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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.

Past Issues

Farm Radio International helps broadcaster become weather expert

Rotlinde Achimpota from Radio Mambo Jambo

Mambo Jambo Radio, affectionately known to its listeners as MJ, is a music and entertainment radio station based in Arusha, Tanzania. But in a first for MJ, its newest program focuses on agriculture and how to engage young people in farming.

Kilimo na Jamii, or Farming and society, hit the airwaves in northern Tanzania in June of this year. The program’s host, Rotlinde Achimpota, is no stranger to farming. She grows maize, cassava, pumpkins and potatoes in her kitchen garden in Usa River, about 25 kilometres east of Arusha.

Kilimo na Jamii is a 30-minute farmer radio program which airs every Saturday. Ms. Achimpota features farming advice from local agricultural extension officers and stories about successful farmers. But the highlights of the show are the two weather reports, during which Ms. Achimpota provides critical weather information for farmers in the station’s listening area.

Ms. Achimpota spent three months at The Hangar, Farm Radio International’s Arusha-based Radio and ICT Innovation Lab. There, she honed her skills as the reporter and producer of Beep for Weather. This is a mobile phone-based weather forecast which includes advice for farmers on how to use the forecast.

Ms. Achimpota receives weather data from the Tanzania Meteorological Agency and Toto Agriculture. She takes this data to extension officer Digna Massawe, who helps her provide listeners with an accurate weather forecast and meaningful analysis. During a three-month trial, farmers found the service useful; weather patterns have become erratic recently because of the changing climate.

Ms. Achimpota says her work with FRI helped her become more comfortable recording and editing the interviews and news items on her radio program. She says, “I’m becoming a radio producer. I do the [radio] program all by myself. I prepare it every week.”

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Women face many challenges after conflict

Stress, confusion, grief and anguish are emotions frequently experienced by people in conflicts or in emergency situations. The following script is intended to encourage discussion about these feelings. It includes a radio drama-style discussion among three village women, and testimonials from a relief worker and from a man who has returned home after a war. You could use them as individual stories, or broadcast them together as one longer program.

There are other ways that broadcasters can help people in their community, and especially women, deal with emotions during or after conflict:

  1. Reinforce the idea that it is normal for people to have strong feelings in these types of situations. When you interview local people, include questions that invite them to talk about their own lives and families. However, leave discussion of traumatic events to trained counsellors.
  2. Promote community events and encourage listeners to attend. It is more difficult for people to deal with complex emotions when they are isolated. Support efforts to bring people together.
  3. Create special programming for women. This can take many forms – group discussions, interviews, or radio dramas. Invite women to call the radio station if they need help from the community. For example, a woman might be looking for lost relatives, or need help with child care or chores.


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Cameroon: Job seeker begins new life with donated cow (by Anne Mireille Nzouankeu, for Farm Radio Weekly)

Mary Nfor Ngwa begins each morning by visiting her cows. She checks their stalls, and she strokes and talks to them. As she feeds one of her cows, she says, “This cow has changed my life. My hopes are renewed.”

Mrs. Nfor Ngwa taught for nine years in a private elementary school in Bamenda, the capital of Northwest Region. But the school closed in 2009 after a fire. There was no money to renovate, so the school could not reopen. Mrs. Nfor Ngwa lost her job. Unable to find another teaching position, she returned to her home in Santa, a village 25 kilometres south of Bamenda.

A neighbour invited Ms. Nfor Ngwa to join a local group and add her name to the waiting list for a donated cow. She remembers that day well. She recalls, “The suggestion made me smile. As a graduate teacher, I did not see myself as a cowherd. I regarded it to be a backward step.”

The NGO Heifer International had started a cow donation scheme in a nearby village. The idea attracted a group of young people in Santa so much that they adopted it for themselves.

Peter Mbu had received a donated cow a few years earlier than Mrs. Nfor Ngwa, and encouraged her to become a cowherd. He explains: “The cow donation system relies on the fact that a person receives a dairy cow from a community member. When the cow gives birth, that person gives [the calf] to another female member of the community, and so on.” Farmers receive a cow free of charge, provided that they agree to pass on a free heifer calf. Before they can receive a cow, they must provide suitable housing for the animal.

So Mrs. Nfor Ngwa signed up. She says, “About six months after I registered, I received a dairy cow, and I said to myself, ‘What am I going to do now?’”

With the help of her group members, Ms. Nfor Ngwa has adapted to her new life. She makes a better living than she did as a teacher. She says, “I have gradually expanded my herd. I sell the calves. I also sell yogurt made ​​from the cows’ milk. I recently bought a freezer with the income from my cows.”

Despite her new occupation, Mrs. Nfor Ngwa has not forgotten teaching. With a broad smile, she says: “I would like to start classes in the holidays to teach young people the love of farming, and to challenge their belief that farming and livestock-rearing are reserved for those who have failed elsewhere.”

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South Sudan: War veterans plant for peace (IPS)

Along the fertile banks of the White Nile, a war veterans’ co-operative is planting a garden for peace and a food secure future in South Sudan. The garden is like a cornucopia in a country facing a potential famine.

