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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 #35

Hello to all!

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In this week’s Farm Radio Weekly:

African Farm News in Review

1. Southern Africa: Conservation methods help farmers cope with climate change, high fertilizer costs (New Era, UN Integrated Regional Information Networks)

2. Democratic Republic of the Congo: Women farmers process cassava to improve their livelihoods (Syfia Grands-Lacs)

3. Ghana: Use of harmful food additives on the rise (Public Agenda, Ghanaian Chronicle)

Upcoming Events

September 17, 2008: Application deadline for joint reporting workshop on decentralization in DRC

Radio Resource Bank

What should a field recording kit consist of?

Farm Radio Action

All about manure: Audio version of award-winning scripts to be produced and distributed

Farm Radio Script of the Week

New rice variety for Africa to save wetlands in Uganda

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1. Southern Africa: Conservation methods help farmers cope with climate change, high fertilizer costs (New Era, UN Integrated Regional Information Networks

For farmers, there’s no sweeter sound than the spatter of rain hitting their field in the right amount at the right time. And there’s hardly a sweeter sight than green sprouts poking their way through rich earth. Farmers in much of Namibia were deprived of these sights and sounds of a promising growing season when floods swept through the country earlier this year. Heavy rains can wash away soil and waterlog sprouting seedlings, leaving farmers with little hope for harvest time. But thanks to new agricultural techniques, Letta Sebron’s harvest was better than ever.

For the past two agricultural seasons, Ms. Sebron has practiced conservation agriculture – a method that improves soil quality, making it better able to retain water and less likely to wash away with heavy rain. When preparing the land for planting, Ms. Sebron forgoes traditional tilling or ploughing. Instead, she rips and furrows the land, two agricultural techniques that, when used together, allow water and roots to penetrate deeply. She says that with conservation agriculture, her crop yields are less dependent on having a good rainy season.

Twenty Namibian farmers participated in on-farm trials of conservation farming techniques through the Conservation Tillage Project, or CONTILL. Rod Davis works with CONTILL. Farms on which conservation practices were paired with fertilizer use produced four times higher yields than farms using traditional methods such as tilling and ploughing. Even on farms where no fertilizer was used, farmers yielded twice as much with conservation techniques than they used to with traditional practices.

In fact, conservation agriculture not only prevents soil erosion and encourages moisture retention, it also boosts soil fertility. And as chemical fertilizers have skyrocketed in price, the Zambia National Farmers Union is promoting conservation techniques as an alternative to heavy fertilizer use.

Guy Robinson is president of the Zambia National Farmers Union. He says fertilizer costs have tripled in his country. The Zambian government provides fertilizer subsidies to some vulnerable groups, but Mr. Robinson says that most small-scale farmers will not see a subsidy. He encouraged farmers to reduce their need for fertilizer through conservation farming practices.

Conservation agriculture involves leaving crop residues on the field. Residues protect the soil from heat and heavy rain, and they fertilize the soil as they break down. Intercropping and crop rotation are also important conservation techniques. Together, these practices reduce depletion of soil nutrients, and deter pests and plant diseases.

According to Mr. Robinson, the Zambia National Farmers Union has conclusively proven that conservation agriculture can boost yields and “do wonders.”. Ms. Sebron would agree. She says that her crop yields are less dependent on rain because conservation agriculture techniques retain fertility and moisture in the soil. She says these techniques have restored her livelihood to the level she enjoyed in past years, when the climate was more predictable.
Click here to see the notes to broadcasters on conservation agriculture

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2. Democratic Republic of the Congo: Women farmers process cassava to improve their livelihoods (Syfia Grands-Lacs)

In the village of Kwakwa in Kongo Central province, about 60 widows from the association Groupedi cultivate their communal field, growing cassava which they will process into flour. Later, they will bag the cassava flour and sell it at the local market.

In fact, they are the only women in the entire province who make and sell local flour. Groupedi owns 250 hectares of land in Kwakwa, which houses a pilot training project on cassava processing.

Thanks to this training, the women of Groupedi have learned to rapidly multiply cassava cuttings and combat diseases that attack their crops. After the harvest, the women gather to process their cassava. They peel, wash, and crush the cassava tubers in a motorized grater.

