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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 #177

New stem-rust resistant wheat varieties developed

Good news from plant breeders in Kenya this week, as they announce two new wheat varieties which are resistant to the Ug99 strain of wheat stem rust. The scientists hope to make the new varieties available to farmers in the coming months.

In our second story, we feature a woman who uses moringa to improve children’s nutrition. Dismayed by the level of malnutrition in her village, she set about planting moringa trees and encouraging mothers to add powdered moringa leaves to the children’s meals.

This week we honour the achievements of Mr. David Ghartey-Tagoe, and congratulate him as he receives an award from the President of Ghana. Mr. Ghartey-Tagoe founded Radio Peace, one of Farm Radio International’s broadcasting partners.

Happy reading!

-The Farm Radio Weekly team

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Kenya: Farmers optimistic about new wheat varieties (IRIN)

Farmers in Kenya have reason to be optimistic about the future of wheat in their country. The Kenya Agricultural Research Institute, or KARI, is preparing to release two new varieties of wheat. These varieties are resistant to the strain of wheat stem rust known as Ug99.

Ug99 was named after its discovery in Uganda in 1999. The fungus is spread by wind-borne spores. Ug99 causes infected plants to die or produce fewer seeds. By 2003, most of Kenya’s wheat varieties had been identified as susceptible to the fungus.

Peter Njau is a plant breeder at KARI. He notes that wheat is important to Kenya’s food supply, even though it is not as widely grown as maize or rice. Wheat is grown on about four per cent of the country’s arable land.

Since 2005, KARI has been searching for wheat varieties resistant to Ug99. Scientists screened over 200,000 lines of wheat. Only 10 per cent of these were found to have some resistance to Ug99. According to Mr. Njau, only a handful of these 10 per cent could adapt to the Kenyan environment. Experts evaluated these lines, checking if they would be suitable for commercial production in Kenya. Those which looked like a good fit were developed further for the Kenyan farmer.

Peter Njau says, “That was how Eagle10 and Robin wheat varieties were born.” Eagle10 was selected for lower altitude regions. Robin is for medium to high altitude use.

Scientists found the new varieties are suitable for baking and making bread. But Kenyan wheat farmers still need to try them for themselves. Farmers who attended a field day at KARI expressed optimism about the new wheat varieties.

Peter Thiongo used to grow wheat. But, as he explains, “That disease [Ug99] was a disaster to wheat farming; it turned out that I would not make any profit, having spent too much on fungicides.” So he turned to growing maize. But he hopes that in future, he will not need to spend money on fungicides. He says, “I am ready to plant when seeds are available.”

KARI is working with the Kenya Seeds Company to multiply the new seeds. KARI has set aside 12 hectares in Njoro, in the Rift Valley, exclusively for wheat breeding. Dr. Ephraim Mukisira is the director of KARI. He says, “We are expecting to have produced more than 10 tons of the new seed variety by the end of this year.”

Kenyan farmers have been abandoning wheat farming in recent years because of Ug99. Production costs went up 40 per cent between 2001 and 2011. According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Kenya imports about 60 per cent of the wheat it needs. Dr. Mukisira says, “I urge farmers to go back to wheat farming, knowing that the new varieties have a much lower cost of production.”

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South Africa: Mothers reduce malnutrition with moringa (World Watch Institute/IOL)

Mavis Mogasie Mathabatha planted a small forest of moringa trees in her home village of Tooseng, in Limpopo province, South Africa. The moringa trees are not for decorative purposes. This mother and grandmother harvests the leaves to make a nutritious supplement. This supplement is helping to improve children’s health in poor communities.

The moringa tree is not well known in South Africa. But in 2005, Ms. Mathabatha heard about moringa from her local reverend. They were discussing the problems of malnutrition and poverty when he told her that moringa trees were being used in Malawi. She decided to do some research to see if they could work in Limpopo. What she found told her it was possible.

The trees grow in poor soils and need minimum care. The leaves of the moringa are full of nutrients. They contain more vitamin C than oranges, more vitamin A than carrots, more potassium than bananas, and more calcium than milk.

When Ms. Mathabatha heard about moringa’s nutritional potential, she enlisted the help of local women. Together, they cleared an area and planted 1,500 trees. Ms. Mathabatha said, “Fortunately the trees grow very fast, and we were able to start picking the nutritious leaves within a month.”

