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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 #175

Malawi: Farmers combat climate change with mulch (AlertNet)

Anthony Kapesa has stopped tilling his land. But this farmer from Zombwe village in Malawi still expects a good harvest of maize this year. Faced with worsening dry spells, Mr. Kapesa now spreads moisture-preserving mulch over the surface of his untilled field.

Lack of rainfall during the growing season is an increasing concern for farmers in Malawi. Many people believe this problem is due to climate change.

In the past, Mr. Kapesa’s crops wilted whenever there was a dry spell. He hoed his fields every season. He made ridges on which he planted his maize. But he learned that soil loosened by tilling is more easily dried by the sun.

Now, Mr. Kapesa uses wild grass to mulch his fields. He cuts the grass and leaves it to dry before spreading it. To plant his seeds, he pulls aside a little mulch, digs a small hole, drops in a seed, and buries it.

Mulch protects the soil against the impact of raindrops. It allows rain to soak slowly into the ground. When the rains don’t come, the mulch keeps the soil cool and reduces the rate of moisture loss.

Mr. Kapesa points to a granary full of harvested maize. He says, “Since I started using this system, my crop no longer wilts … as a result, my yields have been more than what they used to be when I planted my crops on ridges.” Before he began mulching, Mr. Kapesa harvested 16 50-kilogram bags of maize. Now the same land produces 43 bags, nearly triple the yield.

Tilling the soil and making planting ridges are traditional farming techniques in Malawi. Chakalipa Kanyenda is program manager for Find Your Feet, a UK-based non-governmental organization. Find Your Feet teaches farmers how to adapt to the effects of climate change. According to Mr. Kanyenda, tilling and ridging can increase moisture loss from the soil. He says that mulching has successfully cushioned farmers against the increasingly erratic rainfall in Malawi. Farmers have eagerly adopted the practice.

Mr. Kapesa has experienced the benefits of mulching directly. The farmer says that, since he started planting in mulch rather than on ridges, his field stays moist even during hot weather. He says, “As a result, my crops keep growing vigorously even during such periods of dry spells.”

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International Day of Rural Women

This week we present stories to mark two special days − International Day of Rural Women on October 15 and World Food Day, October 16.

In our first story, a group of widows in a village in western Kenya proves that they can make progress despite the deaths of their husbands. The women have registered as a group and obtained small bank loans to further their income-generating projects. In the second story, also from Kenya, a group of women has survived drought and rising food prices by forming an informal savings group. Facing different sets of challenges, these women have forged their own paths.

Our World Food Day story from Burkina Faso focuses on farmers who are fighting for fair prices for their rice. They had good harvests, but have been struggling to sell in the face of subsidized imports. Read more below.

We would love to hear about any special programs you prepare for either of these commemorative days. Please contact us at farmradioweekly@farmradio.org and we will feature your story.

-The Farm Radio Weekly team

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Kenya: Widow’s determination inspires others to improve their livelihoods (by Pius Sawa, for Farm Radio Weekly in Kenya)

Phyllis Hakola Jimmy lost her husband in a road accident ten years ago. With six children to look after, life was not easy for the 57-year-old widow. Mrs. Hakola struggled to feed her children and pay their school fees.

Then in 2006, she decided to act. She met with three other widows. She says, “I … told them that we cannot just stay with the children without looking for ways to make ends meet.” She asked them to help her form a widows’ group. She wanted to find a way for widows to help themselves and improve their livelihoods.

In most parts of Kenya, women do not own land. Once a husband dies, his relatives deprive his widow of every asset.

Despite the challenges, Mrs. Hakola approached other widows and the group grew in size. Now the widows’ group has 34 members and is registered under the name of Wajane Women’s Group. Wajane is the Kiswahili word for “widows.” The group operates in Khwisero, in the Western Province of Kenya. Some of the women are young and have small children to bring up; others, like Mrs. Hakola, are older.

For three years, the widows’ group has been able to access bank loans. The organization which registered their group helps them out. An official visits the women to assess their activities. The bank provides funds based on the official’s assessment. The group’s first loan was 100,000 Kenyan shillings (around 1,000 dollars) from Kenya Commercial Bank.

Each widow manages her own income-generating activities. But the women also farm collectively. Every member repays a specified amount on pre-determined dates. In this way, each of them contributes to repaying the loan. It is a challenge to earn enough to repay the loan. But they always have repaid their loans on time, so they have been able to get further bank loans. The amounts are small (around 500 dollars), to make it easier for the women to repay.

