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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 #180

Indigenous vegetables and sugarcane!

In recent years, indigenous crops like amaranth have seen a rise in popularity. Sugarcane researchers in Kenya have found that when farmers plant indigenous vegetables alongside sugarcane, they can benefit from a harvest of vegetables before the sugarcane grows tall and leafy. The sugarcane also benefits from improved soil health!

Many people in Africa now own mobile phones. In rural areas, they are a boon for farmers who can access services to check market prices or weather forecasts. In our second story this week, we hear how a women’s co-operative in Zimbabwe benefits from a mobile phone banking service.

Welcome to everyone who has signed up for Barza, our online networking site for farm radio broadcasters. But we’d love to see more of you on Barza! Please join our growing community! http://barzaradio.com

Happy reading!

-The Farm Radio Weekly team

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Kenya: Farmer enjoys good profits from vegetables intercropped with sugarcane (by Sawa Pius for Farm Radio Weekly in Kenya)

Geoffrey Wafula grew up eating African indigenous vegetables. He never imagined they could have a place on a sugarcane plantation. For the past ten years Mr. Wafula has grown sugarcane on a hectare of land in the Mumias district of Western Kenya. Since he began intercropping vegetables with his sugarcane, both his income and soils have improved.

Sugarcane is the main cash crop in Western Kenya. But land is scarce in this region. According to Mr. Wafula, farmers cannot rely on sugarcane to provide for all their needs. They must find other sources of income.

As well as being a farmer, Mr. Wafula is an agricultural field assistant with the Kenya Sugar Research Foundation. He learned from researchers there that he could grow indigenous vegetables alongside sugarcane. This would enrich the soil and he could sell the vegetables.

In 2006, Mr. Wafula decided to try the technique, known as intercropping. He says, “I started intercropping the vegetables [in the] sugarcane …  I grow spider plant, amaranth, jute mallow, black night shade, crotalaria and cowpeas.”

Mr. Wafula explains that these vegetables have high market values compared to exotic varieties like cabbage and spinach. He adds, “The demand is very high and my major clients are the local restaurants and the markets around.” Thanks to profits from vegetable sales, he can afford to buy household goods and send his children to school.  The family also eats some of the vegetables.

Mr. Wafula urges other farmers to make the most of their small sugarcane plots by intercropping. He says that sugarcane takes up to two years to mature, but vegetables take only three months. Vegetables can be planted in single or double rows between the lines of sugarcane. The vegetables should be harvested before the sugarcane becomes leafy and shades the ground, forming what is called a canopy. He advises, “If you plant sugarcane today, tomorrow you plant the vegetables. This is because at seven months, the sugarcane forms a canopy and the shade will affect the vegetables.”

Through his work at the sugar research foundation, Mr. Wafula has learned another advantage of intercropping: reducing soil erosion. He says that vegetables form a cover and hold water. In this way, they prevent rain from washing the soil away.

Mr. Wafula estimates there are around 300,000 sugarcane farmers in Western Kenya. About half of them use the technique of intercropping. And as more farmers learn about it, the technique is spreading. Mr. Wafula is glad that he gave it a try. He says, “The vegetables have been a blessing to me.”

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Zimbabwe: Rural women bank by mobile phone (IPS)

Collecting the monthly subscriptions for her co-operative has always been a headache for Thelma Nare. This is because Mrs. Nare lives in Tshitshi, a remote village in Zimbabwe, about 60 kilometres away from the nearest bank.

Mrs. Nare explains that the co-operative members live far from each other in rural areas. Some find it difficult to attend meetings, so they don’t meet very often. In the past, if members could not attend, there was no way for them to make their monthly contribution. The women in the co-operative, or money club, as it is called in Zimbabwe, do not have a bank account.

Then Mrs. Nare discovered mobile phone cash transfers while on a trip to Bulawayo, some 100 kilometres from Tshitshi.  She says, “When I told the other women in my money club [about mobile cash transfers], it seemed to be the answer to our problems.” Mobile phone cash transfers allow people without bank accounts to send and receive cash.

