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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 #179

Barza broadcasters’ networking site launched!

The big news this week is that we are launching Barza, our new networking site for African radio broadcasters. Visit and sign up at: http://barzaradio.com/. You can read more details below in the Farm Radio Action section. We look forward to welcoming you!

Farmers in Burkina Faso are already worrying about poor harvests and potential food shortages this season. Read more from our writer below.

Good nutrition is not only about eating enough − it is about eating well. Communities in DR Congo have been learning how to prepare balanced meals. They are discovering that there is more to avoiding malnutrition than filling bellies.

The United Nations recently announced that the global population has reached seven billion. The implications have been much discussed in the media. Below, we take a brief look at what this means for farmers, and the millions who go to bed hungry every day.

-The Farm Radio Weekly team

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Burkina Faso: Farmers prepare for poor harvests (by Seydou Nacro, for Farm Radio Weekly in Burkina Faso)

Farmers in southern Burkina Faso are coming to the end of a difficult season. There has been little rain and farmers expect poor harvests. Lassina Zio is a farmer in Panassian, a village in the south. He says, “It will be difficult to escape the famine this year.”

In Panassian, as in the rest of the south, there is talk of an upcoming food crisis. According to Mr. Zio, lack of rain is the problem. He notes, “The rains this year have surprised everyone. They started late but have also been irregular.” Mr. Zio explains how poor rains have affected him, saying, “Lack of rain has dried my beans and my maize did not germinate well.”

Abdoulaye Zizien is a farmer from the neighbouring town of Leo. He shares Mr. Zio’s concern. He predicts a poor maize harvest. He says, “Even if the rains come back, some crops are too dry to recover.”

This situation is unprecedented in the southern region. Although the south is not the breadbasket of the country, cereal production here is usually sufficient. The region receives the highest rainfall in Burkina Faso. But it is not just the south that is affected by the unpredictability of the rain. In early November, the national government reported that one third of all municipalities are food insecure.

The prospect of failing crops has pushed up grain prices. In the market in Leo, maize prices have doubled since this time last year. This disproportionately affects the poorest farmers, who fear starvation. Mariam Sawadogo is a farmer’s widow. She says, “I cannot feed my children throughout the year with what I have harvested.” She has no savings to fall back on and feels powerless.

Faced with possible famine, the government is preparing its response. It plans to transfer grain from areas where there is a surplus to areas in need. The government is meeting with various groups to seek solutions. Finally, there is a plan to make short-season and high-yielding seeds available to farmers. But the government plans have no timeline as yet.

For now, farmers are waiting for these plans materialize. Lassina Zio says, “If [the government plans] can satisfy our hunger, it’s a good thing.”

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Democratic Republic of the Congo: Women learn to eat better, not more (Syfia Grands Lacs)

In DRC’s North Kivu province, educating women about food is beginning to bear fruit. Women are learning how to prevent malnutrition by preparing balanced meals with locally available products. At a local health centre, a pregnant woman says, “We used to eat cassava fufu from the first to the thirty-first of the month. But now I know how to vary our meals.”

In recent months, workers from the National Nutrition Program feeding centres have been going door-to-door in Goma and Rutshuru to identify families and children affected by malnutrition. Eray Barungu works with the nutrition program. According to the organization’s surveys, Mr. Barungu notes, “Six per cent of people in North Kivu are malnourished, mostly children and pregnant and lactating women.”

The household visits are an opportunity to teach women how to feed their family well with available foods. Many women still believe quantity of food is more important than quality. Nutritionists working on the program identify this lack of knowledge, rather than lack of food, as the main cause of malnutrition.

Aimedo Placide is a nutritionist with Caritas, an NGO working with the program. He says, “That is why we train the women about the value of a balanced diet. When food consumption in households is diverse … the family is insured against malnutrition.” According to Mr. Placide, a balanced diet includes cereals, tubers, animal protein, vegetables, beans, sugar and oil.

