in the case of vegetables which are consumed raw.

Liqa Raschid-Sally is a researcher with IWMI. She says that in 70 per cent of the 53 cities studied, industrial wastewater was not treated, but was returned directly to lakes and streams. Ms. Raschid-Sally says the serious risks associated with industrial wastewater are not well known to the general public.

At the same time, urban crops irrigated with wastewater account for a significant portion of the food supply in African cities. And urban agriculture provides livelihoods for many of the poorest urban dwellers.

Since clean water is in short supply, the IWMI study concludes that stopping the use of wastewater in urban agriculture would worsen food shortages. But there are ways to reduce the risks associated with consuming urban crops.

For example, in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, some farmers have constructed storage basins to collect wastewater from a brewery. They only use the water when they judge that the water is of acceptable quality, based on its appearance, smell, and taste.

In Ghana, many farmers stock wastewater in ponds, allowing solid materials to settle to the bottom. This method reduces the level of bacteria in the water.

Around the globe, some 200 million farmers irrigate their crops with wastewater.

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3. Democratic Republic of the Congo: A country that loves fish rebuilds its fish industry (Toronto Star, World Bank)

At the Lubumbashi zoo in southern Democratic Republic of the Congo, tucked behind a tiger enclosure, you’ll find the Centre for Aquaculture Research. It’s a small cluster of ponds for breeding stock – mostly tilapia and catfish. And it’s at the centre of efforts to rebuild the region’s fish farming industry.

Jules Luwamba is the head researcher at the centre. He explains that there were 8,000 fishponds operating in the region prior to the civil war. During the war, more than half were abandoned. The goal of the centre is to restore all of the fishponds and keep them running.

About 30 kilometres from the city of Lubumbashi are some of the fish farms that the Centre for Aquaculture Research supports. In the small town of Kipushi, 150 women have dug rearing ponds, which they now operate. They purchase tilapia fry and raise them to a size of 600 grams. Tilapia is a favourite Congolese food, so the fisherwomen have no trouble finding buyers in their village. All of these women are rebuilding their lives following the civil war, which ended in 2003. Most are widows, resettled refugees, and former combatants. Through fish farming, they earn enough to support their families.

But there are still not nearly enough locally raised fish to meet demand. Last February alone, the province of Haut-Katanga imported more than 2,000 tonnes of dried, smoked, and salt-cured fish.

As the country recovers from war, there are many obstacles for fish farmers to overcome. Fish theft is common. In Quartier Congo, on the outskirts of Lubumbashi, so many fish were stolen from fish farms that seven farm associations abandoned their aquaculture ponds in favour of vegetable beds. Poor roads also make it difficult for some to get their fish to market.

Still, the potential of the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s fish industry has attracted the attention of local and international development organizations. The World Bank is supporting the coastal villages of Moanda and Nsiamfumu to restore once vibrant fish markets. Last year, 60 leaders from Congolese fisher associations attended a World Bank sponsored training program. They learned new fishing techniques, as well as methods to preserve fish with smoke and salt. The association members were also trained to organize local fishers and preserve fish stocks.

Assani Bin Assani is president of a fishers’ group known as the Association for the Development of Fishing and Youth Training. He said: “we need this type of training because our life depends on fishing.”

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Notes to broadcasters on jatropha:

Farmers across Africa are weighing their options for biofuel crop production. The rising cost of fossil fuels has created high demand for biofuels – fuels made from plant or animal sources – and large biofuel companies are visiting rural areas, looking for farmers to supply the biomass. Our special report from Nourou-Dhine Salouka of Jade Productions describes how one group of farmers is resisting the call of large biofuel companies and planning to open a local biodiesel plant. By taking this approach, farmers in the Nayala province of northwestern Burkina Faso address two common concerns about the production of crops for biofuels – that it reduces food security by switching land from food to biofuel production and that the wealth created from biofuels will not be enjoyed by farmers.

