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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 #67

Welcome to all!

We are pleased to welcome all of our readers to this week’s edition, and especially our newest subscriber, Maude Gwadabe, from Freedom Radio Kano in Nigeria.

This week’s news stories look at some innovative approaches to age-old agricultural issues: soil fertility and soil and water management. Our first story, from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, visits women at a military camp who found a good fertilizer on their ceilings. Our second story takes us to Malawi, where farmers are learning about a grass that maintains healthy soil and water levels in their fields.

Our Farm Radio Action section features a special contribution from Farm Radio International broadcast partner FADECO FM. We learn how this station engaged the community to commemorate International AIDS Candlelight Memorial Day. If your organization has created a special program or marked a significant day, we invite you to share it with the FRW community. Please visit the FRW website (http://weekly.farmradio.org/) to post a comment or e-mail FRW Editor Heather Miller at hmiller@farmradio.org for details.

Be sure to check out the Upcoming Events section and Radio Resource Bank for some exciting opportunities for journalists. And you won’t want to miss our Script of the Week section for the continuing story of a young Maasai couple planning for the arrival of their first child.

Happy reading!

-The Farm Radio Weekly Team

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In this week’s Farm Radio Weekly:

African Farm News in Review

1. Democratic Republic of the Congo: Bats leave good fertilizer on village ceilings (Syfia Grands Lacs)

2. Malawi: Vetiver grass is a tool for soil and water management (African Farm Radio Research Initiative Malawi Team)

Upcoming Events

June 5, 2009: Deadline to apply for climate change fellowship

Radio Resource Bank

News University offers online training for journalists, editors, and managers

Farm Radio Action

FADECO Community Radio commemorates International AIDS Candlelight Memorial Day

Farm Radio Script of the Week

Let’s talk about it: A young couple plans pregnancy and childbirth – Part 2

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1. Democratic Republic of the Congo: Bats leave good fertilizer on village ceilings (Syfia Grands Lacs)

A villager from Bandundu recalls the day a group of youths arrived at his door. They wanted to negotiate a price for bat droppings, also called bat guano. At first, he thought they were crooks. But the youths reassured him, and soon they were climbing up to his ceiling. The youths collected 10 litres of guano that day. The villager pocketed 1,000 Congolese francs (about 1.3 American dollars or 0.95 Euros).

The sale of bat guano is no joke in Bandundu, a town in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. For two years, farmers have been gathering guano from their ceilings. Some people earn money by scraping ceilings and selling it in the market.

It all started when women arrived at the local military base two years ago. They found their ceilings covered with bat droppings. It may not have been a pleasant sight, but the women soon learned that guano is an excellent fertilizer.

The practice quickly spread around the military camp. It’s now the most popular fertilizer for kitchen gardens.

Elysée Mitinso used to fertilize with dead leaves. Her harvests were good. But with bat guano, they’re even better. She used to harvest four baskets of vegetables. Now it’s six.

But those who use bat guano have a warning to other farmers. Since guano is such a strong fertilizer, it must be used carefully. Otherwise, it can burn your crops.

Begas Edgar Tanza teaches agricultural science at the university in Bandundu. He explains how to use bat guano safely. First, you must leave the guano on the soil for at least a week, watering it regularly. Next, you must thoroughly mix the guano into the soil. These steps reduce the harmful acidity of the guano.

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2. Malawi: Vetiver grass is a tool for soil and water management (African Farm Radio Research Initiative Malawi Team)

It’s the beginning of the dry season in Makombe village. The sun is scorching down on the small fields below. A farmer stands proudly next to her plot. As other farmers gather, she points to a new crop growing.
The object of their attention is not the maize growing tall in the field. It’s the grass growing alongside. The farmer has planted Vetiver grass – a deep rooting grass that helps to prevent soil erosion.

Makombe village is located in Malawi’s Central Region. Its rolling hills have long presented a challenge to farmers. When rains are heavy, water floods over the land. Soil is washed away. But when the rains are gone, little water is retained in the soil.

Over time, some villagers tried planting Vetiver grass. They saw some benefits, but had some challenges tending to the grass. Other villagers were simply not convinced that Vetiver grass was worth the effort.
Now, a radio program is helping villagers learn everything they need to know about Vetiver grass. Mlera Nthaka – or keeper of the soil – is broadcast on Zodiak Broadcasting Station. It is part of the African Farm Radio Research Initiative, or AFRRI. It reaches Makombe and other villages with similar soil challenges. As one Makombe farmer said, “it has changed the way we take care of our fields.”

The Mlera Nthaka program seeks to change some popular ideas about Vetiver grass, such as the misperception that Vetiver grass will overshadow crops or reduce the area that can be used for crops. It also addressed many practical questions: where can farmers buy Vetiver seed? How should they plant it? And how should they care for it to get the greatest benefit?