In order to remove the hydrogen cyanide which occurs naturally in cassava, the women submerge the grated cassava in vats to soften and ferment. This acid must be removed as it is hazardous to health. Next, the women grind the cassava in a press to remove the starch. After a day of drying, the result is a paste. The last step is processing the cassava paste into flour with the help of a mill.

Mamie Mawongo is the founder of Groupedi. She says that this processing technique produces flour that can be consumed by people with diabetes, a disease that affects approximately two per cent of Congolese. The flour is commonly used to make foufou, a fermented cassava paste enjoyed throughout the Democratic Republic of the Congo and many other African countries.

In Matadi, the capital of Kongo Central, a 30 kilogram bag of cassava flour sells in the market for 13,000 Congolese francs (about 23 American dollars or 16 Euros). The flour that Groupedi produces is a bit more expensive than the others, but it is very popular among the townspeople as a base for foufou.

José Mfulu is Vice President of the provincial assembly. Ever since she discovered that this good quality flour was produced by widows, it’s the only kind she buys. She believes this is the best way to support the women. Groupedi retains 70 per cent of the profits from flour sales, while members take home 30 per cent.

Antoinette Mbuzi is one of Groupedi’s cassava growers and processers. She says that the money she’s earned has allowed her to construct a two-bedroom house and send her three grandsons to school.

Thanks to their success with cassava flour, the association now plans to start raising pigs and goats, which they will feed with cassava peelings. The president of Groupedi says the women also want to purchase a tractor and a large vehicle to increase their production.
Click here to see the notes to broadcasters on processing cassava

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3. Ghana: Use of harmful food additives on the rise (Public Agenda, Ghanaian Chronicle)

Some of the bread for sale in Ghanaian markets is not as wholesome as consumers might think, according to a new report. Mashed potatoes, plaster, and sawdust were all found in the bread, ostensibly to increase its weight. Alum and chalk were used to whiten bread. Ammonium carbonate was used to disguise the sour taste of stale flour.

Ghana’s Food and Drug Board and Food Research Institute studied food for sale in eight regions of Ghana: Ashanti, Brong Ahafo, Central, Eastern, Greater Accra, Northern, Volta, and Western. They found that the practice of food adulteration is on the rise. Food adulteration is the act of adding something inferior, harmful, useless or unnecessary to food. It is usually done to reduce manufacturing costs, to make food look more appealing, or to disguise spoilage.

The problem goes beyond bread. Other staple grain and nut products, oils, meats, and fruits and vegetables were found to be altered with inferior food products or harmful chemicals. Several types of cooking oils contained Sudan dyes, which are meant for petrol or shoe wax, and are unsafe to eat. Bixa seeds, which contain a poisonous substance, were found in grilled meat. Wood ash was found in dried okra powder.

Even spices and alcoholic beverages were affected. Pear seeds and kola nuts were found in ground pepper. Palm wine had been altered with saccharine (an artificial sweetener), monosodium glutamate (a chemical seasoning), baking soda, and tobacco leaves.

Isabella Mansa Agra is Head of Food Registration and Nutrition at the Food Research Institute. She says that materials used to change the taste or appearance of food, such as saccharine and Sudan dyes, can cause cancer and other ailments. Adulteration also reduces the nutritional value of food.

Consumers are urged to report unusual changes in their food to the Food and Drug Board. According to Mrs. Agra, leads on food adulteration will be reported to the authorities. Under Ghana’s food and drug laws, the sale of unwholesome, poisonous, or adulterated food is punishable by imprisonment.

In the same week that the report on adulterated food was released, the Food and Drug Board announced that it will begin unannounced inspections of school kitchens. The board indicated that some school caterers use unwholesome foodstuffs to prepare meals for school children. The Food and Drug Board advised caterers to buy vegetables and other food items from recognized vendors only.
Click here to see the notes to broadcasters on food adulteration

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Notes to broadcasters on conservation agriculture:

Conservation agriculture is a set of practices designed to counteract the environmentally-harmful effects of some traditional agricultural practices. In particular, it aims to prevent soil erosion and nutrient depletion. As this story illustrates, conservation agriculture is appealing to farmers because it can reduce dependence on chemical fertilizers and make fields more resilient to climactic changes.