Mrs. Hakola has helped the group design two big projects that will earn the widows good money. One is a milk project and the second a maize mill. She explains, “We have acquired high breed dairy cows that will bring us milk which we shall sell to the locals.” The money will help pay school fees and cover household needs.

Mrs. Hakola explains why she suggested these projects to the group. “I told the group not to opt for a retail shop, because members will want to get goods on credit, assuming it is their shop. This will bring misunderstanding among the members.” She believes the maize mill project will bring the group daily income. In rural areas, grains must be milled to produce flour before women can prepare millet bread or maize meal.

All of Mrs. Hakola’s six children have completed school. They are now married with children. Her success has inspired other women. She advises young widows to be patient and look for good men who are not sick. She urges them to encourage the men to be tested for HIV and AIDS. In this way, they will be sure to marry men who are able to help bring up the children.

Her main message to women is to stay active: “I tell them that the world today is quite challenging. If you are left as a widow with children to look after, look for a genuine means of survival.”

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Kenya: Women use a rotating savings scheme to help each other survive a drought (by Pius Sawa for Farm Radio Weekly in Kenya)

Florence Nzambuli is an inspiration to many women in her home village of Mutomo, in Kitui South Constituency, eastern Kenya. It is difficult to make a living through farming in this dry region. But with Ms. Nzambuli’s guidance, a women’s group has found a way to cope with drought and rising food prices.

It last rained in Mutomo in 2009. Ms. Nzambuli had a good harvest of millet and cassava that year. But many others did not. So Ms. Nzambuli shared the harvest with her community. She says, “Imagine a mother comes to me crying, asking for some food to take to her starving children. I would rather fast and give [food] to the children.”

Ms. Nzambuli says that mothers bear the burden of feeding their children and husbands in hard times. With relief food contaminated, no livestock to rely on, and no paying jobs available, mothers in Mutomo put their heads together to work on a solution.

In 2010, with guidance from Ms. Nzambuli, the women formed a village savings scheme. The group has 20 members, and each member contributes 100 Kenyan shillings, about one dollar. The group raises around 2000 shillings, and then lends the money to one member. Ms. Nzambuli explains, “When you get the money, you travel to the nearest town and buy vegetables like tomatoes, onions and cabbage. You come [back] and start selling them.”

The women meet once a month. Each month, the borrower repays one hundred shillings plus five per cent interest, until her loan is repaid. According to Ms. Nzambuli, this is how the women cope with the drought and with rising food prices.

The group is not registered. They are simply helping one another as neighbours. Ms. Nzambuli encourages women in other villages to form similar groups and raise money to be used as capital for each member’s income-generating activity. She says, “This is the best way for us, because we are friends and we cannot punish mothers who fail to pay.” If a member fails to make her payment, she is asked to do some work for the group.

Ms. Nzambuli says that, as individuals, the women cannot borrow money from banks or micro-finance institutions because of the conditions they impose. In fact, the women fear these institutions. They worry what the banks might do if the women defaulted on their loans. She notes, “As women, we don’t have land titles, so paying back such loans is a danger. Imagine if someone came to your home and took away your donkey. What would you use to fetch water from miles away?”

The drought continues in Mutomo. The women don’t know when the rains will come, so they pray. But Ms. Nzambuli and her women’s group have started digging shallow wells. If they find water, they will start kitchen gardens, planting vegetables in sacks and other containers. She offers some strong parting words of advice: “People should go back to the old food crops like millet and cassava. These crops are drought-resistant and they can mature fast.”

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Burkina Faso: Farmers demand a fair price for local rice (by Seydou Nacro for Farm Radio Weekly in Burkina Faso)

Good harvests usually mean happy farmers. But this year’s success is bittersweet for rice farmers in southwest Burkina Faso, as they struggle to sell their produce. The storeroom at the agricultural co-operative in Founzan is still full. Farmers stored forty tonnes of rice, but have sold only ten.

Many say this is because of the government. Last May, under pressure from consumers and rice importers, the government subsidized the price of rice. The aim was to control soaring grain prices. Local rice was subsidized by about 12%, and imported rice by 24%. The price of a kilogram of rice was fixed at 300 CFA, about 60 cents. But in order to make a profit, the co-operative needs to sell rice at 350 CFA per kilo.

Hélène Coulibaly is a rice producer from Pâ and a member of the co-operative. For her, maintaining that price is a matter of survival. She says, “Selling below 350 CFA endangers the lives of my family. At this price, we make no profit.”

Félicité Kambou is the director of the co-operative, known as COPSA. COPSA is based in Founzan and works with farmers from six provinces in west and southwest Burkina Faso. Ms. Kambou is angered by the government’s purchase prices. She says, “We refuse to follow these steps! If we lower prices, we do not make any money.”