The following articles from past issues of FRW look at how farmers in other parts of the continent are responding to the demand for biofuels:
“Herders oppose controversial sugarcane project” (FRW#29, July 2008)
“Campaign for biodiesel intensifies but farmers remain cautious” (FRW#7, January 2008)
“The promise and potential perils of biofuels” (FRW#3, December 2007)

This Farm Radio International script describes some alternative uses for jatropha, beyond the production of biodiesel:
“Jatropha – Not just a biofuel crop!” (Package 80, Script 7, March 2007)

If you’re looking for more information, you may wish to visit the following websites:
-The website for the International Consultation on Pro-poor Jatropha Development, an event held by the UN’s International Fund for Agricultural Development this past April. The event featured perspectives on biofuels from various countries, as well as discussion on the conditions necessary for biofuel production to benefit rural residents: http://www.ifad.org/events/jatropha/index.htm
-The website of the Centre for Jatropha Promotion & Biodiesel, which includes detailed information on jatropha cultivation and business plans for jatropha farming and biodiesel processing: http://www.jatrophaworld.org/index.html

If you would like to research a local story on biofuel production, you may wish to ask some of the following questions:
-What do farmers in your area think about the idea of producing crops for biofuel production?
-Do farmers in your area currently produce biofuels for use on their farm or in the community? If so, what is the local organizational structure that manages the fuel production?
-If an external company plans to open a biofuel processing plant in your area, how do farmers plan to maintain their food security while also producing crops for the plant?
-If there is already a biofuel processing plant in your area, are small-scale farmers contributing to production? How do they rate their experiences in working with the processing plant (e.g. support for proper harvesting and storage, prices for crops, etc)?

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Notes to broadcasters on the use of wastewater in urban agriculture:

Though the use of wastewater in urban agriculture can be harmful to human health, Liqa Raschid-Sally of the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) and principal author of the recently-published study says that its use should not be banned. If this were to happen, some vegetables would become inaccessible in cities. Ms. Raschid-Sally states that 75 per cent of cities are supplied with vegetables grown in urban or peri-urban areas and irrigated by wastewater. To see the full IWMI report, Comprehensive Assessment of water management in agriculture, visit: http://www.iwmi.cgiar.org/SWW2008/PDF/CA_53_city_Final_August_2008_V5.pdf.

Wastewater is any water that has been altered through human activity, whether through domestic, industrial, agricultural, or other use. Some types of wastewater are more harmful than others. Wastewater is separated into two categories: blackwater and greywater. Blackwater contains many pollutants or substances that are difficult to eliminate such as cosmetics, fecal matter, and industrial byproducts. This water typically presents the greatest danger to human health since, in most African cities, it is not treated before being used on vegetable crops. Greywater is considered more acceptable for agricultural use. This type of water has been used in the home, usually for washing dishes, bathing, or showering, and contains far fewer pollutants.

Here are some additional resources on wastewater and safer ways to use it:
-The World Health Organization Guidelines for the Safe Use of Wastewater, Excreta and Greywater: http://whqlibdoc.who.int/publications/2006/9241546832_eng.pdf
-A study on Irrigated Urban Vegetable Production in Ghana, its characteristics, benefits, and risks: http://www.cityfarmer.org/GhanaIrrigateVegis.html
-A video on safer use of wastewater in urban agriculture, entitled Recycling Realities in African Cities: Towards safe wastewater use in agriculture: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s17_35B7SdY
-An audio report by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation on the food crisis and the use of wastewater in urban agriculture in Uganda and Ghana: http://www.cityfarmer.info/cbcs-dispatches-reports-on-food-crisis-city-farming-uganda-ghana/

You may also wish to consult the following Farm Radio International scripts and news stories on urban agriculture and best practices for using wastewater:

Urban agriculture:
“Urban agriculture provides relief from high food prices” (FRW#23, June 2008):
“Garden on your rooftop” (Package 39, Script 2, April 1996)
“Grow vegetable vines in small spaces” (Package 39, Script 1, April 1996)
“Gardening in tires” (Package 41, Script 5, July 1996)
“Reduce lead in city gardens” (Package 41, Script 2, July 1996)

Wastewater:
“Garden while you shower” (Package 54, Script 3, January 2000)
“Use moringa seeds to clean dirty or polluted water” (Package 54, Script 11, January 2000)
“Growing vegetables when water is scarce” (Package 45, Script 7, July 1997)

Finally, here are some questions that may help if you choose to research the use of wastewater in urban agriculture in your area:
-What sorts of fruits and vegetables are grown in your city?
-Where do the urban farmers get the water for their crops? Do they know if the water is safe for this use? How do they determine its safety?
-In the face of growing water shortages, what methods do urban farmers in your area use to ensure their supply of water for irrigation?

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Notes to broadcasters on rebuilding fish industry:

In many countries in the Great Lakes region and in West Africa, the emergence and restoration of peace is allowing for a return of citizens – refugees and internally displaced people, as well as former combatants. These citizens return to the enormous challenge of restoring their livelihoods. In past issues of FRW, we have looked at the progress that farmers in countries such as Liberia and Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have made towards restoring their crops. This week’s article offers a glimpse at the restoration of the DRC’s fishing industry, an important source of food and income for many Congolese. While many African countries are trying to establish or expand fish farming, the Congolese are working to re-establish pre-war levels of production to meet local demand. Similarly, they hope to restore coastal fish markets to their former vibrancy.