There are three basic principles to conservation agriculture:
Minimal soil disturbance. This usually means reducing or ceasing mechanical tillage, as mechanical tillage can compact soil over time. Two tillage alternatives promoted within conservation agriculture are basin tillage (in which farmers dig small basins or pits that capture water and plant nutrients) and “ripping” (using a device that breaks up compacted soil, allowing water and roots to penetrate deeply). This reduces soil loss and erosion.
Permanent soil cover. Plant residues are left on the field. This preserves moisture and serves as a mulch that enriches the soil when the residues break down.
Crop rotations. In conjunction with intercropping, this technique reduces soil depletion and deters pests.

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, along with many international and local NGOs, actively promotes conservation agriculture. (To read more about the promotion of conservation agriculture, see the following news articles.) It’s important to note that farmers converting to conservation agriculture must invest significant time and/or labour in the first few years. A lot of work is required to break up soil that has been hard packed by traditional tilling, and benefits such as improved soil fertility and pest resistance take time to develop.
-“Farmers urged to join ‘greener’ revolution,” an article by FAO: http://allafrica.com/stories/200807250741.html
-“Cutting edge farming methods boost production,” an article by UN Integrated Regional Information Networks: http://allafrica.com/stories/200709251123.html

As broadcasters, you can help farmers learn about conservation agriculture and decide whether conservation techniques would work well on their farms. First hand accounts by farmers who have tried conservation agriculture can provide valuable insight. You may wish to profile a local farmer who practices conservation agriculture. An NGO that promotes conservation agriculture or a local farmers’ group may be able to point you in the direction of such a farmer. Some questions to ask the farmer include:
-What made you decide to try conservation agriculture (for example, was the farmer having trouble coping with erratic rainfall or experiencing soil erosion)?
-What kind of work was involved in the first year or two?
-Did you see an increase in crop yields? If so, how long did it take to see this increase?
-What advice do you have for others who are considering conservation agriculture?

More detailed information on conservation agriculture practices is available on the following sites:
-African Conservation Tillage Network: http://www.act.org.zw/
-FAO page on conservation agriculture: http://www.fao.org/ag/ca/

The following Farm Radio International scripts also deal with the topic:
“The promise of conservation agriculture” (Package 76, Script 1, October 2005)
“Is tillage really necessary? The benefits of conservation agriculture” (Package 76, Script 2, October 2005)

Additionally, more Farm Radio scripts on soil conservation can be found at: http://farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/soil.asp, and more Farm Radio scripts on water management can be found at: http://farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/water.asp.

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Notes to broadcasters on processing cassava:

According to Richard Mkandawire, Agriculture Advisor for New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), cassava is making its way into the diets of more and more Africans. He says that, as the continent is facing food shortages, many governments are turning towards foods such as cassava, which is more nutritious, less expensive and easier to produce than maize.

A cassava tuber resembles a sweet potato and is rich in carbohydrates. Cassava leaves are also nutritious, and provide protein.

The type of post-harvest processing done by the women of Groupedi in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is just one of the ways to process cassava. Cassava can also be made into confections, sweeteners, glue, plywood, textiles, and paper.

The following Farm Radio International scripts talk about growing, storing, and processing cassava:
“Woman farmer invents a cassava grinder” (Package 49, Script 9, June 1998)
“Plant high quality cassava cuttings” (Package 37, Script 1, July 1995)
“Farmers experiment and discover: You can store cassava” (Package 58, Script 9, January 2001)

The following links will help you find even more information about cassava:
-A website about a cassava project established by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in Nigeria: http://www.cassavabiz.org/index.asp
-An info sheet on cassava produced by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization:
http://www.fao.org/nouvelle/Fotofile/PH0007-f.htm
-A site about dried cassava and its byproducts, prepared by the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT): http://www.ciat.cgiar.org/agroempresas/sistema_yuca/english/dried_cassava.htm#
-An article entitled « La filière industrielle du manioc dans les pays ACP : un mythe ou une option raisonnable? » (available in French only), on the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) website: http://knowledge.cta.int/fr/content/view/full/2964
-A BBC article on a new trend in Ghana – the use of instant foufou: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/5010070.stm

Finally, here is a poem about cassava written by the Nigerian poet and writer Flora Nwapa during the Biafran war:

