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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 #38

Welcome to all!

This week’s new subscriber welcome goes out to Nigeria, where Seth Magaji of the Gombe Media Corporation and Shola Matthew from Arup Nigeria recently signed up. We welcome them to the FRW community! We also send a special greeting to all those who will celebrate Eid Ul-Fitr this week. Happy Eid!

This week in the news, we bring you a story on a topic many readers wanted to hear more about – genetically modified (GM) crops. In South Africa, the Agriculture and Research Council has made an application to introduce a GM potato into the commercial market. Our story describes the reasons that the GM potato was developed, and the reasons that potato farmers say they’re not interested. Next, we present a story examining the implications of Europe opening its markets to baobab fruit. Finally, there is a news flash on the outbreak of a bovine disease in West Africa.

We are pleased to once again give our readers the first look at a new Farm Radio International script package. Package 85 was produced in collaboration with the Africa Rice Center (WARDA), and focuses on rice production and seed management. We offer a sneak peak at the first script in this package: “Select only your best rice seed with flotation and manual sorting,” which offers very practical advice on how to identify and discard poor rice seeds.

If farmers in your area are also experiencing any of the challenges described in this edition of FRW, why not visit the FRW website (http://weekly.farmradio.org/), to offer your insight by posting a comment. The comments section is also a great place to share your opinions on issues in the news. We look forward to reading your posts

Happy reading!
-The Farm Radio Weekly Team

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In this week’s Farm Radio Weekly:

African Farm News in Review

1. South Africa: Farmers reject GM potato (African Agriculture, IOL, Meridian Institute)

2. Africa: Traditional fruit appeals to new tastes (Mail & Guardian Online)

3. West Africa: Lumpy skin disease detected in cattle (Panapress)

Upcoming Events

November 15, 2008: Deadline for submissions to knowledge sharing awards

Radio Resource Bank

The sounds of nature – available online!

Farm Radio Action

Rice scripts are online and in the mail

Farm Radio Script of the Week

Select only your best rice seed with flotation and manual sorting

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1. South Africa: Farmers reject GM potato (African Agriculture, IOL, Meridian Institute)

Some six years ago, a genetically modified potato was developed in the lab of an American university. In the years that followed, it was tested in confined field trials in South Africa. The GM potato was touted as a boon for small-scale farmers, because it guards against a pest that destroys potatoes in the field and in storage. But now that the potato variety is close to commercial release, farmers say that they don’t want anything to do with it.

South Africa’s Agriculture and Research Council has worked, with the support of the United States Agency for International Development, to develop the SpuntaG2 potato. This variety has been genetically modified to contain a naturally occurring microorganism called Bacillus thuringiensis. Insertion of this microorganism — commonly known as Bt – into a plant’s genetic code causes the plant to produce a toxin that kills certain insects. In the case of the SpuntaG2 potato, the toxin is designed to target the tuber moth.

The tuber moth worm bores into a potato, then eats its way out, destroying it from the inside. The Agriculture and Research Council claims that 40 million South African Rand (approximately 5 million American dollars or 3.5 million Euros) of potatoes are lost each year to the moth. The council has applied for permission from the South African GMO authority to release the SpuntaG2 commercially, meaning that any farmer could purchase and grow it.

South African farmers, however, doubt the economic benefits of the genetically modified potato. Potatoes South Africa is a group that represents potato farmers. They have signed a petition asking the government to prevent the commercial release of the GM potato.

Ben Pieterse is the research manager for Potatoes South Africa. He maintains that the tuber moth is not a major problem for farmers. Potatoes South Africa has identified five other pests and diseases – including leaf miner, late and early blight, scab, and certain viruses – as higher priorities than the tuber moth.

Any benefit that farmers would receive from the potato would be outweighed by consumer backlash, Mr. Pieterse argues. And since there is no mandatory labelling for GM potatoes and no testing or tracing procedures, it will be impossible to keep GM potatoes separate. This is a problem for export markets and farmers who supply major food chains that will not take GM potatoes.
Click here to see the notes to broadcasters on GM potatoes

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2. Africa: Traditional fruit appeals to new tastes (Mail & Guardian Online)

Aloyse Tine can readily explain the health benefits of baobab products. If you have a belly ache, you eat the baobab fruit, he says. If you are tired, you eat the baobab leaves.

Mr. Tine is a Senegalese farmer who has been selling baobab for many years. He used to haul baobab fruit from his rural community of Fandene to the market in nearby Thies. Three years ago, he started selling to a local company that dries and exports baobab fruit pulp. Selling to this firm – called the Baobab Fruit Company – boosted Mr. Tine’s income. He can now afford to send his children to school.