The following articles provide two other examples of post-war recovery of fish farming:
-From Uganda, an article by The Monitor: “Fish farming in Uganda provides income and food”: http://www.wfp.org/english/?ModuleID=137&Key=1960
-From the Republic of the Congo, an article by the International Committee of the Red Cross: “Former refugees producing cassava and fish galore”: http://www.icrc.org/Web/Eng/siteeng0.nsf/html/congo-brazzaville-feature-090807

The following stories from past issues of FRW look at the challenges and progress of small scale farmers working to restore their land and incomes following conflict:
“Cocoa farmers supported to rebuild livelihoods following civil war” (FRW#32, August 2008)
“Civil war landmines threaten returning farmers” (FRW#14, March 2008)
“Re-integration of ex-combatants through agriculture” (FRW#10, February 2008)
“Farmers rebuild agriculture sector against all odds” (FRW#9, February 2008)

If you broadcast to an area that is recovering from conflict, your farmers will surely have many stories to tell. You may consider hosting a phone-in/text-in show to ask farmers questions such as:
-When you returned to your farm, what were the first steps you took to begin providing food for your family?
-Have you altered your farming practices since your return (for example, does the farmer now plant “survival” crops to provide food in difficult times)?
-What challenges have you faced – and what challenges do you continue to face – in rebuilding your farm and farming business?
-How has your community and/or farmers’ association worked together to overcome these challenges?

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September 11-13, 2008: Media & Development Forum in Burkina Faso

Organized as part of a partnership between the European Commission and the Commission of the African Union, the Media & Development Forum intends to provide an opportunity to discuss and share ideas about the importance of media in the context of development, to highlight advances made, and identify best practices. It also seeks to develop proposals for ways forward, including what legal steps, regulations, funding, training, and actions are needed to support media for development in Africa.

This forum is intended for academics, professional journalists, civil society representatives, and political decision makers. Topics for discussion include:
-Media and good governance: Where is the link?
-Media freedom: Legal frameworks and realities on the ground
-Changing stereotypes: The image of Africa in Europe and of Europe in Africa
-The role of local media: Local action for global success?

For more information, visit: http://media-dev.eu/website.php?rub=accueil&lang=en. To register, go to: http://media-dev.eu/website.php?rub=inscription&lang=en.

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What are the main considerations in selecting field recording equipment?

One of FRW’s Indian subscribers, Mahesh Acharya, thoughtfully referred us to a guide to community radio technology prepared by the United Nations Educational Scientific & Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 2007. In late 2006, the government of India decided to allow community radio stations in the country. The technology guide was designed to answer the questions of prospective radio operators about the kind of equipment needed to set up a community station.

The following is adapted from the guide, describing factors to consider when selecting field recording equipment. You may also refer to the complete guide – CR: A user’s guide to the technology, online at: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0015/001561/156197e.pdf.

1) Ruggedness. Any equipment we move around with should be able to take some basic knocks and bumps without malfunctioning: climbing in and out of vehicles, travelling in crowded buses, and hiking some distances on foot are par for the course for community radio volunteers, and the equipment should be able to take that. You’ll find that modern solid state recorders, in particular, fulfill this condition well, as they have very few moving parts.

2) Resistance to humidity and dust. Many pieces of electronic equipment are so sensitive that they cannot withstand shifts in temperature – indoors to outdoors, for example, or from sunshine to shade. Others get easily fouled by the fine dust that pervades cities and rural areas and need multiple cleanings of their heads and other moving parts to stay in working order. Such pieces of equipment cannot be part of our field recording kit. While some maintenance is unavoidable, the ideal field equipment will not mind a bit of dust and will have a large operating temperature range.

3) Adaptability and portability. While we are in the field, we do not have the luxury of carrying large varieties of equipment to suit different situations. The recording equipment we carry has to give adequate or good results in all the situations and recording conditions we are likely to encounter. (This means the microphone has to be good for delicate as well as harsh sounds, voices as well as music, able to work in noisy conditions and in quiet.) Similarly, this will be equipment we will be carrying on our persons most of the time, so it has to be reasonably light, or we will be weighed down and tired out by just the effort of carrying it around.