Rex Chapota is the National Research Coordinator in Malawi for AFRRI. He has seen the changes taking place in Makombe and other villages touched by the Mlera Nthaka program. Farmers are joining together to plant Vetiver grass nurseries. Soon, this new grass will be transplanted to their fields.
Those who have been using Vetiver for a few years are learning how to better care for their grass, and earning respect within their communities.

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Notes to broadcasters on bat guano:

It is often the case that the best, most affordable and most accessible fertilizers are generated from materials that are normally thought of as waste. Past issues of FRW have reported on women in Kampala slums who clean gutters and earn money by turning food waste into compost (http://weekly.farmradio.org/2009/03/16/1-uganda-turning-trash-into-treasure-by-sawa-pius-for-farm-radio-weekly-in-kampala/) and Burundians farmers, who, unable to afford chemical fertilizers, found that the rice bran left over from rice shelling was a good alternative (http://weekly.farmradio.org/2008/04/14/2-burundi-rice-bran-can-substitute-for-chemical-fertilizer-syfia-grands-lacs/).

To explore the issue of fertilizers in your area, you could host a call-in or text-in show that invites local farmers to share their experiences with different types of fertilizer:
-Are chemical fertilizers readily available and affordable? Has the cost or accessibility of chemical fertilizers changed in the past few years?
-What organic alternatives to chemical fertilizers have farmers tried? Are these fertilizers made from waste materials? What was their motivation for using the organic fertilizer? Was it cost, availability, effectiveness, health concerns, or some other reason?
-If they have tried both organic and chemical fertilizers, which materials did farmers find most effective? What application methods worked best?

Many scripts on the topic of soil fertility can be found here:
http://www.farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/fertilization.asp

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Notes to broadcasters on Vetiver grass:

Careful management of soil and water are important to the success of every farming venture. Farmers who work with particularly difficult soil conditions – such as the Makombe villagers in this story – have developed local methods to prevent soil erosion and improve water retention. Some farmers may find that recent climatic changes, including the increased incidence of droughts and floods, have made soil and water management more challenging in recent years.http://www.farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/soil.asp
-Scripts on water management: http://www.farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/water.asp

You may wish to prepare a feature news story on soil and water management in your area. Questions to ask include:
-What soil and water management challenges are faced by farmers in your area?
-Is soil and water management a larger concern in recent years due to climatic changes?
-What techniques do farmers use to overcome these challenges?
-What tips can farmers offer on using these techniques most effectively?
Farm Radio International offers many scripts on soil and water management. Follow these links to look for scripts that are relevant to your audience:

-Scripts on soil conservation:

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June 5, 2009: Deadline to apply for climate change fellowship

The Climate Change Media Partnership (CCMP) encourages all journalists in developing countries who report on climate change to apply for its 2009 fellowship program. Forty successful candidates will be provided with skills training and access to world class experts to enhance their knowledge leading up to the United Nations Climate Change Conference. They will then be sponsored to attend the conference, which will take place December 7-18, 2009, in Copenhagen, Denmark. There, they will receive additional training and mentoring and take part in a media clinic and interview sessions with leading climate change experts and negotiators.

-To apply for the CCMP fellowship, go to: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspxsm=cX9w8ID8c7MXH8bAgMwBPg_3d_3d.
The deadline to apply is midnight (United Kingdom time) on June 5.
-To watch videos of former CCMP fellows talking about their experiences, visit: http://tinyurl.com/qej7ew or http://tinyurl.com/psg58u.
-For more information on the CCMP, visit: http://www.climatemediapartnership.org/.

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News University offers online training for journalists, editors, and managers

News University offers online courses for journalists, editors, and newsroom managers interested in honing their craft and learning new techniques. More than 85 courses are available, including Telling Stories with Sound; Reporting Global Issues Locally, and Twitter for Journalists. Technical guides for many common software programs are also included.

Internews, an international media NGO, is now offering a special incentive for media professionals who register for News University. New registrants will be entered in one of four draws for a Flip Video Ultra 60-minute camcorder. To be entered in the draw, go to the News University website and register for a course. Be sure to choose “Internews” as the answer to “How did you hear about NewsU”? Upcoming draw deadlines are: June 15, 2009; September 15, 2009; December 15, 2009; and March 15, 2010.

– To register for News University, go to: http://www.newsu.org/profile/.

– To browse News University’s courses, visit: http://www.newsu.org/courses/course_list.aspx.

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FADECO Community Radio commemorates International AIDS Candlelight Memorial Day

On May 17, 2009, FADECO Community Radio demonstrated solidarity with the global effort to fight AIDS. FADECO FM – a Farm Radio International broadcasting partner located in Karagwe District, western Tanzania – was one of 1,200 community organizations in 115 countries that marked International AIDS Candlelight Memorial Day.

FADECO FM produced a series of programs on HIV and AIDS, which was broadcast twice daily in the week leading up to Candlelight Memorial Day. On May 17, the radio station broadcast a national celebration live from the town of Moshi. This special broadcast featured a one-hour call in show that invited people to remember a loved one, a live panel discussion including people living with HIV and AIDS, and presentations by representatives from local HIV and AIDS organizations. Topics of discussion included stigmatization, coping strategies, group formation and dynamics, and the importance of micro-enterprises for people living with HIV and AIDS.

