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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 #164

Tea producers sell leaves to private buyer for higher price

Burundian tea producers are now selling their tea leaves to a private company at a higher price. That has the state-owned buyer Office du Thé Burundais scrambling as they see their monopoly slip.

Last week, we mentioned that drought in the Horn of Africa has left 10 million people in need of emergency food aid. This week, we bring you stories of Somalian farmers and pastoralists who were forced to flee their homes because of the drought. While food aid is important, NGO workers are warning that long-term planning to help Somalian farmers and pastoralists adapt to climate change is just as important.

Finally, more Africans are turning to urban farming. Africans like Charles Kwebingira. When he was laid off from the Uganda Railways Corporation, Mr. Kwebingira did not walk away cursing. Instead, he approached the management and asked them to rent him railway land to grow vegetables.

Happy reading!

-The Farm Radio Weekly team

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Burundi: Tea producers sell to private company against State advice (Desiré Nshimirimana for Farm Radio Weekly in Burundi)

The normally calm tea-producing hills of Burundi lost their calm in recent months. The reason: refusal by tea producers to sell their products to the Office de Thé Burundais (OTB), the longstanding state-run buyer of tea. They prefer to sell to Prothem, a local private company that buys tea leaves at a higher price.

In Burundi, 78% of tea plantations are owned by small-scale farmers. Tea is the second biggest cash crop in the country after coffee. It accounts for 10 to 15% of the national GDP. Growing tea is an important source of income for more than 60,000 households in upland areas.

Générose Sindakira is a tea producer in the Kibimba hills, in the central province of Mwaro. He explains, “I will sell my tea to whoever gives me the most money. Between the 200 FBU (US$0.16) offered by Prothem and the 140 FBU (US$0.12) offered by the OTB, the choice is clear. Just let us sell our tea to whomever we want and stop sending police officers after us.”

Last April, police fired shots in the air in a tea-producing region in central-western Burundi to scare off tea leaf traders who were dealing with Prothem. The discord began when Prothem opened a processing plant in April of this year.

Producers see many advantages in selling to Prothem. Their leaves are processed more quickly and they get a better purchase price with no holdback to repay farmer loans. On top of that, weighing and calculating is more accurate, farmers are paid more quickly, and Prothem provides service on weekends.

Juvénal Nsavyimana also grows tea. He bitterly remembers when he used to deal with OTB: “Every time, they retained 30 FBU per kilogram for loan repayment. We never knew when [we] were finished paying. They gave us other credits before we even finished paying the first. Even more revolting was how they would, for example, note that you had 10 kilograms on your seller’s sheet even though the scale indicated 10.5 kilograms.”

Competition is fierce between Prothem and OTB purchase points in Gatare, ten kilometres from the processing factory. In two hours, OTB buyers purchase two kilograms while Prothem’s buyers get 50. “Ever since our competitors are taking the tea leaves from us, we’re bored waiting for customers who do not come,” said an OTB buyer who requested anonymity. Customers continue to bring tea leaves to the OTB, but most are just waiting to pay off their fertilizer debt before switching to Prothem.

This switch worries the government. They are afraid that OTB-run plants will not survive. Odette Kayitesi is the Minister of Agriculture and Livestock. Last May, she said, “This is unacceptable and we call on the Minister of the Interior to crack down and suspend the activities of this [Prothem] plant that threatens the operation of our plants.”

But no official action has been taken so far. Local police have been told by government officials to chase away Prothem trucks that try to purchase and collect tea along village roads. But farmers now supply the Prothem factory by bringing their leaves in baskets which they carry on their heads or on their bicycles.

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Somalia: Farmers and pastoralists fleeing drought need both short- and long-term solutions (VOA, BBC, Al-Jazeera, The Guardian)

Kaltun Nur is an elderly Somalian woman. She fled her home in western Somalia to seek help in Mogadishu. Mrs. Nur says, “We endured hunger and we waited for the rains. Our livestock died and we had a farm. We were forced to sell so we can travel to Mogadishu. By that time, we were eating grass.”