Farmers and wild fruit gatherers like Mr. Tine are poised to see demand for their product, and presumably their income, jump, now that Europeans have realized the nutritional value of baobab. Earlier this year, the European Union approved the import of dried baobab. The dried fruit is destined for cereal bars and health drinks.

Laudana Zorzella is one of the operators of the Baobab Fruit Company. She says there has been an “explosion in demand” for dried baobab fruit. Currently, the company purchases up to 200 tonnes of locally harvested fruit. But the company will be looking to collect a much larger harvest next season. Across Senegal, the company could take in as much as 13,000 tonnes of baobab fruit, Ms. Zorzella says.

The demand for baobab is driven by European health consciousness. Studies have shown that a serving of baobab fruit has three times as much vitamin C as an orange, more calcium than a glass of milk, and a slew of other vitamins, minerals, and anti-oxidants.

But some conservationists fear that, in the rush to get baobab to the European Union, the African tree could be overexploited. Although some farmers have cultivated the tree, most baobabs grow in the wild. Some are reputed to be thousands of years old. Improper fruit harvesting or lack of care to the environment surrounding the trees could hurt their survival and make them unavailable for local use.

Ms. Zorzella has no such concerns. She says that if baobab trees become a source of revenue, people will have a strong incentive to protect them. Mr. Tine says that people in his village are very protective of their baobab. He explains that, as new baobabs sprout spontaneously, care is taken to allow them to grow. Cattle herders often cut the baobab leaves for animal feed. Mr. Tine says that villagers are trying to stop this practice to ensure that the trees will produce fruit.

The baobab tree holds a central place in African life and lore. It’s sometimes called the “upside-down tree” because its spiny branches look almost like roots. One tale holds that, after the world was created, each animal was given a tree to plant, and the hyena planted the baobab upside-down. For centuries, all parts of the baobab tree have been used. While the fruit and leaves are eaten, the seeds are pressed to extract cooking oil and the bark can be used to make rope.
Click here to see the notes to broadcasters on baobab

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3. West Africa: Lumpy skin disease detected in cattle (Panapress)

At the beginning of September, lumpy skin disease was detected in cattle in four West African countries: Mali, Mauritania, Senegal, and Togo.

Lumpy skin disease is a viral disease carried by mosquitoes and flies. It causes skin lesions on all parts of the animal’s body. Fever is another symptom.

According to Dr. Justin Akakpo, of the École inter-États des sciences et medicine vétérinaire in Dakar, Senegal, cattle, domestic buffalos, and giraffes are particularly vulnerable to the disease.

The disease can decrease milk production and cause fertility disorders and spontaneous abortions, leading to economic losses for farmers.

There is no specific treatment for the disease. Strong antibiotic therapy may help prevent other infections.

For more information on symptoms and methods of preventing the disease, please see: http://www.oie.int/eng/maladies/fiches/a_a070.htm.

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Notes to broadcasters on GM potatoes:

The following resources provide additional information on this issue:

-Agriculture and Research Council’s press release on seeking approval to commercialize GM potatoes in South Africa: http://www.arc.agric.za/uploads/images/0_Media_Release_BT_Potato.pdf
-The petition against the release of GM potatoes in South Africa:
-African Centre for Biosafety’s list of documents objecting to the release of GM potatoes in South Africa: http://www.biosafetyafrica.net/portal/index.php?option=com_content&task=category§ionid=7&id=19&Itemid=38
-Website of Potatoes South Africa: http://www.potatoes.co.za/

-A list of arguments for and against GMOs, prepared by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO):
-Arguments for: http://www.fao.org/english/newsroom/focus/2003/gmo7.htm
-Arguments against: http://www.fao.org/english/newsroom/focus/2003/gmo8.htm
-An article by UNESCO: “Can genetically modified organisms feed the world?” http://www.unesco.org/courier/2001_09/uk/planet.htm
-A report by the NGO GRAIN on the consequences of genetically modified crops for small-scale African farmers: http://www.grain.org/briefings/?id=12

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Notes to broadcasters on baobab:

Some African baobab trees are believed to be thousands of years old. Its uses are well known to communities where it grows, but in Europe, baobab fruit was considered a “novel food” because it was not commonly consumed in Europe prior to 1997. Therefore, before baobab fruit could be introduced to European markets, an evaluation and approval process was required. PhytoTrade Africa, a southern African trade association, began to clear the legal pathway for baobab two years ago, and novel food approval for baobab was granted earlier this year.

Many European media carried news of baobab’s approval, calling it a “superfruit” because of its vitamin, mineral and anti-oxidant content, including high levels of Vitamin C and calcium. In its application for novel food approval, PhytoTrade Africa indicated that baobab pulp was well suited for use in health products such as bars and smoothies.

