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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 #124

In this week’s Farm Radio Weekly:

African Farm News in Review
1. Malawi: For good yields, feed the soil (by Gladson Makowa, for Farm Radio Weekly in Malawi)
2. Madagascar: Farmers at risk from locust outbreak (FAO, IRIN, VOA)
3. Rwanda: Don’t waste your waste! Farmers use human urine as fertilizer (Syfia Grands Lacs)

Upcoming Events
-Wits Radio Academy: two courses still available this year

Radio Resource Bank
-Manual on investigative reporting

Farm Radio Action
-Using the Freedom Fone to create participatory radio

Farm Radio Script of the Week
-Tea for the soil: How manure tea feeds the soil

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1. Malawi: For good yields, feed the soil (by Gladson Makowa, for Farm Radio Weekly in Malawi)

Joseph Ole Morijo lost his entire herd of 152 goats and sheep after he fed them spiny cactus. So he was baffled to hear researchers proclaim recently that cactus can be used as animal fodder during a drought.
Mr. Ole Morijo is from Laikipia in the northern drylands of Kenya. He says, “It is a dangerous plant. I know it well and I have seen it ruin our livestock. It has to be eradicated completely.”

Experts from the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute, or KARI, studied the potential of cacti with the scientific name of Opuntia as a fodder crop. In May, they released a report which shows that if the right species of spineless cacti are selected, they offer much needed nutrition for livestock during extreme dry seasons.

Mr. Ole Morijo is not convinced that the spineless species exists, and that it is safe as fodder for his animals. “I cannot believe it until I see it,” he says.

John Kang’ara is one of the lead researchers at KARI. “There are two main types of Opuntia: those with spiny fruits, and the spineless type. Though both of them have similar nutritional value, the spiny type poses a challenge to the farmers,” he explains. “It means that if the spiny types are to be used as animal fodder, then farmers must take their time to remove the spines by burning or scraping them with a machete before feeding them to animals.”

Farmers in Chidzinja village, Thyolo district in Malawi, often get low maize yields. They claim this is because they only have small areas of land to cultivate. But Bulton Bwanali, a farmer from the nearby village of Nangumi, says they cannot blame their hunger on lack of land. Instead, they need to look at the health of their soils.

Mr. Bwanali has more than tripled his yield by paying attention to his soil. One of his gardens occupies a tenth of a hectare. He used to harvest about three 50 kilogram bags of maize from this land. Then he learned about manure from the Story Workshop, a local NGO. He says, “The Story Workshop told me how to make good and nutritious manure and encouraged me to feed the soil and not only the plants with organic nutrients.”

In June 2010, The Story Workshop organized a food festival called Mwana Alirenji, which means “food self-sufficiency” in Chichewa, a national language of Malawi. Mr. Bwanali was invited as a model farmer. He shared his success story with fellow farmers in Chidzinja village.

Mr. Bwanali offered more details about the manure: “The compost manure was made from animal droppings mixed with grass and some ashes and cured for a month. I turned it every week. I then supplemented my maize with liquid manure 22 days after the first shoots appeared. As a result I harvested 14 bags from the same land.”

But Mr. Bwanali’s success was not only due to the manure. He also made contour ridges on his sloping land. He said, “I realigned all my ridges at the same level across the slope and applied organic compost manure as advised.”

Tobias Chova is one of the farmers from Chidzinja who is learning about these techniques. He said that he was happy to learn that soil rehabilitation does not end with making contour ridges, but also includes feeding the soil with more nutrients. He has already built contour ridges on his land. He will now start adding organic manure to his garden.

Mary Phoya is the village headwoman in Chidzinja. She said that this information will go a long way towards reducing hunger in her village. Many people farm about half a hectare of land but harvest less than four 50 kilogram bags of maize. She will continue encouraging the community to conserve the soil with contour ridges and add nutrients with organic manure.

Nani Lazaro is the agriculture field adviser for the area. He emphasized that farmers need to feed the soils with compost even if they can afford inorganic fertilizers. He says that farmers usually add fertilizers to planting holes as they plant the seeds. This first application of fertilizer helps roots to develop and get nutrients from the soil. But he wonders, “Where will the plants get the nutrients from if we are not feeding the soil?”

For more information and resources on compost and soil fertility, please refer to the Soil Health Issue Pack, July 2010:  http://farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/91-9script_en.asp.

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2. Madagascar: Farmers at risk from locust outbreak (FAO, IRIN, VOA)

Madagascar is at risk from a plague of locusts, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Agency, or FAO. The government of the island nation estimates that the locust outbreak could affect 460,000 rural families.