Mrs. Nur is not the only one to flee her home. Fardosa Farah says she walked for 25 days to get to the Dadaab refugee camp in neighbouring Kenya. She explains, “This drought wiped out everything we had. If there’s anybody willing to remain there [Somalia], then I think it is just attempted suicide.”

While some walked, others like 56-year-old Hussain Mohamed Ibrahim travelled on an overcrowded truck, along with his two wives and nine children. Mr. Ibrahim lost all 40 of his cows to the drought. He says he had no choice but to leave. He sold his only camel to fund the journey to the Kenyan border.

This is the situation faced by tens of thousands of Somalis who left everything behind to seek help in Mogadishu and in refugee camps in Kenya and Ethiopia. The drought has been described by the United Nations as the worst to strike the Horn of Africa in six decades.

Relief is slowly trickling into a countrya wracked by war and drought. On July 13th, a spokeswoman for the U.N. Children’s Fund confirmed that a shipment including “medicines, nutrition and water-related supplies” was flown into the town of Baidoa. The aid is destined for severely malnourished Somali children, according to the Voice of America news agency.

Earlier this onth, the Islamist group al-Shabab stated that it welcomed the return of humanitarian groups to the areas it controls. In 2009, UNICEF had suspended air deliveries because of threats from the group. The World Food Program also withdrew in 2010, but is looking to return to al-Shabab-controlled southern Somalia.

While immediate relief is very much needed, more will need to be done. Nigel Harris is CEO of the NGO Farm-Africa. He says that short-term emergency relief has to be provided in conjunction with longer-term strategies that enable people to cope with drought and failed harvests.

Changes to weather patterns in recent years mean that farmers in East Africa are increasingly unable to predict when or if the rainy season will begin. Mr. Harris says farmers must be supported to adapt to a rapidly changing environment.

For example, Farm-Africa is currently working with communities in Kenya. They are advising them on which crops to plant, and encouraging farmers to move away from maize. Maize doesn’t grow well with too little or too much water. Instead, they advise farmers to grow millet, sorghum or pigeon peas, which are more resilient in dryer climates.

In Ethiopia, Farm Africa is introducing drip irrigation to avoid wasting water and ensure that water is better directed to the root of the crop.

Political solutions are also needed to improve farmers and pastoralists’ lives. Ongoing fighting has reduced Somalis’ ability to cope with disaster. Paul O’Brien has worked in Somalia for 25 years and is overseas director with Concern Worldwide. He says, “Where there’s conflict, you don’t have stable communities.”

Concern Worldwide transfers cash donations of 50 to 100 US dollars to those in need. According to Mr. O’Brien, it is not an absence of food that causes the problem, but rather lack of access to food. This is often the case during severe food shortages. Many in the arid regions hit by the drought watched their animals die from lack of water. The severe drought meant that pastoralists like Mr. Ibrahim and his family who fled to Kenya were unable to sell their animals when times got tough.

But it’s not just the combination of climate change, consecutive bad harvests, rising food prices and conflict that affects farmers and pastoralists so heavily. Claire Hancock is disaster management project officer for East and Central Africa with the NGO Tearfund. She says that, for real improvement to occur, longer-term issues such as access to markets, soil erosion, and land tenure must be addressed.

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Uganda: Finding space for urban farming (Daily Monitor)

Charles Kwebingira tends to his vegetables on a plot behind the petrol station on Jinja Road in Kampala, Uganda. Customers call to him through the wire fence. He puts down his hoe to sell them some vegetables. His urban farm stall is always full with greens, eggplants or tomatoes. A typical day for Mr. Kwebingira consists of digging and attending to customers. He says, “People like buying from me because I sell them fresh vegetables.”