Wilson Abisai Lodingareng is the founder of the Werithior Veteran’s Association, or WVA, in Juba, the capital city of South Sudan. He explains: “I have seven active members in the group, all former SPLA [Sudan People’s Liberation Army] troops. I call them when it’s time to weed the garden. I visit once a day, each morning, to check the health of the crops and to see what’s ready for the market.”

The WVA members grow one and a half hectares of vegetables on the banks of the Nile River, six kilometres outside Juba. Mr. Lodingareng says it was a struggle to obtain this prime but idle agricultural land. Many international investors had also expressed interest. It took him almost three years to acquire a lease from the community which owns the land.

Simon Agustino is the program officer at the Mennonite Central Committee, or MCC, in South Sudan. He remembers Mr. Lodingareng visiting the MCC office to ask for assistance with a proposal. Mr. Agustino recalls, “The veterans had no hope and no way to provide for their families. People thought he was wasting his time with digging. But he didn’t give up.”

MCC provided Mr. Lodingareng with capital to lease the land, pay for training in fruit and vegetable production, and buy farm supplies and tools.

Mr. Agustino says, “Finally he got land. [It] is now yielding and his crops are being sold at the market … more veterans are considering joining.”

The WVA veterans are members of several South Sudanese tribes. The association’s work demonstrates that agriculture is one way for people to look beyond tribal differences and work together. The group has transformed their field from a wasteland of long grasses and weeds to a garden bursting with leafy vegetables and herbs.

The co-operative started by growing okra, kale, mulukhiyah (jute leaves) and coriander. Mr. Lodingareng says, “These … crops [mature] quickly, within one to two months. Okra is harvested every three to four days.”

Mr. Lodingareng sees the group expanding into surrounding land which is currently fallow. He says, “I’m looking at … crops like maize, potatoes, carrots and eggplant. The first year has been a struggle. The next year should be much better.”

According to Mr. Agustino, many SPLA veterans engage in crime rather than finding work. But Mr. Lodingareng refused to turn to cattle raiding or robbery. He has a vision for the future of South Sudan. He says: “I did my part to put my country on the path to self-determination. Now my approach is to work hard. Me, I will do anything that can pull me out of poverty and improve my situation financially.”

He believes it’s never too late to take up farming. He says, “The political climate has discouraged many from planting this season. But if everyone planted gardens, things will improve.”

To read the article on which this story was based, War veterans planting for peace in South Sudan, go to: http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/war-veterans-planting-for-peace-in-south-sudan/

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Zimbabwe: Elderly farmers neglected by government and NGOs (IRIN)

Girazi Mukumbaa farms in Wedza, about 160 kilometres southwest of the capital, Harare. The 64-year-old is “old school” when it comes to agricultural practices. He uses cow dung to fertilize his maize, relies on local herbs to treat his cattle, and avoids chemical fertilizers.

In recent years, Mr. Mukumbaa’s crops have repeatedly failed during dry spells. He would like to raise chickens or pigs to help sustain his family, but his age is proving to be a hindrance; community-based organizations think he is too old to merit assistance.

Wonder Chabikwa is the president of the Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union, or ZCFU. He says that younger farmers receive better support from NGOs. Young people are perceived as more energetic and easier to communicate with. Older people are often ignored, even though many households are dependent on their care and guidance.

The United Nations defines elderly people as those who are aged 60 and above. According to the UN Population Fund, six per cent of Zimbabwe’s population, over three-quarters of a million people, are elderly.

David Phiri is the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s sub-regional coordinator for southern Africa and Zimbabwe. He says: “Elderly persons make a great contribution to household food production in rural areas. They face the heavy burden of looking after [extended] families, as younger persons leave home to look for jobs elsewhere.”

Agricultural and food production experts say elderly people still make a significant contribution to household food security through farming. But older farmers are excluded from mainstream support programs such as those promoting techniques for adapting to climate change.

Mr. Chabikwa says older farmers, like younger ones, need training on soil management, adapting to climate change, marketing and diversification. He adds that households headed by elderly farmers are often more vulnerable to food shortages.

Many elderly people did not benefit from Zimbabwe’s fast-track land redistribution program, begun in the year 2000, when 4,500 white-owned farms were redistributed to about 300,000 small-scale farmers.

Innocent Makwiramiti is a Harare-based independent economist. He says: “This means that most [elderly farmers] remain farming on tired soils in largely dry areas that require much fertilizer and water, and [need] a great deal of farming support.”

Mr. Mukumbaa does not understand why he is routinely bypassed by officers from the Agriculture Ministry’s extension services and NGOs. He says: “Young men and women who have been told why there are so many droughts these days have no time to explain these things to old people like me. They say I am too old and therefore cannot understand a thing.”

Mr. Chabikwa says: “The irony about smallholder farming in Zimbabwe is that government and other stakeholders generally do not acknowledge the contributions that the elderly make to food production for families and the nation.”