In early August, a team from FAO travelled to Madagascar. Together with national authorities, they confirmed that the situation is serious.

FAO says that Malagasy migratory locusts are usually restricted to the southwest corner of the country. However, an unknown number of immature swarms have formed and begun to spread east and north, as far as Maintirano on the central west coast.

Annie Monard is a locust officer with FAO. She explains that there were already swarms in the southwest at the end of the previous rainy season, and “…due to the fact that a number of them escaped this area − for us it’s a good indication that locusts are becoming a very dangerous pest.”

Madagascar is currently in its dry and cool season. Such weather is unsuitable for locust breeding. But in mid-October the rainy season begins. Locusts breed rapidly in the wet and hot rainy season. They can produce a new generation roughly every two months and up to four generations per year.

There are many different kinds of locusts. Ms. Monard says that Malagasy migratory locusts can be particularly hungry and destructive. The locusts form what are called “hopper bands” of young, wingless locusts. When these bands begin to swarm, “… they are able to eat everything. And of course in particular rice crops and all kinds of cereals.”

Alexandre Huynh is FAO’s Emergency and Rehabilitation Operations Coordinator in Madagascar. He says, “When there is a locust infestation, Malagasy farmers do not even sow any more as they know that their harvest will be destroyed.”

FAO estimates that about 15 million American dollars are needed to mount a major control effort. They are currently preparing to start the campaign. It will cover half a million hectares by ground and by air. FAO aims to prevent the locusts from “reaching plague proportions.”

Ms. Monard says, “They [the locusts] should be controlled as soon as … the first groups are observed.” She says that the pesticides they will spray are “less harmful for the environment than they were in the past.”

Mr. Huynh agrees there is no time to waste, saying, “We have to start operations by mid-September. If the response is delayed, food production will be directly impacted and the necessary anti-locust campaign would be much more costly and would spread over several years.”

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3. Rwanda: Don’t waste your waste! Farmers use human urine as fertilizer (Syfia Grands Lacs)

Eugene Habiyaremye used to be one of the poorest farmers in the village of Shyogwe, near Muhanga in southern Rwanda. But since he began using a mixture of human and cow urine on his tomatoes, he has become very successful. “I started in 2004, after hearing on the radio that diluted urine could be a good fertilizer,” he said.

Mr. Habiyaremye explains, “You see these big calabashes? I put the urine of cows in this one and human urine in the other. I cover them for two weeks. Then I pour a certain amount into the tanks, according to the water it already contains.” This method ensures that he dilutes the urine with the right amount of water in the tank. He filters the mixture. Then he waters the tomatoes with it.

Emile Mbaraga is an agronomist. He explains, “The urea in the urine contains 60-80% nitrogen, which, if used undiluted, will burn the roots of many plants.” He recommends that farmers add four litres of water to one litre of urine for watering vegetables. For bananas, dilute one litre of urine with one litre of water. And for maize, add two litres of water to one litre of urine. These proportions work during the dry season. Mr. Mbaraga says that in the rainy season, you can add less water to the urine. This is because “ … the rainwater dilutes the urine which fertilizes the plant.”

In Rurama, a village in the Eastern Province, farmers have used urine fertilizer to start cultivating bananas again. Sylvie Uzamukunda is a community worker, trained by a local NGO. She says, “Not only were the banana plants old, but combined with [the] lack of fertilizer and water in the region, we expected them to die out.”

The farmers from Rurama received training on using urine, and visited other communities who use urine in their fields. Ms. Uzamukunda says, “We collect the urine in small buckets and then put it in jerry cans. We cover it to stop the bad smell and the flies, and store it in a safe corner.” They managed to save their bananas. Ms. Uzamukunda says, “We strongly recommend that the members of our cooperatives imitate the farmers who use the cow and human urine.”

Eugene Habiyaremye inspired his neighbour Faustin Uwanyirigira. “I am a welder and bricklayer,” explains Mr. Uwanyirigira. “But I became interested in tomatoes. I now grow tomatoes in this plot. I never miss money in my pocket now. My family and my neighbours also eat these tomatoes.”

Eugene Habiyaremye sells his tomatoes to a supermarket in Kigali. He points to the other side of the mountain, where he grows pineapple, and says “Those pineapples also earn me a lot of money.” He can now support his family of six, and send his two children to school.

Emile Mbaraga says that Rwandans are generally ashamed to use human wastes as fertilizer, while cow urine is no problem. “There is still a lot of work to be done to change people’s attitudes to this resource. Human wastes are readily available and can be useful for maintaining kitchen gardens, for example.”