When Mr. Kwebingira was laid off from the Uganda Railways Corporation, he did not walk away cursing. Instead, he approached the management and asked them to rent him railway land to grow vegetables.

He had grown crops on railway land while he was still employed, so he found it easy to ask for more. He says, “They charged me one million Uganda shillings for two years [about US$380] and I started working.” They did not charge him for the third year because they longer needed to pay for people to clear the land. Mr. Kwebingira now farms just less than a hectare and makes around 10,000 shillings per day, or nearly US$4.

Mr. Kwebingira has discovered advantages to urban farming. He does not have to pay to transport his produce to market. He does not have to involve middlemen because he sells directly to his customers. And he is not bothered by Kampala City Council because he sells his products from inside his fenced garden.

Another thing that keeps a smile on his face is the fact that he is not limited by seasons. He sells vegetables from his stall every day of the year. He plans carefully and plants in stages: as one egg plant is germinating, another is flowering and yet another is ready to harvest. He says, “There are even times when they are so many that they get wasted.”

Though everything appears blissful for this city farmer, Mr. Kwebingira faces challenges. Because his garden is in the city centre, it attracts many thieves. A private security guard from a nearby bank has been helping him patrol his garden, but the thieves keep coming. And if he apprehends them, it costs him money. He says, “Whenever I … took them to [the] police, policemen always asked me to feed them until the time they would be remanded to prison. And I had to pay 10,000 Ugandan shillings for their transportation to the prison.”

He also has to bargain with his customers. He explains, “Because customers see that I grow the vegetables myself, they always want me to sell them many things cheaply. But I always tell them that I have to sell at the market price because farm inputs are very high.”

But Mr. Kwebingira does not regret his urban farming venture. He says, “I get some money to use on a daily basis. I am paying school fees for my five children and I also bought a piece of land in Kabale which I hope to develop very soon.”

Mr. Kwebingira says he is weak these days, after a long time farming. But he shows little sign of slowing down. He has just finished digging a small dam to provide water for his crops. He has also started to use fertilizers. And he is currently preparing another garden on the other side of the railway line.

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Notes to broadcasters on tea producers:

Tea is an important cash crop not only for Burundi but for other East African countries such as Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia. But tea producers, like those in the story from Burundi, can sometimes face harsh working conditions and earn very little money. But when more than one buyer competes to buy their crop, producers can benefit from higher prices.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, world tea production reached over 4.73 million tons in 2008. The largest producers of tea are the People’s Republic of China, India, Kenya, Sri Lanka, and Turkey. Globally, more tea is drunk that any other beverage.

Here’s more information on Burundi’s tea producers and the controversy about the private buyer (Prothem) vs. the state-run buyer (Office du Thé Burundais): (In French only)

-Burundi : Thé: la feuille de la discord: http://www.syfia-grands-lacs.info/index.php?view=articles&action=voir&idArticle=2130

-Burundi : Concurrence déloyale dans le secteur du thé? : http://www.legriot.info/2784-burundi-concurrence-deloyale-dans-le-secteur-du-the/

Here are other stories related to tea from Kenya:

Farmers protest over uncollected tea: http://allafrica.com/stories/201107010052.html

Bad weather to keep tea earnings down: http://www.businessdailyafrica.com/Bad+weather+to+keep+tea+earnings+down/-/539552/1196336/-/113lwpn/-/

A tea convention is set to take place July 20-23 in Kenya and will bring together tea producers, buyers, packers and warehouse operators. Read this article for more information about this convention:

Tea producers to meet over output: http://www.newvision.co.ug/D/8/220/760060

Here’s a story about activists lobbying African governments to support farmers who grow staple foods such as grains, rice and beans, rather than cash crops like tea, cocoa or coffee: http://panos.org.uk/features/from-famine-to-feast/

Relying solely on a cash crop like tea can make farmers vulnerable. Related to this issue, you can read the following Farm Radio International script called “The importance of Security Crops”.