The town of Rutshuru is located 50 kilometres from the provincial capital of Goma. Food education sessions are held regularly at a local health centre. Ms. Nzabonimpa is the mother of malnourished twins. They are more than one year old, but are not yet crawling. The mother comes to the centre every Monday for a medical appointment, and learns how to feed her young children a good diet. She says, “I know how to make milk from soybeans. With little money, I can now make sure they get all the nutrients they need.”

Thanks to the food education sessions, hundreds of families are now able to feed themselves better. Over two hundred families received a pair of guinea pigs, then passed on the female offspring to other families. Nearly fifty families received goats under a similar arrangement. One hundred and twenty women have formed a group to grow soy beans, maize and vegetables.

Mrs. Baudoine is head of nutrition at one health centre. Previously, malnourished children required at least a 30-day treatment in health centres. Their mothers stayed with them, leaving other children at home. But, as Mrs. Baudoine explains, “When the [mothers] went home, they found their other children were in turn malnourished.” According to Mrs. Baudoine, this is why the health centre began home visits. Involving the community in the fight against malnutrition has helped break this vicious cycle, which was observed in several feeding centres in Rutshuru.

Since 2010, community networks have been created to monitor malnutrition in each village. Today, only the most severe cases are sent to the hospital.

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Global: World population reaches seven billion (Various sources)

On October 31, the United Nations Population Fund announced that the global population had reached seven billion. The UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon said, “Today, we welcome baby 7 billion. In doing so we must recognize our moral and pragmatic obligation to do the right thing for him, or for her.”

The announcement sparked debates about population growth, and the Earth’s ability to provide food, water and all the resources needed to sustain more than seven billion.

Kanayo Nwanze is the president of the International Fund for Agricultural Development. He remarked, “We must support smallholder farmers so that they can feed themselves and contribute to the world’s food supply.” Smallholder farmers already produce up to 80% of the food consumed in developing countries.

Many people link growing populations to increased hunger. As Mr. Nwanze comments, “Having more mouths to feed is certainly a challenge at a time when already one billion … are chronically hungry.”

But the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization notes that the world produces more than the recommended 2700 calories per person per day. For many commentators, the challenge of reducing hunger lies not in increasing food production, but in better distribution.

This would make a good topic for a discussion program. Try to focus your discussion on one aspect of the issue, for example, population growth, availability of family planning, nutrition, or equitable food distribution. Let us know if you have an interesting on-air discussion. We’d love to feature your broadcasting stories in FRW. Here are some resources to inspire you:

Read the story as reported by the United Nations Population Fund: http://www.unfpa.org/public/cache/offonce/home/news/pid/8769;jsessionid=5A3E50482D469ED444FA67E065284FDC.jahia01

For other news reports, see:


http://www.trust.org/alertnet/news/a-crowded-worlds-population-hits-7-billion/ etc.


Other commentators include:

Action Against Hunger: http://www.actionagainsthunger.org/blog/hunger-and-population-growth-correcting-common-misunderstanding

Nourishing the Planet: http://blogs.worldwatch.org/nourishingtheplanet/as-global-population-surpasses-7-billion-two-clear-strategies-for-a-sustainable-future/

Jeffery Sachs on CNN: http://edition.cnn.com/2011/10/17/opinion/sachs-global-population/index.html?iref=allsearch

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Notes to broadcasters on famine preparedness

There have already been reports this season from the Sahel that poor rains are expected to lead to meagre harvests. The UN World Food Program (WFP) warns that, in Niger, we may see a repeat of last year’s food shortages. Families who have barely recovered from last year are most at risk.