So the co-operative is maintaining its selling price of 350 CFA, fully aware that it is not competitive. The members justify this choice on two grounds, and use two related strategies to market and sell their rice: quality and patriotism. The co-operative emphasizes the quality of its rice in the press and to local shopkeepers. Ms. Kambou says: “Quality has a cost. We produce healthy products. The consumer must accept higher prices for quality rice.”

Its second marketing strategy invites Burkinabe farmers to support their country by eating local rice. Ms. Kambou says, “Consuming imported rice makes foreigners rich, while our farmers are dying. We need to consume local products.”

The strategy is beginning to work. Some well-known restaurants in the two main cities of Bobo-Dioulasso and Ouagadougou now offer dishes made with local rice. But the best news comes from SONAGESS, the government agency responsible for ensuring food security in Burkina Faso. The agency offered to buy the co-operative’s entire stock of rice for 320 CFA per kilo. This price is slightly less than the co-operative hoped for, but the producers see it as a great victory.

The co-operative is taking its concerns to the national coalition of local rice producers, CIRB. In mid-October, CIRB will meet with the Ministry of Agriculture to discuss the price of local rice. Until then, the co-operative is busy planning long-term measures. Ms. Kambou explains: “We must create a system of information and marketing to change consumer behaviour. The survival of our agriculture is at stake.”

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Notes to broadcasters on International Day of Rural Women

We present two stories from Kenya this week to mark the International Day of Rural Women. Both feature inspirational women who have led their communities through difficult times. Mrs. Florence Nzambuli is active in her community in east Kenya, using song and dance to raise awareness about the links between tree cutting, deforestation and climate change. You can hear her in action here: http://sawa.podomatic.com/entry/2010-12-07T12_43_31-08_00

The International Day of Rural Women draws attention to both the contribution that women make in rural areas, and the many challenges they face. The first International Day of Rural Women was observed in New York on October 15, 2008. For more information, visit: http://www.woman.ch/index.php?page=women_15Oct&hl=en_US

For facts and figures, stories from around the world, and links to further resources on gender and agriculture, see: http://www.un.org/womenwatch/feature/idrw/

The 2012 World Development Report on Gender Equality and Development is available at:  http://go.worldbank.org/CQCTMSFI40

For your reference, here are two recent news reports on gender, agriculture and development:

-“Give women the seeds and they can feed the world”: http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=105234

-“Gender equality: Why involving men is crucial”: http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportid=93870

Women make up the majority of small-scale, subsistence farmers in the developing world. Gender inequality in agriculture is a problem not just for women but for the agricultural sector, for food security, and for society as a whole. The Food and Agriculture Organization stated that, if women in developing countries worldwide had the same access to productive resources as men, they could increase yields on their farms by 20-30 per cent and lift 100-150 million people out of hunger. Here are some quick facts on women in sub-Saharan Africa:

-Women are responsible for 70 to 80 per cent of household food production
-Women are responsible for obtaining 90 per cent of water, wood, and fuel
-55 per cent of primary students not enrolled in school are girls
-Nearly twice as many women over age 15 are illiterate compared to men
-Women are 1.6 times more likely than men to be infected by HIV
-77 per cent of all HIV-positive women live in sub-Saharan Africa

(Sources: The Hunger Project, IFPRI, UNAIDS, UNFPA)

IPS News hosts The Gender Wire, which is full of resources and stories on women in the news. You can subscribe to their newsletter here: http://ipsnews.net/genderwire/

Farm Radio International has produced many scripts on women, gender and agriculture. Browse the complete list here: http://farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/gender.asp

Read again the stories and links in the special issue of Farm Radio Weekly for International Women’s Day, March 2011: http://weekly.farmradio.org/topic/issue-147/

Gender and the roles of women and men in professional and domestic life is always a rich topic for discussion and debate. Broadcasters could produce programs on this topic to provoke debate and raise awareness. Seek out women in your community who have interesting stories to tell – for example, women who take on non-traditional roles, or who are well known for the work they do, whether in- or outside of the home.

Don’t forget to talk to men in their families or communities to get their perspective.