The system is fairly simple. A user registers for mobile phone banking with their service provider and is given an “e-wallet.” This is linked to their phone number. When users want to pay for services or transfer money, they go to an agent and pay the desired amount, which is loaded onto their e-wallet. The payment is sent to the recipient’s e-wallet. Then, the recipient can withdraw the money from an agent. There are agents across the country in supermarkets, post offices, and stores, making the service easily accessible in rural areas.

It is a convenient system for Mrs. Nare and the women in her co-operative. They can now make trips to Bulawayo to sell produce, without worrying that they will miss co-operative payments. As with many co-operatives, defaulters are not particularly valued. But these women would have not been able to cope with the country’s failing economy if it had not been for the money club.

These rural women are at the centre of efforts by mobile phone service providers to introduce mobile phone money transfers in Zimbabwe. Mobile network giant Econet Wireless has five million subscribers. It introduced the service in September. Competitors quickly followed, including NetOne and Telecel, both of which are owned by the government.

Viola Matongerere is an economist and gender and development specialist. She comments “These are services which people, especially rural women, have always wanted.” According to her, the efforts of rural women in Zimbabwe to improve their livelihoods have been held back their inability to access things that men have ready access to, like bank accounts. Services such as mobile phone money transfers will give women more financial independence.

Girlie Moyo is a member of Mrs. Nare’s co-operative. She says “The fact that we can organise ourselves as women in our co-operative through our phones is what matters.”

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Notes to broadcasters on intercropping in sugarcane plantations

Farmers across Africa commonly practice intercropping. Beans or squash are planted alongside maize, for example. There are many advantages to planting more than one type of crop on the same land. Farmers can make the most of the available land, sunlight, water, and nutrients. In this week’s story, farmers plant vegetables at the same time as a new sugarcane crop. The vegetables use the space, sunlight, and nutrients before the cane gets so tall that it shades the shorter plants. Researchers have also found that having some plants between the sugarcane prevents erosion and protects the soil – lots of reasons for trying it out!

For general background information on the technique of intercropping, visit: http://www.allindiary.org/pool/resources/intercropping.pdf

The Kenya Sugar Research Foundation website has lots of information about sugarcane in Kenya, and efforts to increase agrobiodiversity in sugarcane growing areas : http://www.kesref.org/innerkesref.php?subcat=28&sublev=2

Read more about some of the indigenous vegetables Mr. Wafula grows:

Spider plant http://www.infonet-biovision.org/default/ct/165/crops

Amaranth http://www.infonet-biovision.org/default/ct/169/crops

Black night shade http://www.infonet-biovision.org/default/ct/142/crops

Jew mallow http://database.prota.org/PROTAhtml/Corchorus%20olitorius_En.htm

Farm Radio International has published scripts about how well-managed intercropping can benefit farmers, whether through reducing plant pests, or diversifying the food consumed at home:

-Understanding Plant Diseases (Package 72, Script 2, September 2004) http://farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/72-2script_en.asp

-Crop Rotation and Intercropping Reduce Damage from Striga Weed (Package 72, Script 6, September 2004) http://farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/72-6script_en.asp

-Diversify Crops to Keep your Family Healthy (Package 65, Script 1, October 2002) http://farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/65-1script_en.asp

Here are two Farm Radio Weekly stories related to intercropping:

-Uganda: Coffee and bananas make good neighbours (FRW 90, November 2009) http://weekly.farmradio.org/2009/11/30/2-uganda-coffee-and-bananas-make-good-neighbours-iita/

-East Africa: Indigenous vegetables make a comeback (FRW 87, November 2009) http://weekly.farmradio.org/2009/11/09/2-east-africa-indigenous-vegetables-make-a-comeback-new-vision-new-agriculturalist-2/

Intercropping is a relatively easy, low input, and low cost technique that can improve soils, increase productivity, increase diversity and incomes. Certain crops work well together, such as cereals and legumes. Farmers may be interested to hear more about the science involved, and then experiment with their own crop mixtures. You could seek out an expert from an NGO or the government, as well as a farmer who has experience with intercropping, to have an informative, discussion-based radio show.

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Notes to broadcasters on mobile phone banking

A recent report by Groupe Spéciale Mobile Association (GSM) found that Africa has the fastest growing mobile phone market in the world. The GSM report predicts that there will be more than 735 million subscribers in Africa by the end of 2012.

