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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 #7

Hello to all!

Welcome to Issue 7 of Farm Radio Weekly. We are pleased to bring you another news and information package that reflects both the complex challenges of farming in Africa and the innovative spirit of African farmers.

This week we begin our four-part series on conflict and food with a story about how violence in Kenya is affecting food production. In the coming weeks, we will bring you three more stories highlighting ways farmers cope when conflict happens, and how they work to restore food production when violence subsides. As this series continues, we will also bring you resources to help your radio organization promote peace, and provide useful information to rural communities in conflict situations.

We also have news stories about farmers dealing with very different types of change. This week, we bring you another special report from our correspondent in Dakar, Idy Sy Diop, who looked at how farmers in Mali are responding to a massive campaign promoting biofuel plants. We also have a story about farmers going high-tech – using cell phones to get weather reports and sell produce.

We hope you enjoy this issue! Please remember that you can also view current and past issues of Farm Radio Weekly online at: http://weekly.farmradio.org/. You can also use the “Comments” section below each article to chat with other subscribers, and to share your thoughts, ideas, and experiences.

As we are still learning to serve your needs, we especially appreciate comments about which news stories you find most useful (and which ones you don’t!) We also love to hear how you are using and adapting FRW’s content at your radio organization. You can post comments to us online, or e-mail us directly at: farmradioweekly@farmradio.org.

Happy reading!

-The Farm Radio Weekly Team

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In this week’s Farm Radio Weekly:

African Farm News in Review

1. Mali: Campaign for biodiesel intensifies but farmers remain cautious
By Idy Sy Diop, for Farm Radio Weekly, in Dakar

2. Kenya: Violence forces farmers to flee, threatens food supply (Various Sources, allAfrica.com)

3. Africa: United Nations acts to boost food production this season (United Nations’ Integrated Regional Information Networks)

4. Africa: Cell phones help farmers and traders do business more efficiently (Farm Radio Weekly, AfricaNews.com)

Upcoming Events

March 10-18, 2008: “Biofuels Grad School” for small-scale producers

Radio Resource Bank

Talk shows and soap operas for peace

DCFRN Action

Mega FM promotes conflict resolution in northern Uganda

DCFRN Script of the Week

“Survival” Crops Provide Food During Times of Need

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African Farm News in Review

You are welcome to use the news stories below in any way that suits your radio organization. You may wish to read one or more of the news stories directly onto the air, adapt them to be more relevant to your audience, or simply use them as ideas for news stories to research locally. However you use the African Farm News in Review, we would like to know! Please post a comment on FRW’s online site or e-mail farmradioweekly@farmradio.org.

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1. Mali: Campaign for biodiesel intensifies but farmers remain cautious

By: Idy Sy Diop, for Farm Radio Weekly, in Dakar

Faced with an intense government and industry campaign to grow plants for biodiesel production, Malian farmers have shown some interest but remain cautious.

Zoumana Dembelé is a farmer in Koutiala, in Mali’s Sikasso region. He has allocated 20 per cent of his land to Jatropha curcas, a plant used to produce biodiesel. But he will continue to grow cotton and cereals – cotton to make money and cereals for the survival of his family.

Mr. Dembelé explained that he will begin growing less cotton, since the market for cotton is no longer strong. But he will also remain cautious as he begins growing Jatropha curcas, commonly called jatropha.

The Malian government is encouraging farmers to grow jatropha for biodiesel because the country does not produce oil. Ahmed Diane Séméga is the Minister for Mines, Energy, and Water. Last September, he announced the government’s intention to replace a significant amount of Mali’s diesel use with biodiesel in the next decade or two.

At current prices, biodiesel made from jatropha is sold for a third of the price of regular diesel.
In some areas of southern Mali, jatropha has been grown for more almost a decade. It has been used to shield farms against wind and predators. Now, it is being planted as a cash crop.
But farmers have good reason to think twice before replacing their crops with jatropha. Cissé Seydou is a campaigner for a private company in the Sikasso region. He knows that farmers have been encouraged to start new products in the past, only to have it end in failure.

Farmers may also be discouraged by jatropha’s long growing cycle. It takes three years of cultivation from planting to harvest.