This script tells the story of Suad and Salma. Both sisters are hardworking farmers, but choose to plant different crops. While Salma planted only coffee, Suad was more cautious. We learn the steps Suad took to diversify her crops, and how “security crops” provided for her family when tragedy struck.

Do you know of a real Suad in your community? Why not tell her story and how she managed to strike a balance between cash crops and staple crops? Share the story with your listeners and us! Email it to us: farmradioweekly@farmradio.org

Finally, Farm Radio Weekly recently produced a story on tea co-operatives: http://weekly.farmradio.org/2011/06/27/rwanda-tea-co-operatives-promote-unity-ifad/

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Notes to broadcasters on drought in Somalia:

Severe drought is affecting everyone in the Horn of Africa: farmers, pastoralists, women, children, and men. The story of the drought’s impact is evolving every day. News articles, photos, videos, and even tweets can help broadcasters find information from various sources on what is now being called the worst drought to hit the Horn of Africa in 60 years. But the sheer volume of information can sometimes be overwhelming. Farm Radio Weekly (FRW) is testing out a new platform called Storify. Using Storify, FRW’s research and production officer Nelly Bassily gathered relevant online sources related to the drought in Somalia. Check them out here: http://storify.com/nellybassily/somalia

We’d like to know if you findthis kind of information gathering useful and if you’d like us to use Storify more often. Send your thoughts and ideas to nbassily@farmradio.org .

Here are two recent stories from Farm Radio Weekly on drought:

East Africa: Pastoralists survive drought by adapting (FRW 110, May 2010). http://weekly.farmradio.org/2010/05/10/2-east-africa-pastoralists-survive-drought-by-adapting-daily-nation-irin/

Mali and Niger: Dealing with drought (FRW 117, June 2010).  http://weekly.farmradio.org/2010/06/28/1-mali-and-niger-dealing-with-drought-irin-afp/

Farm Radio International has produced some very informative scripts about farmers adapting to the climate in drought-prone areas:
Changing farming production in Africa to adapt to climate change (Package 84, Script 14, August 2008)
Farmers have important knowledge about weather and environmental change – Part I: Learning about local signs of drought (Package 75, Script 5, June 2005)
Farmers have important knowledge about weather and environmental change – Part II: Preparing for drought (Package 75, Script 6, June 2005)
These Crops will Help you Through the Drought (Package 54, Script 9, January 2000)
Choosing Crops for Drought-Prone Areas (Package 73, Script 3, January 2005)
Sekedo, a drought resistant sorghum for Karamoja (Package 84, Script 1, August 2008)

Perhaps farmers’ groups or other organizations in your community are trying to make their farms, homes and livelihoods more resilient in order to cope with drought. If your radio station broadcasts to an area that is currently facing drought-related food shortages, seek out stories of communities or local organizations (such as farmers’ groups) that are working together to adapt to drought. Find out what they have done to improve their food security, including adopting alternative livelihoods, and share these stories to inspire others.

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Notes to broadcasters on urban farming:

Urban farming can take many forms, from a few plant pots in a backyard, to a larger plot of unused land, as in this story. With city populations expanding quickly, urban agriculture has received increased attention in recent years from academics, funders and NGOs.

Further reading:

-Fighting poverty and hunger: What role for urban agriculture? http://www.fao.org/economic/es-policybriefs/briefs-detail/en/?no_cache=1&uid=45052

-DRC: Urban farming takes root http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportid=93089

You may also find the website of the Resource Centres on Urban Agriculture and Food Security (RUAF) useful: http://www.ruaf.org/

Find RUAF’s Urban Agriculture magazine here: http://www.ruaf.org/node/101

In French: http://www.ruaf.org/node/825

You can read more about the growing trend of urban agriculture in these past FRW news stories:

-“Uganda: Urban farmers fight eviction” (FRW 72, June 2009)

“Kenya: Urban agriculture greens metropolis” (FRW 40, October 2008)
“Africa: Wastewater in urban agriculture is harmful to health, but it also ensures subsistence for urban poor” (FRW 34, August 2008)
“Africa: Urban agriculture provides relief from high food prices” (FRW 23, June 2008)

-Farm Radio International has also produced a number of scripts on urban agriculture, many of which offer suggestions for growing food in small spaces: http://farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/urban.asp.