To read the article on which this story was based, Zimbabwe’s neglected elderly farmers, go to: http://www.irinnews.org/report/100566/zimbabwe-s-neglected-elderly-farmers

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FarmQuest reality radio in Mali: Now available on SoundCloud and YouTube

The vast majority of the labour force in Mali is engaged in subsistence farming. But many young people do not see agriculture as a career that can lead them out of poverty. Youth unemployment in Mali is high.

Many young people see farming as a symbol of poverty and wish to distance themselves from it. Too often, they remain unemployed when the best opportunity to earn a decent living is right in front of them: farming.

Farm Radio International believes agriculture can provide a good livelihood for young farmers. FarmQuest, or Daba Kamalen in the Bambara language, is an innovative reality radio series which is broadcast from Fana, Mali. The series encourages youth to consider farming as a profitable business, and not just a means of subsistence.

FarmQuest follows six young candidates who are competing for the title of “Mali’s best new farmer.”

You can learn more about FarmQuest at: http://www.farmradio.org/portfolio/farmquest-promoting-farming-as-a-sustainable-employment-option-for-youth-in-mali/

Listen to all FarmQuest episodes on SoundCloud (with English transcripts):https://soundcloud.com/farmradio/sets/farmquest-reality-radio-in

YouTube videos show the candidates and the radio station operations. You can watch them at: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL8WMEQQs0bi_FkrXKKKtGLv1wFh7g_sWd

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Dairy farmers reap the benefits of working together in a co-operative society

Agriculture is the backbone of most African economies, yet farmers are among the poorest people on the continent. There are many challenges confronting the agriculture sector in Africa, including limited access to farming inputs, poor infrastructure, lack of access to markets, and the changing climate.

Farmers need creative ways to improve their income and food security, and governments need to create a favourable environment which helps farmers make a good return on their businesses.

Farmers benefit when they pull together in organized ways to solve their challenges. The co-operative movement provides an opportunity for farmers to improve their income and food security through their own efforts.

This script captures the experiences of people involved in a successful dairy co-operative in the Rift Valley Province of Kenya.


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Ebola, fowls and fodder

A hearty welcome awaits you in Farm Radio Weekly! Issue #303 covers the ongoing Ebola outbreak in West Africa, and investigates how to improve livelihoods with farm livestock.

As the Ebola virus continues to affect countries across West Africa, citizens are being encouraged to seek treatment as soon as they notice symptoms. Quick action could be the key to survival.

What do you do when you retire? Ruth Nalunkuma, a former nurse in Kampala, is keeping chickens and intends to sell eggs to meet the needs of her extended family. She encourages other urban dwellers to do the same.

Although nutritionally balanced and efficient, commercial feeds can be expensive and out of reach for small-scale farmers. But Chrissy Kimu found that, with some planning and a bit of spare land, nutritious feeds can grow on trees!

Catch up with The Adventures of Neddy the Paravet. In the Script of the Week, Neddy tells us to grow fodder trees and shrubs. Their nutritious leaves and seeds are an excellent addition to diets for goats and cows.

Farm Radio International is presenting the 2014 George Atkins Communication Award to three African broadcasters. In the Action section this week, we profile the first of the winners, the late Mfaume Zabibu Kikwato of Tanzania.

Keep broadcasting!

the Farm Radio Weekly team

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West Africa: Early treatment brings light to Ebola gloom (IRIN)

More than 1,400 have died as a result of the Ebola crisis in West Africa since the disease was first recorded in March of this year. But although medical scientists have not yet identified a cure, some of those who sought treatment early have recovered from the virus.

Current Ebola treatments mainly relieve the symptoms. They ease the headaches, fever and muscle pains triggered by the virus, and cope with the vomiting and diarrhoea.

Julie Damond is the spokesperson for Médecins Sans Frontières, or MSF, in West Africa. She says, “We can’t do anything else because there is no treatment for the virus. The only thing we can do is help the body fight the virus and develop immunity.”

A patient’s body can sometimes rebuild its defences and restore health. According to the World Health Organization, or WHO, nearly half of the patients in the current West African outbreak have recovered.

It’s not clear why some people die and others recover. Ms. Damond says, “It is impossible to know when a patient is admitted whether they will recover or not. It’s not about age or gender.” But it appears that the earlier the disease is tackled, the better the chance of surviving.

Those who are most at risk of contracting Ebola are the doctors and nurses who treat patients, and the families who look after sick relatives at home. More than 120 health workers in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone have died of Ebola during the current outbreak, according to WHO.

These deaths have caused panic, causing the already weak health systems in the area to become more dysfunctional than ever. Some families are shunning hospitals, seeing danger rather than an offer of help. Liberia and Sierra Leone have declared the outbreak a national emergency and are using quarantine measures to prevent further spread. It is now illegal to keep Ebola patients away from treatment centres in Sierra Leone.

Distrust of governments and public institutions is difficult to overcome. But, while Ebola is a serious and often fatal disease, some people have returned to their communities after completely recovering in treatment centres.

The stories of patients who have recovered from Ebola may offer hope and bolster trust in conventional medical approaches to the disease, and the preventive measures that aim to avoid risky exposure to Ebola patients.