While farmers in some areas are being pressured to grow jatropha to meet the country’s energy needs, farmers in places like Keleya, also in southern Mali, have quietly begun using biodiesel to run their tractors and grinding machines.

Far from the hype of the government and industry campaign – biodiesel production remains on a small scale, serving local farmers and small rural industries.

Biodiesel is also catching on in the capital of Bamako and other Malian cities. Faced with the ever increasing cost of oil, some mechanics are adapting car engines for biodiesel, and some families and small business are using biodiesel power generators.

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2. Kenya: Violence forces farmers to flee, threatens food supply (Various Sources, allAfrica.com)

Just a few weeks ago, Danson Kariuki enjoyed a comfortable life. He ran a milk business, owned a house and a vehicle. But the last time he saw his farm, it was burning to the ground. It had been set ablaze by an angry mob.Mr. Kariuki is one of hundreds of thousands of Kenyans who fled their homes to escape the violence that followed December’s election. He took shelter at a makeshift camp in Uganda. He says he has nothing to go back to.

Livestock looting and arson have destroyed countless farms. On others, crops go untended because farmers were forced to abandon their land. On others still, food rots because the threat of attacks prevents shipping.

Those farmers who watched their crops burn or go to waste live in some of Kenya’s most important food-producing areas. This causes concern that the entire country could suffer from a food shortage – even if the violence ends soon.

The Rift Valley province is called Kenya’s breadbasket. It was one of the areas hardest hit by violence. At this time, farmers should be harvesting maize and preparing to plant more. But the Famine Early Warning Systems Network cautions that 20 per cent of maize crops have not been planted. The price of maize has already increased in cities.

The price of milk is expected to go up, too. Twenty million litres of milk production have already been lost. The Central, northern Rift Valley, and Western provinces are called the country’s milk pot. At this time of year, much of the milk is processed into powder. The powder is stocked for the country’s dry season, when milk is in higher demand.

Machira Gichohi is the Managing Director of the Kenya Dairy Board. He noted that even when farmers return home, it will take time to restock cattle and begin producing milk again.

Kenya’s neighbours are also affected. Shipping food and other products is more difficult because fuel prices have skyrocketed and the port of Mombasa was disrupted for a time.

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3. Africa: United Nations acts to boost food production this season (United Nations’ Integrated Regional Information Networks)

In many African countries, the cost of putting bread on the table has risen. Supplies of basic foods are low, making them more expensive to buy. Depending on the country, someone shopping for a loaf of bread or a sack of grain can pay up to 50 per cent more than last year.

The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, or FAO, worries that food could become so scarce in food-importing countries that even those with money will not be able to purchase it. The organization is concerned that some of these countries simply won’t be able to import enough food for its citizens.

So the FAO is spending 17 million US dollars, or 11 million Euros, to help avert a potential food crisis. The money will be used to quickly boost food production in some poor countries that normally have to import food. Farmers will be provided with fertilizer and corn, rice, and sorghum seeds this growing season, to help increase their yields.

Jacques Diouf is the Executive Director of the FAO. He acknowledges that the multimillion-dollar support fund for farmers is a quick fix, and that longer-term solutions are required. He says that better water management is needed to help ensure farmers can produce crops, even when the climate is poor.

Global food stocks are the lowest ever recorded. Over the past year, droughts and floods have destroyed crops in many parts of the world. Increasing oil prices have also made it more expensive to ship food.

At the same time, food is in higher demand. More people in Asia and Latin America are eating meat, driving up demand for animal feed. Cereal crops are also being used to produce biofuels.

The FAO is urging governments and aid agencies to join its effort to boost local food production.

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4. Africa: Cell phones help farmers and traders do business more efficiently (Farm Radio Weekly, AfricaNews.com)

Usu Phoebe Mbasounn is a cassava trader in Nigeria. These days, she trades in the “silent market.” With the touch of a few buttons on her cell phone, Madame Cassava, as she calls herself, checks the market price and puts in her offer. In an instant, the deal is done and the cassava is sold.Madame Cassava conducts her business through a service called Tradenet. Tradenet is one of the new Internet platforms helping farmers save money and get the best price for their crops.