We thank the almighty God
For giving us cassava
We hail thee cassava
The great cassava
You grow in poor soils
You grow in rich soils
You grow in gardens
You grow in farms

You are easy to grow
Children can plant you
Women can plant you
Everybody can plant you

We must sing for you
Great cassava, we must sing
We must not forget
Thee, the great one

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Notes to broadcasters on food adulteration:

According to Wikipedia, adulterant usage was first investigated in 1820 when a German chemist named Frederick Accum identified many toxic metal-based colourings in food and drink. Although most countries now have laws against food adulteration and authorities to monitor the safety and quality of foodstuffs, the illegal practice persists. As the study by Ghana’s Food and Drugs Board and Food Research Institute reveals, the addition of adulterants not only reduces the nutritional value of food (as in watered-down beverages or maize meal added to groundnut paste), but it can also be harmful (as in Sudan dyes added to cooking oil or plaster added to bread).

You may wish to investigate whether food adulteration is a known problem in your area. You could contact the authority in your country that is responsible for monitoring the quality of food sold on the market and ask questions such as:
-What does the organization do to monitor food quality and prevent food adulteration?
-Which types of foods have been found adulterated in your area? Are there types of adulteration that are particularly dangerous that consumers should be aware of?
-How can consumers recognize these types of adulteration?
-What should a consumer do if they suspect that a vendor is selling adulterated food?

You may also wish to refer to these past FRW stories for program ideas on other food safety issues:
-“Food poisonings a grim reminder to store beans and grains safely” (FRW Issue #22, May 2008)
-“Cooking oil used by most Malians found to be toxic” (FRW Issue #10, February 2008)

Finally, these Farm Radio International scripts describe measures people can take to prevent food contamination in their kitchens:
-“Keeping food safe,” a two-part series (Package 46, Scripts 7 and 8, October 1997):
-http://farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/46-7script_en.asp
-http://farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/46-8script_en.asp

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September 17, 2008: Application deadline for joint reporting workshop on decentralization in DRC

Francophone radio journalists from Burundi, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) are invited to apply to attend a workshop on joint reporting, held by the Institut Panos Paris (IPP). The workshop will take place from September 29-October 4, 2008, in Kinshasa, DRC. The theme is “Problems with sharing and transferring skills and resources among different levels of government (central, provincial, and decentralized territorial entities).” The goal of the workshop is to reinforce the knowledge of participants about the state of the decentralization processes in the DRC and to facilitate the exchange of experiences among journalists on this topic. Journalists from the three countries will work together to co-produce joint articles to be broadcast on their respective radio stations. All costs (travel, accommodations, and local transportation) will be covered by IPP.

Journalists are invited to apply by sending the following via e-mail to one of the contacts listed below:
-curriculum vitae
-motivation letter
-a letter from your employer authorizing you to attend the workshop and committing to publish the article that you co-produce with your colleagues at the workshop
-an article that you have already produced on the theme of decentralization at the country or regional level.

Contacts:
For Burundi and Rwanda:
– Cyprien Ndikumana, IPP representative in Burundi and Rwanda: cyprien.ndikumana@panosparis.org
-Fiona Irakoze, head of the IPP mission in Bujumbura, Burundi: Fiona.irakoze@panosparis.org

For the DRC:
-Franck Mbumba, producer of l’antenne ouest in RDC: fmbumba@panosparis.org

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What should a field recording kit consist of?

The following suggestions for preparing a field recording kit were adapted from CR (community radio): A user’s guide to the technology, which was prepared by the United Nations Educational Scientific & Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 2007. You may wish to use these suggestions in conjunction with “What are the main considerations in selecting field recording equipment,” an adapted text featured in the last issue of FRW). We thank subscriber FRW subscriber Mahesh Acharya for referring us to this resource.The full guide can be found online at: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0015/001561/156197e.pdf.

1. Microphones(s) & accessories: Ideally, the field recording kit should have a couple of microphones, one with a wider pickup that can be used to record a group of people or a sound effect; and one that is highly directional and has a narrow area of pickup, for noisy situations or to isolate particular sounds. However, even a multipurpose rugged microphone will give acceptable results in most conditions.