Melvin Korkor is a 44-year-old Liberian doctor who recently recovered from Ebola. Dr. Korkor tested positive for Ebola in July. He and five nurses were transferred to the capital, Monrovia, for treatment. Unfortunately, all his colleagues died.

Dr. Korkor says: “[I received] the same treatment that was given to the other Ebola patients. There was no special treatment because I am a doctor… [but] today I am back home and reunited with my family.”

When Dr. Korkor returned to his community, some of his neighbours were afraid to go near him. But Larry Tonnie is one neighbour who is encouraged by the doctor’s recovery. He says, “We are glad to have him back. Now we know that there are people who can get cured of Ebola once you check yourself in on time.”

MSF spokeswoman, Ms. Damond, says, “What we have seen in this outbreak is that when people come early to be treated, they have a better chance of surviving. This is a message we are trying to get out there so that people understand.”

To read the full article on which this story was based, Silver lining in Ebola gloom, go to: http://www.irinnews.org/report/100540/silver-lining-in-ebola-gloom

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Malawi: Fodder trees bring hope to dairy farmers (By Mark Ndipita, for Farm Radio Weekly)

It is four o’clock in the morning, but Chrissy Kimu is already warming water to wash her two dairy cows’ udders. She pours lukewarm water into a bucket, then wakes her husband to help her in the cowshed.

Mrs. Kimu is a small-scale dairy farmer from Chilenga, a village about 90 kilometres south of Lilongwe. Dairy farming has become her main source of income, and allows her to support her family.

Back in 2007, she almost gave up the dairy business. High feed costs were eating up her profits. She recalls, “I lost hope since I could not manage to buy expensive feed from shops, and I started experiencing a decrease in milk production.”

Rather than quitting, she was advised by an extension worker to plant “fodder trees” in her maize field. The seeds and leaves supplemented her cows’ diet and improved milk production. She no longer had to rely on expensive commercial dairy mash feeds.

A 50-kilogram bag of commercial dairy feed costs about $25 U.S., and each cow can finish one bag a week.

Within two years of planting the fodder trees, things had started to change for the better. Mrs. Kimu was incorporating the leaves and seeds from the maturing fodder trees in her cattle feed. She says: “[These trees] are incredible because they have rekindled hope in my family life. When I started feeding them to my cows, I started experiencing an increase in milk production.”

Mrs. Kimu planted the white-ball acacia (Acacia angustissima) and a Mexican species known as Leucaena pallida. She mixes dried leaves and seeds from the trees with salt, maize husks, soya and other ingredients to make feed.

Before the fodder trees, each cow produced between eight and 15 litres of milk a day. Now, their yields have nearly doubled and Mrs. Kimu is making a profit.

In 2010, she joined a local milk bulking group, which buys milk from farmers for 25 U.S. cents a litre. Because of the increased milk yields, Mrs. Kimu now makes about $300 U.S. per month.

She says, “Other farmers in the group were amazed seeing how [much milk] I was able to sell … without buying feed from the market.” Several group members planted fodder trees for themselves after seeing Mrs. Kimu’s success.

Levisoni Chimpesa is also a dairy farmer. His cows mainly eat maize husks and other crop residues. He planted fodder trees last year after seeing Mrs. Kimu cash in. His trees are still immature but he’s looking forward to the coming years. He explains: “Because I do not have proper feeds, I get 10 to 15 litres of milk from my cow per day, which is low compared to what Mrs. Kimu gets.”

Alfred Siliwonde is the agricultural veterinary officer for the area. He says poor feed management often affects milk production. Many farmers depend solely on crop residues in the dry season and grass in the rainy season.

Mr. Siliwonde adds: “Now that they have seen the benefits of fodder trees … it is very important to encourage farmers and equip them with knowledge and skills in managing these trees.” He advises farmers to take good care of the fodder trees. After the maize harvest, the trees are often exposed to damage by bushfires and roaming livestock.

Mrs. Kimu advises dairy farmers who are struggling with high feed costs to plant fodder trees. She says: “Some farmers are over-relying on expensive purchased feed [and] as a result they do not make a profit. Farmers should plant [fodder trees], which have helped me to pay school fees and buy an ox cart.”

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FRW news in brief

Farm Radio Weekly has a new trial resource for you: Farmer news briefs. These are stories from across the continent which have been adapted from print or online sources and are suitable for use in your regular farm radio program. Read them, edit them, broadcast them, localize them, or simply use them as background info. Want more details? Click the link under the story to see the original article.

Please let us know what you think. Do you want to see Farmer news briefs in Farm Radio Weekly on a regular basis? Email us at farmradioweekly@farmradio.org

1-West Africa: Translating information on the Ebola outbreak

The NGO Translators without borders is providing free translation of Ebola fact sheets.

The translations provide preventive information on Ebola in local languages such as Fulani, Krio and Mandiké, as well as in French.

The fact sheets tell readers how to recognize the symptoms of the Ebola virus, how to treat it, and how to prevent it from spreading to other people.