Tradenet allows farmers to post their products and selling price online. Text messages are then sent to people looking to buy the product. Farmers can also receive real-time market price updates on their cell phones.

Akuffo Kofi is a member of the Ghana Agricultural Producers and Traders Organization. It used to cost him time and money to take his harvest to market. But, thanks to Tradenet, he can use his cell phone to find buyers while his crops are still ripening in the fields. Some buyers will even send trucks to Mr. Kofi’s farm to pick up their merchandise.

But Tradenet is not the only service thrusting African agriculture into the virtual world.

In South Africa, 47 sugarcane farmers in the Pongola region are participating in a pilot project that uses a weather station, the Internet, and cell phone technology to help them plan irrigation.

Themba Mthembu is one of the first farmers to use this system. He receives text messages in his mother tongue suggesting when he should start, stop, or continue irrigating his sugar plantations. These alerts could help Mthembu reduce his irrigation costs by up to 300 US dollars, or about 200 Euros, per hectare.

As with Tradenet, the South African farmers participating in the irrigation project also receive text messages updating them on the latest market prices.

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Notes to Broadcasters on jatropha and biodiesel:

If you have heard or read anything about biofuel production in the last year or so, you have probably heard about the plant Jatropha curcas, or simply jatropha. As our special report from correspondent Idy Sy Diop explains, jatropha can be processed into biodiesel, which is currently much less expensive than regular diesel. In Mali, a litre of biodiesel costs FCFA 150 (US$0.33 or 0.23 Euros) against FCA 510 for regular diesel (US$1.12 or 0.78 Euros).

There has been a lot of excitement about jatropha because it can grow in semi-arid regions where other crops cannot. However, the farmers from our news story are not alone in their scepticism about the plant. Many food security advocates are concerned that if farmers are pushed into growing jatropha or other biofuel plants, they may not produce enough food for their families and communities.

For more information on jatropha, please see the DCFRN script entitled Jatropha – Not Just a BioFuel Crop! (Package 80, Script 7, March 2007):

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 selling crops for biofuel production?
-If a biofuel processing plant is planned for 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 violence in Kenya:

The immediate human toll of Kenya’s post-election violence has been widely reported. We know that an estimated 600 people have been killed and more than 200,000 people have fled their homes. In this first instalment of FRW’s four-part series on food and conflict, we look at how violent conflict in certain areas of Kenya may impact food security across the country.

As the news story states, some of the areas hardest hit by violence are also important food-producing regions. Food production has been affected in many ways, beyond the impacts of farmers fleeing violence. In some cases, farms have been burned and livestock and other productive assets stolen or destroyed. In other cases, farmers who stayed on their land are unable to get their food to markets because fuel prices are high and roads unsafe. There are also reports of farmers being unable to access basic agricultural supplies. As we hope for a swift and peaceful resolution to the conflict in Kenya, we know that it will take time for food production to be re-established.

While researching this story, we came across other examples of food production and cash crop agriculture being affected, including:
-Fishers on the Kenyan side of Lake Victoria unable to access fuel for their boats, or stopping their fish harvest because they have no refrigeration and can’t get their fish to market on time;
-Hundreds of sugar plantations in the Nyando and South Nyanza sugar belt set ablaze by arsonists;
-Tea plantations under-harvested in the Kericho District – the centre of Kenya’s tea production – as more than a third of employees have fled violence;
-Flower farmers reporting huge losses because of shipping difficulties and the high cost of security to prevent looting.

If you wish to explore the subject of conflict and food security in your area, here are some questions that may help you start:
-If your broadcast area is experiencing an ongoing violent conflict, what are farmers doing to cope?
– If your broadcast area has recovered from a conflict in recent years (or decades), what strategies did farmers and farmers’ associations use to re-build agriculture production and distribution systems?
-What methods do communities in your broadcast area use to resolve disputes? Can you find an example of a community that resolved an important dispute?

Please see this week’s Radio Resource Bank and DCFRN Action for information and examples of how radio can promote peace and conflict resolution. You may also consider using the Script of the Week, as it provides practical advice about “survival crops.”