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Notes to broadcasters on World Food Day

Our story from Burkina Faso was written for Farm Radio Weekly to mark World Food Day on October 16th. This year’s theme is “Food prices − from crisis to stability.” The story tells how a group of farmers are struggling to maintain minimum prices in the face of subsidized imports. Read more about one of the partners mentioned in the story at: http://uniterra.ca/who-are-we/partners-profiles/comite-interprofessionnel-du-riz-du-burkina-cirb/?page=0

In 1979, the United Nations designated October 16 as a day to raise awareness of the issues behind poverty and hunger. Read more at the main World Food Day website, which has lots of information, resources, links and downloads: http://www.fao.org/getinvolved/worldfoodday/en/

Further facts and figures on food security, available by country, are available here:  http://www.fao.org/hunger/en/ .

You might also want to refer back to the four stories we published for last year’s World Food Day, when we asked writers across Africa to invite farmers to respond to the question, “How do you feel about World Food Day?” Go to: http://www.fao.org/getinvolved/worldfoodday/en/

Broadcasters can check to see if the UN, NGOs or other organizations are planning events to mark the day in their region, and produce a program around the event. This is a good opportunity to broadcast a program which highlights and values farmers, their place in rural communities, and the essential services they provide. It is also a chance for farmers to network, link with local organizations and policy-makers, and bring their concerns to light. Maybe you could organize a round-table discussion that brings farmers and key organizations together to discuss hunger, rising food prices, climate change, and how to improve agricultural production. Or consider inviting a farmer to speak to a local politician or policy-maker on-air. Please let us know about your programs and we will feature you in a future issue!

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Reporting project on reproductive health

The Pulitzer Center seeks applications from African journalists who wish to join a project that will report on reproductive health. Selected journalists will attend the International Conference on Family Planning in Dakar, Senegal, in late November 2011. They will then produce a report from their home country on reproductive health, in collaboration with a lead journalist and Pulitzer Center staff. The body of reporting produced will be distributed across Africa and internationally.

All expenses at the conference and during reporting in Africa will be covered by the Pulitzer Center. Four grants are available for English-speaking African journalists. The deadline to apply is October 14, 2011.

For more information and to apply, visit: http://pulitzercenter.org/grants/reproductive-health-africa

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“Communicating Gender for Rural Development”

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s Dimitra Project recently published a 70-page booklet entitled “Communicating Gender for Rural Development.” It defines terms related to gender and communication, and examines the issues involved in gender and communication in a rural context. The booklet outlines concrete steps involved in communication actions, and is full of examples, including listeners clubs. It is full of facts, examples and photographs, and will be of use to people working in any type of communication environment.

Download the booklet at no cost here: http://www.fao.org/docrep/014/am319e/am319e00.pdf

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Creating radio for farmers: First discussions for an e-course (by Blythe McKay, Manager, Resources for Broadcasters, Farm Radio International)

Against the scenic backdrop of Cape Town’s Table Mountain, I recently participated in a meeting hosted by the Media and Training Centre for Health, and supported by the Commonwealth of Learning’s Healthy Communities program. People from all over the world attended. They represented organizations involved in community projects that promote learning on health, ranging from improving maternal and child health in Malawi to using radio to create programs that target youth health issues in South Africa.

One of the week’s highlights was a visit to Radio Atlantis, a station 45 minutes from Cape Town, where we listened to a radio program on youth and substance abuse. We remained at the station after the program and witnessed a group of community members participate in a facilitated discussion about the show.

The meeting was designed to give everyone the opportunity to learn from their peers about the different aspects of creating a successful community learning program on health. I learned about sustainability, evaluation, collaborating with groups at the community level, identifying key messages and objectives, and using ICTs to enhance learning, guided by participants from Jamaica, the UK, Malawi, South Africa and India. I shared the e-Learning approach to creating radio scripts that Farm Radio International has developed for radio broadcasters in Africa. Several of the organizations are considering using e-Learning to help develop the skills of broadcasters in their regions who are producing radio programs on health.

Together with several other participants, I brainstormed on how to develop an e-course for broadcasters that focuses on creating an ongoing radio program that responds to farmers’ needs. In collaboration with the Commonwealth of Learning, Farm Radio International will be launching this e-course sometime in 2012. So stay tuned for more information over the coming months!

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Florence saves girls from human trafficking

On the occasion of International Rural Women’s Day, the script of the week highlights a topic which is a concern for young women, especially in rural areas. Young women looking for good paying jobs can easily be taken in by enticing adverts offering what appear to be wonderful opportunities. Often these jobs are not what they seem, and can present a danger. The script describes how one young woman narrowly avoided a difficult situation. This script is a drama based on actual interviews and true stories. It is a prize-winning script from our recent competition on healthy communities, and was written by Ugonma Cokey, from Voice of Nigeria, one of Farm Radio International’s broadcasting partners.

Read the script in full here: http://farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/93-8script_en.asp

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