To read the full article, go to: http://translatorswithoutborders.org/node/121

2-Cape Verde: Archipelago turns to local vegetable production

There has been a huge increase in island-grown food in Cape Verde over the last three years.

Investment in new agricultural technologies such as drip irrigation has helped increase local harvests. On the tourist-friendly islands of Sal and Boa Vista, vegetable production has increased by 250 per cent since 2011, from 168 tonnes to 608 tonnes.

Official statistics show that vegetable imports to the archipelago have actually decreased by 17 per cent over the same time period.

To read the full article, go to: http://spore.cta.int/en/component/content/article/296-spore/agriculture-and-health-2/10096-horticulture-171-en

3-Sub-Saharan Africa: Poverty and hunger will not end without better management of rainwater

Delegates to a recent World Water Week conference in Sweden have called on the United Nations to address rainwater management in the Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs.

The SDGs will replace the Millennium Development Goals, or MDGs, which expire in 2015, and will be discussed at the UN General Assembly meeting in September.

With the changing climate resulting in more irregular rainfall patterns, effective rainwater management could help millions of small-scale farmers in Africa. The senior scientific advisor to the Stockholm International Water Institute, Malin Falkenmark, says, “There is very limited fresh water [in some regions] and reduced possibility to irrigate, so you have to rely on rain.”

To read the full article, go to: http://www.trust.org/item/20140831204123-hl6xy

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Kikwato Junior: 2014 George Atkins Communication Award winner


The late Mfaume Zabibu Kikwato interviewing Rehema Mshana in Tongwe.

Farm Radio Weekly presents the first in a series of profiles of this year’s three George Atkins Communication Award winners.

The late Mfaume Zabibu Kikwato, or “Kikwato Junior” as he liked to be called by his fans, was the driving force behind the creation of a farmer program at Mwambao FM radio, a station based in Tanga, in the Coastal Region of Tanzania.

He successfully hosted the program, Sauti ya Mkulima or Voice of a Farmer, for almost a year before he died on June 10, 2014. He passed away while his audience, especially female farmers, still needed him.

In a special ceremony on September 3, 2014 at Mwambao FM, FRI’s Managing Editor, Vijay Cuddeford, presented the George Atkins Communications Award to Kikwato Junior’s family.

Kikwato Junior joined Mwambao FM in 2011 and shortly afterwards introduced Sauti ya Mkulima. The program gained a huge following and attracted financial support by local agricultural organizations.

With this funding, Kikwato Junior visited and recorded farmers’ voices in the field, thereby increasing their participation in the program.

In the short period he presented Sauti ya Mkulima, he demonstrated commitment and creativity. He took action after learning that cultural barriers were restricting women farmers from participating in the programs and making their voices heard.

Kikwato challenged the situation by introducing a special hotline for women to call in to the program. This strategy encouraged women farmers to participate. Before the hotline, only 10 per cent of callers were women farmers. Now, women account for half of all calls ─ truly equal participation.

Kikwato Junior also introduced a blog which, among other issues, promotes women rights. The URL is: (www.kikwatojr.blogspot.com).

Though he has sadly passed away, Kikwato’s legacy of ensuring that the voices of women farmers are heard will live on.


From the left: Maimuna Kamoti (Kikwato's mother), Zabibu M. Kikwato (Kikwato's father), Terevael Aremu and Vijay Cuddeford from Farm Radio International during the award ceremony

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The adventures of Neddy the Paravet: Fodder trees provide nutritious livestock feed all year

This week’s story from Malawi highlights the benefits of fodder trees. So does our Script of the week.

A balanced diet provides livestock with water, protein, carbohydrates, fat, minerals and vitamins. These nutrients are essential for growth, reproduction, the production of meat, milk, and eggs; and an animal’s ability to provide transport and traction.

Each animal needs feed that matches its stage of life. Young animals require more protein than older animals, and pregnant and lactating animals need extra minerals and carbohydrates. Ruminants such as cows, sheep and goats eat more grass and straw than pigs, horses and rodents because they have a different kind of digestive system. If an animal’s diet is imbalanced, if minerals or energy are deficient or in excess, it may fall sick, experience difficulties with conception or miscarriage, become unproductive or even die.

When producing programs about livestock nutrition, encourage farmers to answer the following questions:

  1. What are the important components of an animal’s diet?
  2. How can I tell if something is missing, or what is missing?
  3. What happens if there is something missing from my animal’s diet?
  4. How can I ensure that my animals have a good diet?

Farmers should also ensure that their livestock’s diet stays relatively constant throughout the year. This can be difficult because diets vary from season to season, and sometimes from week to week. Also, because it is difficult to produce enough dry feed to save for the off-season, animals often get low-quality roughage and very little grain at that time of year.

Advise farmers to work with local crop specialists and other successful farmers to identify appropriate fodder plants.

This script encourages farmers to plant “fodder trees” or other fodder crops. Fodder trees, shrubs and other plants can supply nutritious livestock feed all year. Some good fodder plants are nitrogen-fixing, so they also improve soils. Let farmers know that they don’t need to use their best land for fodder plants; they can plant them in wooded areas, on rocky land, as fences, along roadsides, or in the terraces of rice paddies.