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Notes to broadcasters on locusts:

The locust species in our story from Madagascar is the Malagasy migratory locust, with the scientific name Locusta migratoria capito. But this species of locust does not always swarm. In southwest Madagascar, they typically live on their own as individuals.

According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), once locust populations reach a certain number, a locust’s body chemistry changes. It undergoes a behavioural, ecological and physiological transformation.

Individual locusts then start to congregate and move in swarms. They travel to find new sources of food that can support their numbers and needs for breeding. Their bodies change, allowing them to fly over greater distances − up to 100 kilometres a day. Their digestive systems change in order to accommodate a wider range of vegetation and crops.

A single locust can consume roughly its own weight in food every day − about two grams. FAO states that one tonne of locusts, a very small part of an average swarm, eats the same amount of food as 2,500 people.
While the cost of the control operation is estimated at 15 million American dollars, experience shows that it is worth it. Countries in North and northwest Africa that did not control locust populations when the swarms started in 2003 spent about 400 million American dollars to bring them under control.

Farmers and NGOs can inform government plant protection and local agricultural officers if they spot locusts. This can help greatly prevention. Farmers should take note of:
1. the colour of the locusts
2. their behaviour (flying, egg laying, settled on the ground, on bushes or trees, etc.)
3. if they have wings (adults) or are wingless (hopper nymphs)
4. when (date) and where they are observed (place name, latitude/longitude coordinates if possible)
5. the size of the infestation (small, medium, big) and density (low, medium, high)

You can find more information about locusts in French here: http://www.cirad.mg/fr/acrido.php
And here are some useful references in English:
-http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Migratory_locust
-http://www.fao.org/ag/locusts-CCA/en/1010/1018/1078/index.html
-http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100525202301.htm

Farm Radio Weekly has reported on locust outbreaks before. For example:
-Locusts destroy crops and pastures in Kenya, threaten farm lands in Sudan (FRW #1, December 2007) http://weekly.farmradio.org/2007/12/03/east-africa-locusts-destroy-crops-and-pastures-in-kenya-threaten-farm-lands-in-sudan-various-un-sources/
This story looked at biological control of locusts:
-Biological pesticide halts locust invasion (FRW #76, August 2009)

A Farm Radio International script published in 1994 deals with the related issue of grasshoppers and non-swarming locusts (“Control Grasshopper and Locusts on Your Farm,”Package 32, Script 2, April 1994). Unlike the swarming Migratory locusts, grasshoppers and non-swarming locusts can be combated on individual farms without the use of pesticides.

If you broadcast in an area that is, or may be, directly affected by the outbreak, you could consider producing a show to highlight the issues:
-If possible, send reporters to speak with people in affected areas. Find out how they are affected and what they are doing to cope
-Keep in touch with relevant authorities and NGOs for accurate and up-to-date information on the situation, and take note of any support services available to those who are affected

If you broadcast in an area that is unlikely to be directly affected by the current outbreak:
-Consider informing your listeners about the pest outbreak
-Broadcast information on how to control the pest or other pests that pose a threat to farmers in the area

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Notes to broadcasters on human urine as fertilizer :

Human urine is readily available, costs nothing and contains many nutrients that plants can use to develop and grow. It is sterile in the body. As it leaves the body, it naturally picks up some bacteria. Very few diseases, however, are transmitted through urine. Handling urine is low risk.  But it should not be applied to plants directly. It should be applied to soils only when diluted, and often works best in combination with ash, or when added to and applied in compost. It is often regarded as a waste material, and many people shy away from using it. When used carefully, however, this waste material can increase yields and be a useful, affordable resource for farmers.

For more information on the use of human urine in agriculture, you may refer to some of the following articles:
This leaflet provides concise details about how to use human urine as a fertilizer:
https://www.uni-hohenheim.de/respta/poster/urine_fert.pdf
Researchers in Finland and Sweden have been examining the effectiveness and safety of human urine as fertilizer: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=human-urine-is-an-effective-fertilizer
They specifically looked at using a mixture of urine and ash as tomato fertilizer: http://www.scientificamerican.com/blog/post.cfm?id=p-is-for-plants-human-urine-plus-as-2009-09-04
The use of night soil, or human excrement, is a centuries-old tradition in China. See:  http://www.agroecology.org/Case%20Studies/nightsoil.html

The use of urine and night soil is also found in Africa. Here is a magazine article with a case study from Tanzania, where local farmers made the most of all available resources to improve their soils and productivity: http://www.leisa.info/index.php?url=getblob.php&o_id=209105&a_id=211&a_seq=0

Farm Radio Weekly published a story from Uganda about farmers using human urine as fertilizer:
-Uganda: Farmers find that human urine is an effective fertilizer, (FRW#14, March, 2008.)