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Notes to Broadcasters on FAO fund:

Many of you have likely heard of – if not experienced firsthand – the global trend towards higher food prices. As our correspondent in Dakar, Idy Sy Diop, reported in Issue 3 of FRW, farmers who have produce to sell generally welcome higher food prices:
http://weekly.farmradio.org/2007/12/17/1-west-africa-rising-cereal-prices-welcomed-by-farmers-but-raise-concern-among-authorities-written-by-idy-sy-diop-for-farm-radio-weekly-in-dakar/.

But for those who must purchase food, including farmers hit with drought or flooding, rising food prices are cause for concern. Over the past several months, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has warned of a potential crisis in some food-importing countries due to low food supplies. On January 14, the FAO held a press conference in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, to announce a US$17 million (11 million Euro) fund to quickly boost agriculture production in 50 countries that are normally dependent on food imports. At the time of our publication, the FAO had not released the list of countries that will benefit from this fund, or what mechanisms will be used to reach farmers with fertilizer and seeds. We will continue to seek out this information and will provide the details, as they become available, in future issues of FRW.

You may consider hosting a call-in show on which people in your broadcast area can share their experiences with food supply and prices:
-How do farmers rate their food yields this year, compared with last year?
-Are farmers receiving more or less for their produce than they did last year?
-What price differences have people noticed in their local markets or food stores?
-If food prices are higher, how has this affected people’s ability to feed their family and purchase other necessities?
-What are farmers and communities doing to ensure reliable access to food, even when imported foods are not accessible?

Radio organizations in West Africa, in particular, may wish to refer to a press release from the United Nations’ Integrated Regional Information Networks, which describes how global and regional trends are causing food prices to rise in this region:
http://allafrica.com/stories/200801180830.html.

You may also wish to browse through DCFRN’s past scripts on the subjects of crop production (http://farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/crop.asp) and food processing and storage (http://farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/food.asp), and air one or more that are most relevant to your listeners.

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Notes to Broadcasters on mobile phones and agriculture:

As you see in this article, cell phones can save farmers time and money by sending and receiving information about weather conditions for their crops or market prices for their products.

According to the United Nations’ International Telecommunication Union, cellular subscribers accounted for about 75 per cent of all African phone users in 2004.

Effective communication methods, such as cell phones, have improved competitiveness among traders, which can ultimately mean better prices for farmers.

You may wish to gauge the opinion of your listeners or do research for a story about cellular technologies and agriculture. Here are some questions that might help you:
– How do farmers in your area sell their products?
– Do farmers in your area have access to cell phones? If so, do they use an SMS system to receive market prices or sell their goods?
– Have farmers in your area increased their incomes by using cellular technologies?
– Do farmers use their cell phones to receive and exchange other information that could help them in their fields?

If you interview farmers who use mobile technology, we would be very interested to hear their stories. Email hmiller@farmradio.org, or add their stories to the FRW website in the comments section of the article “Africa: Farmers do business over cell phones”

Other resources on SMS and Internet technology for farmers:
-The official website of Tradenet is offered in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese: www.tradenet.biz.
-A short video about Tradenet operations in Ghana:

-Video of a farmer who has benefited from the services of Tradenet SMS:

– A similar project to Tradenet in Kenya – Kenya Agriculture Commodity Exchange (KACE): http://www.mistowa.org/files/mis_training2005/presentations/C4_KACE_Linking_smallholder_farmers_to_markets_ (Ochieng_KACE_en).pdf.
http://www.nextbillion.net/node/1253/print.
-Xam Marsé, a service that sends daily text messages on the prices and products in the markets of Senegal: http://www.manobi.sn/sites/sn/.

– E-agriculture: http://www.e-agriculture.org/home.html?&no_cache=1&L=1.

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Upcoming Events

This section is a place to share information about events and training opportunities related to agriculture, rural development, radio broadcasting, or other topics of interest. If you know of an event or training opportunity that may interest other radio organizations, please post a comment on FRW’s website http://weekly.farmradio.org/ or e-mail the details to farmradioweekly@farmradio.org.