According to a report by the United Kingdom’s Natural Resources Institute, the maximum sustainable harvest of baobab could be just under one billion American dollars, or about 675,000,000 Euros. Senegal’s Baobab Fruit Company says that it has already received inquiries from European companies interested in sampling baobab pulp.

The following links provide more information on baobab and commentary on this news story:
-PhytoTrade Africa’s website (see information on baobab on front page and in the “news” and “our products” sections): http://www.phytotradeafrica.com/default.htm
-Baobab Fruit Company’s website: http://www.baobabfruitco.com/ENG/Contacts.html
-Video about baobab fruit harvesting and processing, made by the Baobab Fruit Company: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i2ifnRpAcKk&feature=related
-“Baobab – Newest kid on the novel foods block,” on FoodNavigator.com: http://www.foodnavigator.com/Legislation/Baobab-newest-kid-on-the-novel-foods-block
-Article by the World Agroforestry Centre on conserving and domesticating trees: http://www.worldagroforestry.org/ar2003/downloads/2pager_Theme_TreesAndMarkets.pdf

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November 15, 2008: Deadline for submissions to knowledge sharing awards

Practical Action, a British NGO that aims to demonstrate and advocate for the sustainable use of technology to reduce poverty in developing countries, is holding a contest which offers an award for media messages that deliver knowledge “at the right time and place.” The purpose of the contest is to promote innovative methods to identify existing community knowledge assets and gaps, improve knowledge sharing systems, and develop knowledge presentations appropriate for diverse audiences.

Radio practitioners can enter the contest in the “Non-electronic means and mass media category.” Entries must include a short description of the content of the knowledge presentation, how it was delivered, and the cultural context and relation to traditional methods of communication in targeted communities. An entry can be submitted on a CD-ROM or by e-mail (if the total size in electronic file is less than 5MB), by regular mail, or handed over to one of Practical Action’s offices.

For more information, visit: http://practicalaction.org/?id=knowledgepresentation or contact Zbigniew Mikolajuk (zbigniew.mikolajuk@practicalaction.org.uk) or Dawn McGahey (Dawn.McGahey@practicalaction.org.uk) with any questions.

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The sounds of nature – available online!

If you’re looking for some soothing sounds of nature to set the scene for a news report or add intrigue to a drama, www.naturesound.org is a great place to start your search. The website provides a sampling of the work of Martyn Stewart, a professional sound recordist who specializes in nature. His sounds represent 29 countries, over 3,500 bird vocalizations, and countless animals. Many sound clips are available free for non-commercial reproduction. Others can be purchased through the website.

To browse through other websites featuring sound recordings, visit Mr. Stewart’s links page at: http://www.naturesound.org/links.htm.

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Rice scripts are online and in the mail

In the past few months, global rice prices have jumped to levels not reached since the 1970’s food crisis. Since rice is a popular and important staple crop in many African countries, soaring prices have caused many countries to look for ways to increase local production.

With this as background, Farm Radio International undertook a collaboration with the Africa Rice Center (WARDA) to produce ten scripts about rice production and seed management methods. Five of these scripts were included in earlier Farm Radio International script packages. Five new scripts were recently produced and published as Package 85. This package has been mailed to Farm Radio partners and posted online at: http://www.farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/.

A sneak peak at the new rice scripts is offered in this week’s Script of the Week. The previous five scripts produced in collaboration between WARDA and Farm Radio are available online:
“Growing NERICA is a farming solution for coping with climate change” (Package 84, Script 2, August 2008)
“Changing farming production in Africa to adapt to climate change” (Package 84, Script 14, August 2008)
“A local plant prevents pest damage to stored seeds” (Package 81, Script 1, August 2007)
“Powder of little pepper protects stored rice” (Package 81, Script 2, August 2007)
“The speaking scarecrows” (Package 81, Script 3, August 2007)

Based on partner feedback, Farm Radio and WARDA will develop and publish five more rice scripts. What other rice topics are of interest to you and the farmers in your audience? What information would you like to see in upcoming packages? Please e-mail Blythe McKay, Farm Radio International’s Development Communication Coordinator, at bmckay@farmradio.org with your ideas!

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Select only your best rice seed with flotation and manual sorting

This week, we feature one of five scripts on rice production and seed management recently produced as part of a collaboration between Farm Radio and the Africa Rice Center (WARDA). In this script, the host interviews Chabi Adéyèmi, a research assistant at WARDA in Cotonou, Benin. Mr. Adéyèmi provides step-by-step instructions on how to use the floatation method to remove rice seeds that are unripe or have been damaged by insects. He also provides advice on sorting out grains with brown or black spots because, as our host explains, “healthy seed means good harvest.” The five new rice scripts have been mailed to Farm Radio partners as Package 85, and are available online at: http://www.farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/.