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New activities, new incomes

Greetings, and welcome to Farm Radio Weekly. Thank you for taking the time to read issue #302. This edition presents three stories about Africans who have improved their fortunes by changing what they do for a living: by branching out into agriculture and livestock, and by selling planting materials.

During the dry season, the level of the Congo River falls, fish become scarce, and it is difficult for fishers to make a profit. But as water levels fall, land becomes available, and an enterprising farmer has found that quick-maturing vegetable crops sell well at the Brazzaville markets.

Families living in squatter camps near Bulawayo have been re-located to new, permanent settlements, but had to leave their livelihoods behind. Now, a new poultry enterprise has started to generate small profits for people who had never imagined themselves as farmers!

Perpetua Okao is profiting from a radio program which highlighted the nutritional benefits of orange-fleshed sweet potatoes. Farmers across northern Uganda call her to order sweet potato planting vines for their fields, and her family is benefitting from the extra cash.

If you want to know more about orange-fleshed sweet potatoes, or your listeners show an interest in the crop, check out our Script of the week below, which features an interview with a Ugandan farmer who talks about her experiences growing the new crop.

So, grab a refreshing drink and kick off your shoes, and enjoy this issue of FRW!

Happy reading!

-the Farm Radio Weekly team

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Congo-Brazzaville: On an island of fishers, the only farmer earns more money than most (by Privat Tiburce Martin Massanga, for Farm Radio Weekly)

It is ten o’clock in the morning. On l’île aux raphias, an island in the majestic Congo River, a fishing village is bustling with activity.

A patch of fine white sand hugs the outskirts of the settlement. Silhouetted against the verdant greenery beyond the sand, a man is almost shouting into his phone: “Hello! Yes, it is me, Célestin, on the phone! Yes. I have tomato, chili and okra plants that will be ready for harvest in two days! How much? And when will you arrive?”

The man with the phone is Célestin Botando. Both fisherman and market gardener, the father of seven is trying to acquaint potential customers with the produce available from his two hectares of vegetables.

Originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mr. Botando is the only farmer in this island fishing community. His tomato, okra and chilli plants grow and mature quickly, and his produce is highly valued in the Brazzaville markets.

He explains, “I ​​chose these plants for reasons of both time and space.” Mr. Botando has only a few months to work his land. During the dry season, the river waters retreat and expose a large tract of land. When the rains return, the island is mostly flooded.

Mr. Botando says, “I can only practice farming between May and September. But that’s enough for me to make a profit.”

For the last two years, he has farmed during the day and fished at night. He is proud of his double life. He lives this way in order to earn enough to pay his children’s school fees and meet the needs of his family in Kinshasa.

Mr. Botando had found it difficult to make ends meet as a fisher because the fish catch drops at the onset of the dry season. But his vegetable sales now offset the seasonal decrease in his income.

He feels fortunate to have an alternative activity during the dry season. He can sell a basket of okra for 10,000 Central African francs [about $20 US], and is able to harvest enough to sell at least 15 baskets a week.

Bonaventure Okombi is the head of the fishing village. He says: “[Mr. Botando] has an advantage in not having to clear his land. He made his fields on land that the river left him. We are proud of his initiative. Maybe it will inspire other fishermen to better occupy themselves at this time of the year.”

Mr. Botando’s niece, Bibi Ilunga, has been helping him since the beginning of the current growing season. She says: “We only have problems when irrigating. We need motorized pumps to make life easier … Can you imagine? We have to water all these plants by hand, morning and evening, and walk quite a way to the river to get the water.”

Ms. Ilunga is disappointed that farming is only an option in the dry season, noting that vegetables bring in more money than fishing. She would prefer it if the farming was year round.

The additional income from his farm helped Mr. Botando to set up a shop which sells goods such as kerosene, soap and canned foods. His only worry is that immigrants from the DRC like himself might be expelled from Congo-Brazzaville. But, he says with a smile, “If we’re not expelled, I think next year I will have more productive fields than these ones here.”

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Zimbabwe: Laying hens change former squatters’ fortunes (by Nqobani Ndlovu, for Farm Radio Weekly)

Vote Munda used to sleep in a bush near the Bulawayo suburb of Trenance. He lived in plastic shelters and survived by panning gold, doing odd jobs or selling scrap metal he scavenged at refuse dumps.

In September 2012, Mr. Munda moved to a permanent shelter. His family was one of the nearly 200 squatter families relocated by the Bulawayo City Council from their squatter camp and to houses in Mazwi new village, a few kilometres west of Bulawayo.

Mr. Munda recalls: “Life was a daily struggle when we started staying at Mazwi, as we had no source of income. There is no gold panning at the village like at the Trenance squatter camp.”

Joel Siziba is another former squatter. He says they had to gather and sell firewood illegally to survive at the new village. Poaching firewood carries a $20 U.S. fine or a sentence of community service.

Mr. Siziba says things were so desperate that they contemplated returning to the squatter camps. There, at least, they could survive on the gold panning that had been their primary source of income.