The microphone should have a good grip to allow it to be comfortably handheld, and should be accompanied by a foam or fiber windshield that prevents wind from hitting it and causing a rumbling noise. A balanced output is preferable, as it helps obtain clean recordings even in areas with high electromagnetic disturbance.

2. Recorder unit: The field recorder should be rugged, hard wearing, and easy to use and set up. It should have balanced inputs, for the reason stated above, but also have inputs for a variety of different types of microphones.

A headphone input to allow you to monitor recordings is vital, as is the ease of changing tapes or disks. The recorder should also run off batteries and have a low power draw. A large and clear screen that displays important parameters – battery life, amount of recording media left, audio level and track number – is a great plus.

3. Recording media: In case the recorder needs replaceable media (e.g. tapes or disks), bring an adequate supply to cover all recording planned for the day. A good rule of thumb is to estimate the total recording time anticipated, estimate the blank media needed for this time, then add enough to cover yourself if recording takes one-third longer.

4. Power supply: Most good field recorders come with an a/c mains power adapter, but also run off batteries. This dual supply system allows a longer recording time in the field, since it can be plugged in wherever there is a mains power supply. It’s a good idea to carry at least one totally fresh set of spare batteries for the recorder and the microphone.

5. Headphones: A good pair of headphones to monitor the recording is important. Some recorder units come with a pair of high quality earphones, but a pair of over-ear headphones with comfortable padded earcups and a long enough lead are preferred. Noise canceling headphones are also of great help, if you can afford them. A good pair of headphones can help spot audio problems while you are in a position to do something about them.

6. Carrying cases and covers: Field recording equipment should always be carried in its carrying case. If standard cases are unavailable or too expensive, it’s easy to stitch cloth cases with straps. A sturdy bag or hard case for the entire kit is also a good idea, and will keep the equipment safe and the kit organized.

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All about manure: Audio version of award-winning scripts to be produced and distributed

In October 2007, Farm Radio International, in collaboration with the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), launched “African Farmers’ Strategies for Coping with Climate Change,” a radio scriptwriting competition for African radio organizations. Contestants were invited to submit radio scripts on themes related to local adaptation to climate change. Fifty-one entries were received from 20 countries across sub-Saharan Africa. Fifteen winners were selected.

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is supporting the production and distribution of audio versions of two of the best scripts submitted to the competition. Farm Radio International is coordinating the production of these audio recordings, which will be provided to FAO for distribution to its network on World Food Day (October 16) 2008.

The two scripts selected for creating audio recordings were “Manure the magic worker”, written by Gladson Makowa of the Story Workshop in Malawi, and “Organic fertilizer within easy reach”, written by Adama Zongo of Radio Rurale in Burkina Faso. Congratulations to Gladson and Adama! And stay tuned for the release of their audio productions.

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New rice variety for Africa to save wetlands in Uganda

This week’s featured script was written by FRW subscriber and correspondent Joshua Kyalimpa of Opsett Media’s African Farm Radio Bureau in Uganda. Mr. Kyalimpa was one of 15 winners of the Farm Radio International-CTA scriptwriting competition “African Farmers’ Strategies for Coping with Climate Change.” His script introduces listeners to average Ugandans who love to eat rice, and a researcher who explains how a new upland rice variety is ensuring future rice supply while saving the wetlands, thereby reducing the environmental impact of Ugandan rice production.

Mr. Kyalimpa was one of three FRW subscribers who were winners of the script writing competition. The others were Mariama Sy Coulibaly from Radio Convergence Panafricaine in Senegal, who wrote “Fissel farmers don’t pick up straw after harvesting, a method that protects land from heat”, and Kwabena Agyei from Classic FM in Ghana, who wrote “Mangoes to the rescue: A local response to climate change”.

In Issue 34 of FRW, Mr. Kyalimpa’s script was erroneously identified as “Growing NERICA is a farming solution for coping with climate change.” In fact, “Growing NERICA is a farming solution for coping with climate change” is an award-winning script written by Savitri Mohapatra, Communications Officer for the Africa Rice Center (WARDA). Ms. Mohapatra’s script can be found online here: http://www.farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/84-2script_en.asp. All 15 winning scripts from the scriptwriting competition on climate change are now on the Farm Radio International website: http://www.farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/.

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