You may wish to host a call-in or text-in show that invites local farmers to share their experiences using unconventional “waste” materials in agricultural production:

-Have any farmers in your area tried using human urine as a fertilizer? How do they collect and store it?  -What application procedure did they find most effective (for example, how much did they dilute the urine and how often did they apply it)? What kind of results did they see?
-What other locally available “waste” materials do farmers use to make fertilizers, pesticides, or other useful materials? Where did they get the idea? Did they develop it from an existing practice or adapt it according to their needs? How did they test the materials and what were the results? Can they describe exactly how they make and use the material to get the best results?

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Wits Radio Academy: two courses still available this year

The Wits Radio Academy, based at the University of the Witwatersrandin Johannesburg, South Africa, is running two more short courses this year, with a focus on local and community radio.

The two courses are Local Radio Journalism (September 13-24), and Radio Presentation (November 1-12).
In the Local Radio Journalism course, students will be given the basic skills necessary in radio reporting, with a focus on community radio. Topics will include generating story ideas, research, use of field recorders, writing for radio, and updating stories. The deadline to apply for this course isSeptember 3.

The Radio Presentation course will develop competence in radio presentation skills. Topics covered include presenting radio programs in various formats, scriptwriting, preparing and conducting interviews, operating a basic studio desk, and following studio discipline. The deadline to apply for this course is October 22.
Applicants must have a post-secondary degree or other appropriate tertiary qualifications. Practical experience in radio may be considered as equivalent.

Individual courses cost R4500 (approximately $585 American dollars or 485 Euros). A limited number of bursaries are available to workers in community radio. Admission conditions and other information is available at www.journalism.co.za/radio and http://www.journalism.co.za/radio-courses.html?task=view.
For more details, you can also email radio@journalism.co.za.

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Manual on investigative reporting

According to the International Center for Journalists, investigative journalism “ … is the livelihood of a successful democracy.”  To promote successful investigative journalism, they have produced a short and clearly written manual, entitled Ten steps to investigative reporting. Journalists can preview the manual online. A digital copy of the manual can be purchased for five American dollars. International journalists from outside the United States can, however, request a free copy by filling in a simple form, explaining how they plan to use the manual. The organization also produces other training manuals. This manual is available in English and French as well as Arabic, Russian and a variety of European languages.

The manual can be viewed here: http://www.icfj.org/Resources/InvestigativeReportingManuals/tabid/1174/ctl/Details/mid/11479/ItemID/1445/Default.aspx.

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Using the Freedom Fone to create participatory radio

Farm Radio International’s African Farm Radio Research Initiative (AFRRI) project is introducing new technologies in an effort to make radio more participatory. AFRRI staff were recently interviewed about their experiences with the Freedom Fone. Here, we bring you an excerpt from the interview. You can read the whole piece at this link: http://bit.ly/dloQtH.

Bartholomew Sullivan, AFRRI’s regional ICT officer says, “We’re looking for something that can enhance radio. Because at this point for us, radio has been very effective in reaching people, but it’s not always the most effective for getting a feedback loop or making it interactive.”

He decided to try out the Freedom Fone with two radio stations: Radio Maria in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Volta Star radio in Ho, Ghana. Before the project, listeners contacted the station mainly through written letters. But the Freedom Fone system allows listeners to call in and leave voice messages or texts.

At Radio Maria, the AFRRI staff used the system “very simply,” almost as a “glorified voice mail service.” During one program, broadcasters asked listeners for “the best story of how you’re using the knowledge you’ve gained from this radio program in your life.” Listeners were invited to call the station and tell their stories.

The station received “wonderful stories from the field,” lasting anywhere from 10 seconds to three minutes. The hotline received 2,499 calls, representing 1,448 different callers during the month and a half that it was available.
“People love to hear their voices on the radio,” Bart Sullivan says. “And what we’ve learned from the farmers was that radio programs that have the voices of farmers are far more entertaining and interesting than not.”

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Tea for the soil: How manure tea feeds the soil

This week we present the first of our specially commissioned stories on soil health, to complement our latest script package. In this week’s story, farmers in Malawi describe how their yields have increased since they made and applied organic compost.

The script of the week also focuses on soil fertility. It features Alphonsine Nyirambanjinka from Rwanda. This farmer describes how she prepares a manure “tea” for her soils.  She uses ash, herbs, water and chicken manure. She calls it “homemade NPK from Rwanda”!

Just like the farmers who use human urine as fertilizer in this week’s news story, Ms. Nyirambanjinka uses materials she already has, and transforms them into a useful resource. The script of the week can be viewed at: http://farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/91-3script_en.asp.

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