For the full report from WFP: http://www.wfp.org/news/news-release/wfp-calls-early-action-avoid-full-scale-food-crisis-niger

Other news reports:

-“Full scale food crisis threatens Niger and Mauritania” http://www.trust.org/alertnet/news/full-scale-food-crisis-threatens-niger-and-mauitania-wfp

-“West Africa: Building resilience in the Sahel” http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportid=94082

You may wish to refer to previous FRW news items on this topic, including:

-Sahel: Fighting malnutrition with local food security and water management initiatives (FRW 122, August 2010). http://weekly.farmradio.org/2010/08/02/sahel-fighting-malnutrition-with-local-food-security-and-water-management-initiatives-irin-rfi-reuters-bbc-icrisat/

-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/

Here are some Farm Radio International scripts that deal with drought and desertification:

-Farmers in Niger benefit from letting trees grow in their fields (Package 88, Script 7, July 2009). http://farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/88-7script_en.asp

-Make drylands productive with planting pits (Package 41, Script 1, September 1996). http://farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/41-1script_en.asp

-A 13-part radio drama set in northern Nigeria entitled, “The long dry season: A tale of greed and resourcefulness” (Package 77, March 2006)

-Micro-doses of Fertilizer Increase Yields in the Sahel (Package 79, Script 4, November 2006). http://www.farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/79-4script_en.asp

Food shortages and droughts are common throughout Africa. One way to report on them is to look at how farmers, NGOs and governments can prepare for these difficult times. The situation in the Sahel affects millions of people. Try to investigate issues on a local or regional level. You could interview a range of people. Here are some questions to ask:
-How do farmers and rural communities react to stories of famine from other regions?
-Does the local government have plans in place to deal with such emergencies?
-If your region is ever affected by floods, drought or hunger, how do NGOs and local authorities respond? Should they do more?

-Can individual farming families take effective actions by themselves, or are collective actions needed?

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Notes to broadcasters on nutrition

We chose this story because it shows that nutrition is not only about the amount of food consumed, but that variety and quality are very important. Malnutrition is defined as the condition that develops when the body does not get the right amount of the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients it needs to maintain healthy tissues and organ function. The term is commonly used to refer to children and people who do not have enough to eat, or are undernourished. But people who are over-nourished, or overweight, can also be malnourished if they do not consume enough essential vitamins and minerals. This can be caused by a lack of variety in the diet. Infants, young children, and pregnant or breastfeeding women need larger quantities of some nutrients. They are therefore more susceptible to malnutrition. So, as the story says, avoiding malnutrition is not about eating more, it is about eating better. In many cases, “better” means a more varied diet.

For more facts and information about malnutrition, please visit these sites:




The website of the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) also provides useful background information: http://www.gainhealth.org/about-malnutrition

GAIN is part of a partnership called Thousand Days, which promotes investment in improved nutrition for mothers and children in the 1,000 day period from pregnancy to age two. According to the GAIN website, better nutrition during this period can have a life-changing impact on a child: http://www.thousanddays.org/

Read more about the World Food Programme’s activities in DR Congo here: http://www.wfp.org/countries/Congo–Democratic-Republic-Of/Operations

Farm Radio International has produced many scripts on health and nutrition. Browse our archive here: http://farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/health.asp

Here are some recent stories from Farm Radio Weekly related to nutrition:

Zimbabwe: Women grow better lives near the city (FRW 168, August 2011) http://weekly.farmradio.org/2011/08/15/zimbabwe-women-grow-better-lives-near-the-city-by-zenzele-ndebele-for-farm-radio-weekly-in-zimbabwe/

Mali: Traditional healers join fight against malnutrition (FRW 165, July 2011) http://weekly.farmradio.org/2011/07/25/mali-traditional-healers-join-fight-against-malnutrition-irin/

Poor nutrition and hunger are all too common in sub-Saharan Africa at any time, especially in rural areas. You might wish to produce a program that covers the basic facts of nutrition and malnutrition, how to recognize and treat symptoms of malnutrition, or how to prevent malnutrition and promote good nutrition. As well as presenting facts, ask women and male farmers what they understand by malnutrition, and try to identify and clarify any misconceptions. Interview health experts or NGOs that work on nutrition and health. You could also explore the links between agriculture and nutrition, such as growing vegetables to diversify diets. It is a huge topic, so be creative!