Albert Mhlanga is the Member of Parliament for the local constituency. He says he was touched by the plight of the former squatters, and managed to get the NGOs World Vision and Masakheni Trust to intervene by helping the squatters start a poultry project.

In late December 2013, the NGOs built three large poultry runs, and in January donated 3,200 laying hens as a start-up.

The project nearly failed. Nearly 1,000 chickens died from disease and from mineral toxicity caused by badly mixed feeds. In the first few months, government veterinary services provided little or no assistance.

But these problems have been resolved and things are looking up. Mr. Mhlanga reports, “We went out of our way to look for experts to teach them proper poultry farming methods.”

The poultry runs are solar-powered to provide artificial daylight in the early morning and evening. Hens require 14 hours of daylight to produce eggs. If day length drops below 12 hours, production decreases and frequently stops.

Mr. Munda says, “This is our new way of life. We sell the eggs to residents at the nearest high-density suburbs.” They sell a tray of 24 eggs for $4 U.S. and share the proceeds amongst the 12 ex-squatters who participate in the project.

Lethukuthula Bhebhe is one of those participants. She says, “I never thought I would be a poultry farmer.” But, says Mrs. Bhebhe, they have to fetch water from five kilometres away. There are no donkey- or ox-drawn carts or even wheelbarrows to ferry the 20-litre jerry cans of water.

She says the poultry farmers need 360 litres of water every day for their laying hens. The project is trying to persuade the donors to sink a borehole for the new farmers.

Mr. Siziba says, “It is not much, but it’s better … this is a legal way of surviving compared to firewood poaching.” He adds, “Things can only get better.”

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Uganda: Farmer profits by branching out into selling sweet potato vines (by Adam Bemma, for Farm Radio Weekly)

Perpetua Okao pulls a ringing mobile phone out of her pocket. She responds to the caller, “Yes, I may still have some vines. How many do you need?”

Mrs. Okao tucks the phone back into her pocket. She explains: “I’m the chairperson of Atego Farmers Women’s Group. We’re not only women farmers. We also have five men in the group. All members grow orange-fleshed sweet potatoes.”

The 63-year-old mother of 10 is a farmer in Atego village, about three kilometres from Lira, in northern Uganda. She grows orange-fleshed sweet potatoes to eat and sell. But she also makes money providing other farmers with the potato vines that are required to plant the crop.

Monica Acan is a broadcaster at Radio Wa, a radio station which targets people in the Lango sub-region, which includes Lira. She is both the host and producer of the Saturday night program, Wa Farmer, which means “Our Farmer” in the local Luo language.

Ms. Acan says: “Perpetua [Okao] is a vine multiplier, which means she grows the crop and [then] sells [the potato vines] to other farmers in the area. She’s the only woman around doing this.”

In July 2013, Farm Radio International and Radio Wa teamed up to launch Poto Wa Tin [Our Garden Today], a program which airs live every Monday evening. It is edited and re-broadcast on Friday afternoons.

At the end of each program, Ms. Acan reads Mrs. Okao’s phone number on air, as well as those of three other vine multipliers in the region. Ms. Acan says: “On the show, I promote orange-fleshed sweet potato, its nutritional aspects, the agronomic practices, as well as marketing and value addition of the crop. It airs in the evening so women farmers returning from the fields can tune in to listen.”

Orange-fleshed sweet potatoes, like carrots, pumpkins and other orange-fleshed foods, are rich in beta-carotene, a compound that the body converts to vitamin A. Vitamin A is important for human growth and development, and also helps maintain the immune system and good vision.

Mrs. Okao feeds the fleshy orange potatoes to her children. She is convinced that they benefit from the sweet, tasty tubers. She advised a friend that the woman’s sick baby twins would benefit if the mother added the nutritious potatoes to her children’s breakfast porridge.

Mrs. Okao reports: “I’m happy to say the twins are both very healthy now. Besides porridge, you can also make bread and juice with orange-fleshed sweet potatoes.”

Mrs. Okao flips through a ledger book with the names and details of farmers who have purchased bags of vines from her, some on numerous occasions. She receives calls from all across northern Uganda. Farmers from as far away as Pader, Kitgum and Gulu have purchased vines.

Mrs. Okao says: “Since I started vine multiplication last year, I have distributed orange-fleshed sweet potato [vines] to 380 farmers. It has improved my household income. I was able to buy pigs and a cow and pay my oldest son’s school fees at a teacher’s training college.”

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FRW news in brief

Farm Radio Weekly has a new trial resource for you: Farmer news briefs. These are stories from across the continent which have been adapted from print or online sources and are suitable for use in your regular farm radio program. Read them, edit them, broadcast them, localize them, or simply use them as background info. Want more details? Click the link under the story to see the original article.

Please let us know what you think. Do you want to see Farmer news briefs in Farm Radio Weekly on a regular basis? Email us at farmradioweekly@farmradio.org

1-Sierra Leone: College radio informs listeners about Ebola

Sierra Leone is now at the epicentre of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Access to affected villages has been hampered by rain and poor roads, but also by rumour and fear.