4) Availability of spares and ancillaries.
While most modern electronic equipment is too complex for us to expect that there will be people capable of repairing faults wherever we go, always plan on acquiring field recording equipment for which supplies are available easily in the areas you work in. For example, choose equipment that uses standard AA, AAA or D cells over fancy proprietary batteries that may not be easily available. Similarly, if the availability of recording media is an issue for you, it makes better sense to choose an audio cassette based recording device than a MiniDisc (MD) or DAT recorder. (Of course, this is not always a problem – MDs and DATs, for example, are highly reusable media, and can be erased and reused several times, thereby increasing the gap before fresh supplies are needed.)

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It’s not too late to have your voice heard in the FRW subscriber survey!

The deadline for completing the FRW subscriber survey has been extended to September 1, 2008. This means you have a few extra days to tell us how FRW can best serve your radio organization! The survey is short, but will provide us with valuable feedback that will help shape the future of FRW. It asks questions such as which sections of FRW do you use, which news stories are most relevant and interesting, and what sorts of resources you would like to see in future issues.

If you have not done so already, please visit: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?sm=9HOchcedv077TyFYi_2bXMPQ_3d_3d to complete the survey. If you have started the survey, but did not complete it, you can always return to this link to answer the remainder of the questions.

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Mangoes to the rescue: A local response to climate change

This week, we are pleased to feature another prize winning script by an FRW subscriber. Kwabena Agyei from Classic FM in Ghana was one of 15 winners of the Farm Radio International-CTA scriptwriting competition: “African Farmers’ Strategies for Coping with Climate Change.” In his script “Mangoes to the rescue: A local response to climate change,” long-time friends Benedict and Joyce discuss some causes and effects of climate change that they see in their hometowns – sea levels rising to submerge coastal settlements and forests disappearing due to bush fires, tree cutting, and land clearing. The friends learn from a farmer that mango trees can come to the rescue, helping in more ways than one.

FRW subscribers Mariama Sy Coulibaly from Radio Convergence Panafricaine in Senegal and Joshua Kyalimpa from Opsett Media/African Farm Radio Bureau in Uganda also wrote prize winning scripts on climate change adaptation. Ms. Coulibaly’s script, “Fissel farmers don’t pick up straw after harvesting, a method that protects land from heat” was featured in last week’s FRW: (http://weekly.farmradio.org/2008/08/18/fissel-farmers-don%e2%80%99t-pick-up-straw-after-harvesting-a-method-that-protects-land-from-heat/). Mr. Kyalimpa’s script, “New Rice Variety for Africa to save wetlands in Uganda,” will be featured in the next FRW. All 15 winning scripts are included in Farm Radio International script package 84, which has been mailed to Farm Radio partners and will be posted online soon.

Notes to Broadcaster

Farmers in Ghana have for some time now realized the fact that reduced yields and changes in rainfall patterns with both longer dry seasons and more severe storms that destroy farms are partly due to climate change and the rise in the world’s temperature that is known as global warming. This script talks about planting mango trees as a local initiative which can help to positively change local climates and yields of other crops. However, the idea of planting trees is not appreciated by most farmers – they say it takes too long to realize the benefits. As well, most farmers do not own land, so cannot plant trees.

The characters in this script – Benedict and Joyce – have been friends for about 30 years, since their school days. They used to visit each other frequently in their respective hometowns. Joyce hails from the north central, whilst Benedict is from the south of the country.

Host: Good morning (afternoon, evening), listeners. Today we are going to talk about climate change: a phenomenon that has bothered everybody in recent times. Some people have heard or felt the impact of that change but do not know their contribution to the problem or how to deal with it. As you follow the programme to the end, you will appreciate the importance of this issue and how you can contribute in different ways to help fight this threat.

Joyce is visiting Benedict about ten years after their last meeting. They go to a nearby beach they used to visit in Ada Foah.

Joyce: What a nice beach. It’s been a long time since I visited a coastal beach like this. But, eh Ben, what is standing there? Look – there – something like a concrete pillar about 30 metres from here. I am surprised – who put it there and for what purpose?

Benedict: Yes, it’s a concrete pillar, but it’s not new. Nobody planted it there. That pillar is part of a building that housed the local office of the Town and Country Planning of the Ministry of Works and Housing. Have you forgotten that last time you came here when we stood in front of that building?

Joyce: But why is it on the beach?

Benedict:
The sea has been moving inland over the last couple of years. Many settlements along the coast have ended up under water over the last decade or so. I have been told by Dr. Kwabena Agyei, one of my lecturers at the university, that it is due to the rise in temperature of the world’s weather. This is called global warming.

Joyce:
How can global warming cause coastal settlements to be submerged under water?