Notes to Broadcaster

For a good rice harvest, healthy seed is essential. Unripe grains or grains that have been damaged by insects are lighter in weight than healthy grains so they can be removed if you float them in water before sowing. Grains with black or brown spots are also unhealthy but these grains are not necessarily lighter so they can’t be removed by the floating method. In this case, farmers conduct manual sorting. This can be done immediately after harvest, before the seed is stored, or any time before the beginning of next season. Both methods help to improve the quality of seed.

In the following radio interview Mr. Chabi Adéyèmi, a research assistant at the Africa Rice Center in Cotonou, Benin, provides listeners with step-by-step instructions about how to carry out floatation and manual sorting techniques.


Host: Dear friends, good morning and welcome to your radio program about agriculture. Today’s program will be devoted to rice floating and sorting techniques.

In the studio we have Mr. Chabi Adéyèmi who is a research assistant at the Africa Rice Center in Benin. He’s here to talk about two valuable techniques that will help you improve the quality of your rice seed.

Mr. Chabi, sometimes, at planting time, farmers notice that their rice seed is damaged by insects, or that it’s not ripe. How can farmers improve the quality of their seed so they get a better harvest?

Chabi: Well, to start, farmers can draw inspiration from practices used by farmers in Bangladesh to get better seed. One of these methods is called seed floatation.

Host: Can you describe it for our listeners?

Chabi: Of course. That’s why I’m here today!

Host: We are listening to you then.

Chabi: Okay, I’ll get started. After winnowing, you’ll see that partially filled grains and grains with holes are still mixed with the full, healthy grains. What you want to do is to separate out these bad grains by floating them in water.

Host: That’s why this technique is called floatation!

Chabi: Exactly. To use this method you have to follow a number of steps. First, you pour clean water into a container. I like to use a bucket. Then you add salt or urea to that water to change the specific density of the water.

Host: How do you know when to stop adding the salt or urea?

Chabi: Keep on adding salt, or urea, or even clay, until a freshly laid egg can float on the surface of the water. It was Bangladeshi women who made the discovery that when an egg could float to the surface of the water, the density of the water was just right for the seed floatation method. Next, add your grains to the water and mix everything by hand. After a while all the damaged and light grains will float to the surface of the water.

Host: What about the healthy grains?

Chabi: The healthy grains settle at the bottom of the container. Floatation is a practice that helps to separate good quality grains from bad quality grains. Don’t forget to mix salt, urea or clay with the water for a better effect. This brings up more of the unripe and light seeds to the surface.

Host: Very good. Let me quickly summarize the technique for our listeners.

The first thing you need is a clean container. It may be a basin, bucket or even a drum, isn’t it?

Chabi: Of course. The container you select depends on how much seed you have.

Host: Once you have the container, you pour water into it. Then you mix this water with enough salt or urea until a freshly laid egg can float on the surface of the water.

Chabi: Yes.

Host: After that you pour the seed into the water and stir it well. After a while all the light and insect-attacked grains will float on the surface of the water. The healthy grains however, settle in the bottom of the container. Then, after all this, what is the next stage?

Chabi: Then you have to remove the damaged and partially filled grains that are now floating on the surface of the water. You can give them to the fowls.

Host: What about the healthy grains that settled in the bottom of the water?

Chabi: You remove them from the bottom of the container and you clean them twice, or three times in clean water. After that you can sow them.

Host: I’ve noticed that sometimes there are seed grains that have black or brown spots on them. Will floating help remove those grains?

Chabi: No, those grains are not necessarily lighter in weight, so they won’t float. In that case you have to do manual seed sorting.

Host: Manual sorting?

Chabi: Yes.

Host: Doesn’t that take a lot of time?

Chabi: Yes, it can, especially if you have a large quantity of seeds. But if the whole family helps, it goes quickly, and you don’t need to do it all in one day. You can do it gradually, in between two growing seasons.

Host: Thank you, Mr. Chabi for your time today…for explaining the seed floatation and seed sorting techniques to us.

Chabi: You’re welcome. It’s been a pleasure.

Host: Dear rice farmer friend, don’t forget that healthy seed means good harvest. If you would like a copy of the video programs on rice seed cleaning, drying and conservation, you can contact [radio broadcaster should give name of local contact person or organization distributing rice videos].



Note: Radio broadcasters can click on this link to see a list of rice video distribution sites or see the list that is included with this script package.

Contributed by: Felix S. Houinsou, Rural Radio Consultant/Africa Rice Center (WARDA)
Reviewed by: Paul Van Mele, Program Leader, Learning and Innovation Systems/Africa Rice Center (WARDA)

Thanks to:
-The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) for supporting participatory research with women rice farmers in lowlands, and for translating the rice videos into local languages.
-The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and IFAD for supporting this script package.

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