Radio has an essential role to play by providing accurate information in local languages, and engaging local leaders to help people understand how to avoid spreading the disease.

Independent radio stations have been quick to mobilize in response to the outbreak. They are working together to produce and broadcast programming that responds to the acute need for more information on Ebola.

At Cotton Tree News-Radio in the capital, Freetown, a team of professional and student journalists are reporting on Ebola and hosting live debates which bring together decision-makers and members of national and local governments.

To read the full article, go to: http://hirondelleusa.org/news/ebola-virus-college-radio-in-sierra-leone-fights-against-misinformation/#.U9o33bcgkNU.twitter

2-Guinea: Discouraging bushmeat consumption

Medical teams struggling to curb Ebola in West Africa are discouraging people from eating bushmeat, as some believe this may have caused the outbreak.

A number of factors have contributed to the spread of Ebola, including poor knowledge and superstition, especially in rural communities; cross-border movement; and poor public health infrastructure.

But some rural communities are determined to continue their traditional practices. A resident of Nongoha village in Guéckédou says, “Animal husbandry is not widespread here because bushmeat is easily available. Banning bushmeat means a new way of life, which is unrealistic.”

To read the full article, go to: http://www.irinnews.org/report/100428/ebola-softly-softly-on-bush-meat

3-Africa: Stigma of AIDS still a major barrier to addressing disease

Though West Africa’s massive Ebola outbreak has been dominating the global health spotlight, HIV and AIDS remain enormous issues in Africa.

Uganda’s anti-LGBT environment may explain the nation’s significant increase in new HIV infections, a trend that − with the exception of Angola − has been reversed in most other African nations.

Dr. Deborah Birx is the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, leading all U.S. government international efforts in HIV and AIDS relief. She says, “The AIDS pandemic in southern Africa is the primary cause of death for adolescents, and the primary killer of young women.”

U.S. President Barack Obama recently pledged $200 million U.S. to 10 African countries to help double the number of children on life-saving anti-retroviral drugs.

To read the full article, go to: http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/stigma-still-a-major-roadblock-for-aids-fight-in-africa/

4-Mozambique: Coping with HIV and AIDS?

Mozambique is struggling to contain the HIV epidemic, with one in ten of its 24 million people infected.

Only 60 per cent of Mozambicans have access to health services. There are an average of five doctors and 25 nurses per 100,000 people in Mozambique. In neighbouring South Africa, the ratio is 55 doctors and 383 nurses.

Recently, the United Nations ranked Mozambique 178th of 187 countries in terms of human development. Life expectancy is only 50 years, 70 per cent of the population live in poverty, and an estimated 56,000 women are newly infected with HIV each year.

To read the full article, go to: http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/how-mozambique-is-coping-with-aids/

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Orange sweet potato

This week’s story from Uganda talks about orange-fleshed sweet potato (OFSP). Our script of the week also talks about growing OFSP.

Most African economies are heavily dependent on agriculture. But many farmers are leaving agriculture to venture into other work. Their reasons for leaving vary, but include challenges such as climate change, pests and diseases, decreasing soil fertility, and fluctuations in market prices for their products.

Agricultural researchers are working on ways to make agriculture more viable for small-scale farmers. One type of research involves breeding new crops which offer specific benefits to farmers. Among these is the orange-fleshed sweet potato. Farmers in several countries have started growing this crop with getting good results.

Orange-fleshed sweet potatoes contain lots of vitamin A, which is vital for human health. The fresh roots can be made into cakes, breads and other edible products. Foods made with the fresh root retain vitamin A, which is partially lost when the root is ground into flour. Orange-fleshed sweet potato varieties grow more quickly than traditional African varieties and have a comparable yield.

Our script of the week features an interview with a Ugandan farmer who talks about her experience growing orange-fleshed sweet potatoes.


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Call for entries: Haller Prize for Development Journalism

The philosophy of Dr. Rene Haller and the Haller Foundation is to promote and share knowledge. That same motivation led to the establishment of the inaugural Haller Prize for Development Journalism.

There are many crucial development issues that merit closer scrutiny or wider exposure, but tend to be under-represented in the media. The Haller Prize aims to highlight some of these issues by exposing the failings of the media and encouraging best practices. The Prize was conceived as a force for positive change in sub-Saharan Africa.

Nationals of sub-Saharan African countries who reside in the region are invited to submit an unpublished article of up to 1,000 words in length which focuses on any aspect of development in sub-Saharan Africa. The article must be submitted in English.

Possible topics include: the success or failure of a charity- or donor-funded program; a specific issue (e.g., the impact of oil or gas exploration); the role of civil society and grassroots organizations; the positive or negative effects of upscaling in agriculture, and; technologies which improve people’s access to banking, agriculture or health services.

The deadline for entries is midnight, Greenwich Mean Time, on Friday, September 19, 2014. If you would like more information about the Haller Prize, email:  prize@haller.org.uk

The article must be submitted via an online form found at this address: http://haller.org.uk/haller-prize/about-the-prize/

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