She harvested the leaves, dried them, and ground them into a powder. She encouraged mothers to add the powder to their children’s main meal. She explained, “Most village families seldom have access to meat and vegetables, so the children don’t get the vitamins and minerals they need for healthy physical and mental development.” But once the mothers started adding the powdered leaf to their food, the results were there for all to see. The boys and girls blossomed.

In September 2010, the Department of Agriculture recognized Ms. Mathabatha’s initiative and named her Female Entrepreneur of the Year. Yet it was almost by chance that Ms. Mathabatha learned about the benefits of this versatile plant.

She founded an all-woman organization called Sedikong sa Lerato. So far, 300 families and more than 350 orphaned and vulnerable children are being supported by the organization. The organization is small but continues to grow. Recently, the women cleared more bush to make way for a further 3,000 moringa trees.

Scientists from the University of Fort Hare visited the village to assess the nutritional value of moringa leaves in South Africa. Local people came forward to share personal experience of the trees’ beneficial effect on their children.

This year, the scientists published their research. They confirmed that moringa leaves are rich in nutrients and can improve health and nutrition in Africa. They recommend that people consume moringa in powdered form. Powders are easily stored, and nutrients are more concentrated in powder form.

Now, Ms. Mathabatha and her organization are working hard to meet the growing demand for their moringa powder. There are challenges. They don’t have equipment or sufficient funds to prepare the land. They must grind leaves by hand, which is a laborious process. But they know they are performing an invaluable job.

Ms. Mathabatha said, “Before we started, malnutrition was very prevalent. But since we’ve started adding moringa to the children’s food … the children no longer suffer from malnutrition.”

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Notes to broadcasters on new wheat varieties

The Ug99 strain of stem rust has been spreading across Africa and the world since it was discovered in 1999. Ug99 can devastate fields, leaving farmers with little or no harvest. Fungicides provide some protection, but are expensive and often unaffordable for small-scale farmers. As a result, many farmers have abandoned growing wheat. Research institutes in Kenya and Ethiopia have been working hard to produce new varieties of wheat that are resistant to Ug99. The first varieties, named Eagle10 and Robin, will be available to farmers in Kenya in the coming months.

The following UN Food and Agriculture Organization web pages track and report on stem rust generally: http://www.fao.org/agriculture/crops/rust/stem/en/

…and Ug99 in particular:

Basic information on, and photos of, wheat stem rust can be found here: http://www.ars.usda.gov/Main/docs.htm?docid=9910

For more news reports, see:

-Kenya: KARI Brings Wheat Threat Under Control


-Plans to combat disease will boost sector


Agfax interviewed Peter Njau, a plant breeder at the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute, on Ug99 in April 2011. The audio and transcripts are available here:  http://www.agfax.net/radio/detail.php?i=422&s=a

FRW reported on the spread of Ug99 in July 2010:

-Global: Stem rust returns to threaten wheat crops again (IPS, IRIN, The Economist)

Farm Radio International has produced a number of scripts on pests and diseases in crops. For example:
Understanding plant diseases (Package 72, Script 2, September 2004).
Farmers try to beat a virulent disease (Package 81, Script 6, August 2007).

If you broadcast to a region where farmers grow wheat, you could produce a story highlighting stem rust.
-Is stem rust a disease that farmers know how to deal with?
-Have they heard of Ug99, or reports of new strains of the disease?
-How do they currently manage diseases in wheat?
-Would they use fungicides to control rust? Are fungicides affordable?
-If not, what would they do if they discovered stem rust in their fields?
-How often do they check their wheat for signs of disease?

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Notes to broadcasters on moringa

Moringa oleifera is cultivated around the world for its nutritious pods, leaves, and flowers. It can survive drought and poor soil conditions. Its oil can be used for lighting or cooking, and moringa leaves can be used as fertilizer. All parts of the tree are useful. It is even used in teas and beauty treatments.