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Let’s talk about it: A young couple plans pregnancy and childbirth – Part 2

This week’s script is the second in a special series that is sure to captivate you and your listeners. Through eight interviews conducted over a period of one year, the series tells a story that is both personal and universal – that of a young couple planning for their first child.

In this second installment, we learn that our couple has succeeded in conceiving a child.. And we learn what decision the husband takes when his wife needs help with cooking and water gathering – tasks that are traditionally rejected by local men. In the coming weeks, the series will continue in FRW’s Script of the Week section. We will follow the couple through pregnancy and the birth of their child, learning important lessons about how couples can make decisions about maternal health and child care along the way.

Notes to broadcaster

When couples are expecting a child, many men and women are uncomfortable talking about issues such as child care, pregnancy, delivery, and the role of men and women in these issues. In some cultures, the husband is the primary person with whom a pregnant woman would discuss such matters; neighbours or close friends can also be involved.

In other cultures, female elders, midwives, and the mother-in-law have a special role to play in encouraging discussion and providing advice to the pregnant woman. Today, however, younger women frequently do not want to follow their advice, even when they advise women to go to a health facility for care.

To talk about these issues, we have visited a couple in a village in Arusha district, Tanzania. They were married one year ago, and have made plans, including how they can make their life prosperous and take care of their children.

This script contains eight separate interviews with the couple, spanning a period from before the wife was pregnant until after the child is born. There are several ways to use this script. You could use it as a guide to interviewing an expectant couple in your own area. Read closely through the kinds of questions and issues in the interviews. Find out how couples in your area prepare for childbirth. Who makes the decisions? Do husbands and wives discuss these issues together? You may also choose to air these interviews as they are, making adaptations to your local situation. The eight interviews could be aired for eight days in a row, or once a week for eight weeks.

This script is based on actual interviews. If you choose to use voice actors to represent the couple who are being interviewed, please make sure to tell your audience at the beginning of the program that the voices are those of actors, not the original people involved in the interview, and that the program has been adapted for your local audience, but is based on a real interview.

Also, some of the cultural customs and traditions followed by the couple and their families may be different than those of your listening audience. Feel free to adapt the script to the cultural context of your listening audience. Or you could present the story as occurring in a different culture with different values and traditions.

Second interview – second month of pregnancy

Characters:
Producer
Wife
Husband

Presenter: Many people think that when a woman is pregnant, it is bad luck to make advance plans or decisions about childbirth. Others believe that even announcing the pregnancy can invite witchcraft or some other misfortune. We’re talking about these issues today with a young couple, aged 23 years and 22 years, who live in a village near Arusha, Tanzania. They are self-employed and poor, depending on daily casual work. They have been married for one year and plan to have a child soon.

In the last programme, we talked about family care and planning. The couple talked about beginning married life. You heard that they are planning to have a child. They have lived together for almost a year now. They said that this decision would be made together, between the husband and wife. Three months after their first meeting, the producer visited the family again. They will tell us if they have succeeded at conceiving a child as they had planned.

The discussion with our producer and the couple continues.

Signature tune up. Hold 10 seconds and fade out.

Producer: How do you feel when you think of having a child?

Wife: I am feeling good and I thank God I have succeeded in my plans, and I feel that I have conceived. I have been pregnant for two months now.

Producer: How sure are you that you have conceived and are pregnant?

Wife: I feel different than I used to. I haven’t had my menstrual period, and I started vomiting, sleeping, and feeling tired. I feel like eating only certain types of foods, and if I eat one type of food today, I can’t eat the same food tomorrow.

Producer: What is your husband’s reaction to that?

Wife: I thank God I have a good husband. He has left behind all bad traditions. He can cook for me and do other work. In this area, men are not allowed to do such work, but my husband is different. He can cook and fetch water while I am just sleeping. This month I had problems, but my husband was really encouraging.

Producer: Husband, how did you feel when your wife became pregnant?

Husband: In the beginning I felt very bad, because I started worrying about what will happen. In our area, it is completely not allowed for men to cook. But my wife is tired. So I took my own decision to change and do the work to build my own family. I learned also from my close friends, and I was able to help my wife. And of course I knew it would not last forever! (Husband, wife and producer laughing)

Producer: As a husband, what do you think needs to be done?

Husband: What’s important is that the mother knows her own needs and makes sure she eats a balanced diet and gets food at the right time. As a father and husband, I should know that today she likes this kind of food or not, so I can provide the food she likes. And I think foods like fruit are important to the pregnant woman, and it is the responsibility of the husband to make sure all her needs are taken care of. (Wife laughing)

Producer: Have you been successful in that?

Wife: I thank God that fruit is available. (Wife and husband laughing) I can even have juice at midnight, and fruit is available all the time. He really does a very good job of taking care of me. (Laughing) If I need oranges, I get them!

Signature tune up. Hold 10 seconds and fade out.

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