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March 10-18, 2008: “Biofuels Grad School” for small-scale producers

A workshop for small, medium, and micro enterprises (SMMEs) will be part of this year’s African Biofuels conference in Johannesburg, South Africa. The “Biofuels Grad School” includes six sessions designed to provide small-scale producers with the fundamental business knowledge needed to participate in the biofuels sector. Conference organizers expect 400 SMME representatives to attend, and say it will be an opportunity for small-scale producers to share ideas and meet potential business partners. The cost of the workshop for small-scale producers is 1,500 Rand (about US$210 or 145 Euros) and includes access to the conference exhibition. More information about the conference and SMME sessions is available at: http://www.africanbiofuels.co.za/.

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Radio Resource Bank

When we hear about a resource that may help you in your radio work, we will post it here in the Radio Resource Bank. This is a great place to share your best tips and favourite online resources with the FRW community. Please post a comment on the FRW website (http://weekly.farmradio.org/), or e-mail farmradioweekly@farmradio.org and we’ll share it in the next Radio Resource Bank.

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Talk shows and soap operas for peace

Radio for Peacebuilding, Africa, has produced practical guides on how to use popular radio show formats to promote peace and conflict resolution. “Radio Talkshows for Peacebuilding: A Guide” explains that talk shows can intensify conflict and promote fear among listeners – but they can also be agents of peace. The guide includes practical information on hosting talk shows, strengths and weaknesses of different formats, and tips to ensure that shows are sensitive to conflict issues. Another guide, “How to produce a radio soap opera for conflict prevention/resolution” includes information for the project manager, trainer, and scriptwriters. It talks about how a soap with intriguing characters and plot twists can subtly change the way its listeners think so that they are less likely to engage in violence and more likely to reason. All of Radio for Peacebuilding, Africa’s guides can be found online, here: http://www.radiopeaceafrica.org/index.cfm?lang=en&context_id=3&context=manuals.

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DCFRN Action

This section is devoted to news about DCFRN and the many partners in our network. We look forward to hearing news about your radio organization so that we can share it with the FRW community! If you would like to tell us about a new program, successful event, or any other news about your organization, please post a comment on the FRW website, or e-mail farmradioweekly@farmradio.org and we will post your story in the next issue.

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Mega FM promotes conflict resolution in northern Uganda

DCFRN partner Mega FM was created to provide northern Ugandans with information that would increase their opportunities to engage with peace and development issues, as a way of promoting peaceful conflict resolution. The station carries a wide range of programs, including news, drama, cultural events, and other specific programs covering themes in development, human rights, and conflict reduction.It counts among its successes a role in averting violence between ethnic groups by broadcasting peace messages and giving airtime to the authorities to appeal for calm following killings at Barlonyo, Lira. Project organizers state that “evidence also suggests that the station played a major part in encouraging Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) members to come out of the bush.” On August 29, 2006, the deputy leader of the LRA called Mega FM and used it to declare an end of hostilities following a signing of an agreement between the government of Uganda and the LRA.

Mega FM was launched in August 2002 as part of a five-year joint initiative by the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development and the Government of Uganda. The radio station is now fully self-sustaining from advertising revenue and sponsored programs.

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DCFRN script of the week

While DCFRN scripts are always available online at http://www.farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/, we will use this section to highlight some of our new scripts, as well as past favourites that are still relevant today. If you would like to nominate a script for next week’s DCFRN Script of the Week, please post a comment on the FRW website at: http://weekly.farmradio.org/, or e-mail farmradioweekly@farmradio.org.

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“Survival” Crops Provide Food During Times of Need

As we begin our news series on conflict and food, we would like to re-introduce a package of scripts from June 2003 that dealt with similar issues. “Rebuilding rural lives and livelihoods” is the theme of Package 67. It includes scripts that talk about community conflict resolution, health and food security in refugee camps, and re-establishing agriculture and community life following armed conflict. You can always view past scripts by subject, or in chronological order, at: http://www.farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/.

The news story about farmers in Kenya who were forced to flee their land reminds us how quickly a conflict can put food security at risk. For this reason, we chose to highlight Script 2 from Package 67, which talks about crops that can survive harsh conditions, even when untended.

http://farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/67-2script_en.asp

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