Finally, here are some questions to explore during a call-in/text-in show:
-Have members of your audience grown food in an urban area for a long period of time?

-How much food do they produce and what impact does this have on their family’s food security?

-What materials (such as organic fertilizer or planters) do they use to make growing food possible in very small spaces?

-Which crops grow best with the limited space and resources they have available?

-What tips or innovations can they share?
-Have urban farmers found their land reduced or threatened by urban development?

-If their growing space was reduced, how did they cope?

-If their land is threatened by urban development, what steps have they taken to protect it?

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Open Society Fellowship

The Open Society Foundation supports individuals who develop innovative projects that address pressing open society challenges. For this fellowship, applicants suggest their own projects for funding. Projects should aim to shape policy and spark critical debate among civil society actors. The deadline for applications is August 1, 2011.

For more information, go to: http://goo.gl/y47ob

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Handbook: Communicating gender in rural development

This handbook addresses the need to communicate the different realities faced by men and women when talking about rural development initiatives. It reinforces the importance of dialogue between the genders, explains how to further these interactions and how they can make development initiatives more effective. The handbook is available in French, and a website with a brief English synopsis of the handbook is available here: http://www.fao.org/gender/gender-home/gender-news/gender-newsdet/en/?dyna_fef[uid]=73714

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Travelling through Tanzania by Brenda Jackson, Farm Radio International

I had the wonderful opportunity with the support of our partner, World University Service of Canada (WUSC), to travel to Tanzania last September 2010. Today, and in future blog posts, I would like to share some of the stories and pictures that I gathered during my travels.

While driving through the beautiful Rhotia Valley in Tanzania, I happened to see a farmer at the side of the road separating seeds. I asked my driver if we could stop to ask the farmer some questions. My driver acted as a translator and through him I found out that the farmer’s name is Fatuma. She agreed to talk to us and allowed us to take her picture. I found out that she is part of Kilimanjaro Native Co-operative Union (KNCU). She told us that the seeds we see her separating are white and black beans. Her bags of seeds get picked up on Mondays and then are sold in Arusha and Dar es Salaam. One bag brings her 75,000 Tanzanian Shillings (TZS) which is about $50 Canadian. She said that she wants to take the money she makes from farming and buy a better house.

I was curious to find out if radio played a role in her life. When asked, Fatuma told me that on Saturday evenings she listens to an agricultural radio show. She finds that she learns a lot from that program. When it comes to farming, she also takes advice from the local co-operative and then talks to family and friends to decide what to do. All of this information helps her choose what crops should be grown in which month.

My chance meeting with Fatuma made me realize the importance of the role that radio, together with members of her co-operative and community, plays to help farmers like her do their work and bring their crops to market.

To see more of Brenda’s writing, visit our blog: http://blog.farmradio.org/

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A community fights malnutrition with local leafy greens

The fight against hunger doesn’t mean having access to and eating just any food – it means having access and eating the right foods. That includes foods that are rich in micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals, which are crucial to overall health and energy levels.

Typically, rural communities rely on staple foods such as maize or potatoes. And while these may provide needed calories and fill you up, eating these foods alone is not the healthiest option because they are typically low in vital micronutrients.

This week’s script tells the story of how one Ghanaian community used local leafy greens to fight malnutrition. It was written by Gabriel Adukpo, who works for the Ministry of Food and Agriculture in Ghana, and was a winner in our most recent scriptwriting competition on healthy communities.

Find the script here: http://www.farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/93-3script_en.asp

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