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John S. Knight Journalism Fellowships

Journalists are invited to apply for a John S. Knight Fellowship. Each year, 20 qualified journalists are chosen from around the world for the Fellowships. Selected journalists will spend the 2012-2013 academic year at Stanford University in the United States, developing their knowledge and skills. The program is particularly looking for innovative or entrepreneurial proposals this year. The program encourages applications from journalists in countries where the press is either under threat or still in the process of becoming independent.

Fellows receive a stipend, plus Stanford tuition and some expenses. The deadline to apply is December 1, 2011. For more information and to apply, visit http://knight.stanford.edu/application/

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Community listeners’ clubs

This colourful booklet describes the experiences of community listeners’ clubs in Niger and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is produced by the FAO Dimitra Project which, with a number of partners, established listeners’ clubs in these two countries in the mid-2000s.

The booklet describes what a listeners’ club is, how it operates, and the results the project has seen. There are plenty of case studies, quotes and examples. The final section presents guidelines for creating community listeners’ clubs. It describes factors for success and how to transform theory into practice. The booklet is useful for radio stations and NGOs alike.

To download this publication, visit http://www.fao.org/fileadmin/templates/dimitra/pdf/clubs_d_ecoute_2011_en.pdf

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Introducing Barza, the online community for radio broadcasters

We are delighted to announce the launch of Barza (www.barzaradio.com) – the online community for radio broadcasters!

On Barza, you will have your own profile page to upload audio, scripts, photos, events and video. There is a Discussions page where you can participate in various discussions such as the introduction forum, the climate change adaptation forum and the broadcasting tips forum. On the Resources page, you will find audio, text and video resources on topics ranging from climate change adaptation to equipment for recording programs. Radio stations can have their own page where they can highlight the work they do.

Why is the site called Barza?

Farm Radio International surveyed around 1000 Farm Radio Weekly subscribers and broadcasting partners, asking them to suggest names for the online community. We chose six of the best and asked the 1000 subscribers and broadcasting partners to choose between them. Barza was the winner! Barza is a French Congolese word with Kiswahili roots which means, “The place where people in a village meet under a tree to talk and sort out questions concerning the community.”

Please join Barza!

You can join Barza by going to: http://www.barzaradio.com/account/register.

As you create your account and set up your profile, make sure you fill out the form thoroughly and upload a picture of yourself!

Once that’s done, we invite you to go to the Discussions page: http://www.barzaradio.com/forum. There, in the Welcome forums, you can introduce yourself and then join the icebreaker activity with other Barza community members.

We invite you to explore the site. If you have any questions about the different tools and features, don’t hesitate to post a message in the technical support forum on the Discussions page http://www.barzaradio.com/forum.

Also, if you are a Facebook user, we encourage you to “like” the Barza Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Barza/136418766438517

Please send all comments and suggestions to barza@farmradio.org.

We would like to thank the International Development Research Center as well as the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) for supporting this initiative. We would also like to thank Digital4Good, a web development company based in Cape Town, South Africa, who worked with the Farm Radio International team to develop Barza.

We look forward to interacting with you on Barza.

-The Barza team

Nelly Bassily, Oge Ogbechie, Busi Ngcebetsha, Blythe McKay, Bartholomew Sullivan, and Mark Leclair

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A community fights malnutrition with local leafy vegetables

Hunger is not only about not having enough to eat; it is also about what you eat, as we learned in one of this week’s stories. Good nutrition involves consuming adequate vitamins and minerals. This includes micronutrients such as Vitamin A and iron, both of which are important for healthy growth and development. A lack of micronutrients in the diet is often termed “hidden hunger.’’ Many staple foods such as maize, cassava and sweet potato do not provide enough of these micronutrients. But there are many indigenous African leafy vegetables with high levels of vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients. In this script, we hear how communities can make good use of these local vegetables.

This script is based on actual interviews. It was a winner in our recent scriptwriting competition on healthy communities, and was written by Gabriel Adukpo, from the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Koforidua, Ghana.

This script is available in an audio version on this page: http://farmradio.org/english/partners/multi-media/

Read the text of the script here: http://farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/93-3script_en.asp

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