Visit the website of Ms. Mathabatha’s community organization:


The research paper that details results of the University if Fort Hare’s work with the residents of Tooseng can be accessed here: http://www.academicjournals.org/AJB/PDF/pdf2011/5Oct/Moyo%20et%20al.pdf

For more news on Ms. Mathabatha’s award, see: http://www.southafrica.info/business/trends/newbusiness/miracletree-010910.htm

You can find more information about the moringa tree and its leaves on the following websites:


Farm Radio International scripts on moringa include:

-Grow moringa for food and fodder (Package 71, Script 4, June 2004). http://farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/71-4script_en.asp

-The many uses of the moringa tree (Package 71, Script 3, June 2004). http://farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/71-3script_en.asp

-Use moringa seeds to clean dirty or polluted water (Package 54, Script 11, January 2000). http://farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/54-11script_en.asp

One of the first stories published in Farm Radio Weekly looked at the benefits of moringa for people living with HIV:

Benin: The moringa oleifera tree helps people living with HIV regain their strength (FRW #3, December 2007) http://weekly.farmradio.org/2007/12/17/3-benin-the-moringa-oleifera-tree-helps-people-living-with-hiv-regain-their-strength-farm-radio-weekly-agence-france-press-and-allafricacom/

You might consider producing a feature program on moringa oleifera. Find out how common the tree is in your region, and whether extension workers, farmers, or local herbalists have any knowledge or experience with it. Ask experts from local government, NGOs, or research institutes to explain its cultivation and nutritional properties. Try to include farmers in the discussion by asking their opinions about the tree, and whether they would consider growing it or using it to improve nutrition, if they do not already. Find out their concerns and questions. If moringa is not well known in your area, you could do a follow-up program in a year’s time to see if any farmers have planted and used it!

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Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellows Program

The Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellows Program invites applications for its international practitioner program. The program offers democracy activists and journalists from around the world the opportunity to spend five months in residence at the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), in Washington, D.C. There they will undertake independent research on democracy in a particular country or region. Fellows usually work towards producing a report, short article, handbook, or another product.

Applicants should have substantial experience working to promote democracy or human rights. A working knowledge of English required. Deadline November 8, 2011.

For full details visit: http://www.ned.org/fellowships/reagan-fascell-democracy-fellows-program/applying-for-a-fellowship

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AMARC Africa seeks contributions to quarterly publication

AMARC Africa (the African regional section of the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters) wants to build its quarterly publication into a reference source on community radio in Africa. It also aims to establish the publication as a link between community stations and networks throughout the continent and the rest of the world.

The contribution of all media stakeholders is indispensable to achieve these objectives. This is why AMARC Africa requests regular contributions to its quarterly publication.

You could:

• Announce the creation of a community media outlet

• Announce the launch of an important project or initiative involving your community radio, media organization, or network

• Report on important events involving or concerning community radio/media

• Report threats against community radio/media and journalists

• Inform on developments to media laws and regulations as they affect community radio/ media in your country or another country

• Interview community radio/media activists, practitioners, scholars, and other stakeholders.

Send your contributions, along with photos, by email to : alymanab@yahoo.fr

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Ghanaian broadcaster receives honour

Mr. David Ghartey-Tagoe is the founder of Radio Peace, one of the first community radio stations in Ghana, which Farm Radio International is proud to count among its broadcasting partners. Earlier this month he was honoured by the State of Ghana with the title: “Member of the Order of the Volta.” He received his award from the President, Prof. John Evans Atta Mills. We send our hearty congratulations.

Mr. Ghartey-Tagoe has had a long and distinguished career in radio, television, and as a university professor. In 1965 he was the first television newscaster in Ghana to use the autocue. Through his pioneering spirit and hard work he rose to the position of Deputy Director General of the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation. Radio Peace (based in the town of Winneba) has received several awards over the years, including Best Rural Radio Station in Ghana, in 2009.

Read more about the award and Mr. Ghartey-Tagoe here:



You can also watch a 14-minute video of part of the award ceremony on YouTube. The ceremony begins at 2 minutes 20 seconds, with speeches. Watch Mr. Ghartey-Tagoe receive his honour from 10 minutes 35 seconds onwards.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uqY7MryF3DM&feature=youtu.be

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The many uses of the moringa tree

One of this week’s news stories is about moringa. To complement that story, this week’s script is about the many benefits and uses of the moringa tree, also known as the drumstick, horseradish, or benzolive tree. For example, did you know that the moringa tree provides nutritious food for people, fodder for livestock, and that the seeds can even be used to clean dirty water? You can use this script to discuss the benefits of moringa on your radio program.

To read the full script, go to: http://farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/71-3script_en.asp

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