Benedict: You see, global warming has caused climate change in all climate zones. Because water expands when it is heated, sea levels are rising. Also, rising temperatures have caused ice caps and glaciers to melt. This too is raising sea levels and affecting coastlines around the world. Carbon dioxide and other air pollutants are collecting in the atmosphere like a thickening blanket, and are trapping the sun’s heat and causing the planet to warm up.

Joyce: So, if this process continues for the next ten years, then most coastlines as we see them today would be submerged.

Benedict: Certainly, but we can take actions to stop it.

Pause for musical interlude

Host:
A week or two later, Benedict visited Joyce again and they went to a place they used to visit on the outskirts of town, on top of a hill.

Benedict:
Joyce, do you remember the thick canopy of trees that we could see from here, with those magnificent scenes? We can’t see them anymore.

Joyce: Yes, over the last couple of years there has been a big increase in bush fires, tree cutting and land clearing. This has caused the thick canopy of trees with its magnificent scenery and cool atmosphere to disappear. My grandmother told me that there used to be rainfall, well distributed throughout the year a couple of years back. She said they could get anything – from foods to snails, mushrooms and other things – from the forest. The forests kept the temperatures cool. There were streams and rivers everywhere that gave water for domestic and agricultural use. But they have all dried up. The edges of these water bodies that were used for all year round planting can no longer be used. In fact, I have seen for myself that there are real changes and movements. You see, Ben, the changing global climate has affected rainfall patterns and caused flooding, drought and other problems. In our part of the world, humankind is being squeezed by two movements caused by a big change in our climate – the desert approaching from the north and the sea submerging coastlines.

Benedict:
A phenomenal change indeed!

Joyce: Something must be done to minimize or stop this tide!

Pause for musical interlude

Host: That evening, the two friends met again at their usual place in Yamfo, Joyce’s hometown. They were joined by a renowned and successful farmer from the area, Nana Agyei Boahen.

Mr. Agyei Boahen: Hi, you two. How is life treating you?

Benedict and Joyce:
(together) Fine, Nana!

Benedict: We’re just worried about the rapid changes we are witnessing with the weather and the environment.

Nana Boahen: Sure, I am worried too. Erratic rainfall patterns, too much heat, disappearance of the forest cover with its animals and plants, drying up of streams and rivers, loss of soil fertility and more erosion – these all lead to low crop yields. It wasn’t like this when I started farming forty years ago.

Joyce: Hmmm! Then farming was not as costly as today.

Nana Boahen:
True. But I have noticed something in one of my farms that I think can be tried and replicated elsewhere. Obviously, it is not a one-stop answer to global warming, but it can help as a local initiative.

Benedict: What is it?

Nana Boahen: About six years ago I planted some maize and garden eggs in a portion of my farm where I have 10 mango trees, spaced about 50 metres apart and covering a large area. I noticed that the leaves of the other plants were greener and bore bigger fruits.

Joyce: Nana, did you say mangoes? I know a lot about mangoes.

Benedict: Tell us, Madam Mangoes.

Joyce: Mango trees grow to about 35-40 metres in height, and are about 20 metres wide at the top. The fruit takes from three to six months to ripen. The mango is grown widely for its fruit in Africa. The flesh of a ripe mango is very sweet, with a unique taste. The mango is an excellent nutritional source, containing many vitamins, minerals, and other healthy substances, which aid in digestion and intestinal health.

Nana Boahen: You seem to know so much about mangoes! But I know something too! Mangoes can be planted 50 metres apart. The canopy can serve as a windbreak, and the dropping leaves can fertilize the soil to support plants in between them. Mango trees are also fire resistant and can surely serve as perfectly as any tree species to support the environment and stop some of the local effects of climate change. Let’s plant more mangoes to green the land again.

Benedict: Nana’s idea sounds good. I wish that farmers around the world would hear this and practice accordingly.

Host: Listeners, I wish we could continue to listen to this all important discussion on climate change and global warming, but time is not on our side. However, we know that the submergence of our coastlines and the disappearance of our forest cover and the setting in of the desert are at least partly due to global warming. We also know that climate change comes from our own activities, such as burning coal, oil and gas, cutting trees, bush burning and excessive production of carbon through other means.

But folks, all is not lost. Plant a tree today and we will be on our way to reversing the trend. Until next week when we bring you issues concerning agriculture, my name is (insert host name), and it’s bye for now.

Acknowledgements
Contributed by: Kwabena Agyei, Production Manager, Classic FM, Techiman, Ghana.
Reviewed by: John Stone, visiting fellow, International Development Research Centre (IDRC).

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

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