Kenya is an example of the popularity of mobile phone banking, with the MPesa mobile money transfer becoming a widely-used service. Many observers expect that similar services in Zimbabwe will be just as successful and fast-growing. For people who live in rural areas, mobile banking is a great option. Many development agencies believe that services that can be provided through mobile phones will make great strides towards empowering rural communities. Farm Radio International has used mobile phone technology to enable listeners to participate in, or re-listen to, radio programs.

For background information and research on the use of mobile phones in development efforts, visit: http://audiencescapes.org/

MobileActive is a site for people using mobile technology “for social impact”: http://mobileactive.org/

Here is a recent news item about the success of MPesa in Kenya: http://thenextweb.com/africa/2011/10/24/local-transactions-by-kenyas-mobile-money-service-m-pesa-exceeds-western-unions-global-transactions/[k2]

Here are some previous Farm Radio Weekly stories featuring mobile phones and related technology:

Kenya: Farmers link to markets through SMS (FRW 99, February 2010) http://weekly.farmradio.org/2010/02/15/2-kenya-farmers-link-to-markets-through-sms-farm-radio-weekly-flooded-cellar-productions/

Africa: Cell phones help farmers and traders do business more efficiently (FRW 7, January 2008) http://weekly.farmradio.org/2008/01/21/4-africa-cell-phones-help-farmers-and-traders-do-business-more-efficiently-farm-radio-weekly-africanewscom/

-Africa: African fishers and farmers will get more accurate weather info to better deal with climate change (FRW 73, July 2009) http://weekly.farmradio.org/2009/07/13/2-africa-african-fishers-and-farmers-will-get-more-accurate-weather-info-to-better-deal-with-climate-change-farm-radio-weekly-and-global-humanitarian-forum/

You may wish to gauge the opinions of your listeners on cellular technologies and agriculture, or you may wish to research a local story on the topic. Here are some questions that might help:

– How do farmers in your area sell their products?
– Do farmers in your area have access to cell phones? If so, do they use SMS to receive market prices or sell goods?
– Have farmers in your area increased their incomes by using cell phones?
– Do farmers use their cell phones to receive or exchange other information that helps them in their farming?
If you interview farmers who use cell phones, we would be very interested in hearing their stories. E-mail us at farmradioweekly@farmradio.org.

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UNEP Young Environmental Journalist Award

The competition for the 2011 United Nation Environment Programme (UNEP) Young Environmental Journalist Award is now open!

The award seeks to recognise the very best in original, accurate and inspiring reporting on the environment by young African journalists (between 21 and 35 years old). The award is open to print, broadcast and online journalists who have reported on environmental issues in 2011. Reports should demonstrate relevance to local and / or regional communities in Africa. The winner will receive an all-expenses-paid trip to the United States. Entries must be submitted in French or English. The deadline to apply is December 16, 2011.

For more information and to apply, visit http://www.unep.org/yeja/about.asp

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How to find your audio levels

The Transom.org website provides a wealth of information, support, training and ideas around producing stories for public radio. In their “Tools” section you can find product reviews, and tips on how to use different tools. We have selected a detailed piece with advice on how producers can get good audio levels when mixing and recording. It looks at different tools, some of which you may know, others may be new to you.

Read “Levels” here (English only, francophone readers could try an online translator): http://transom.org/?p=16413

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Farm Radio International’s West Africa office participates in Agri-ProFocus workshop.

Dramane Tounkara, office manager from Farm Radio International’s West Africa regional office in Mali, recently attended an Agri-ProFocus Multi-Stakeholder Workshop in Sikasso, Mali. Agri-ProFocus is a network of Dutch development organizations, which operates in Mali with the aim of promoting farmer entrepreneurship.

This workshop brought together more than 60 participants from local and international NGOs. The aim of the gathering was to assess the ideas, and opportunities to optimize current and future interventions. Malian organizations were invited to create a common agenda for joint action to support entrepreneurial farmers.

Working in groups, participants identified a number of key themes: access to financial services; market access and marketing; equitable and secure land tenure; management and governance of farms; and access to agricultural inputs and equipment. Each group considered the previous experience of Farm Radio International in Mali in communicating with beneficiaries (farmers), and looked at how radio could contribute to the achievement of food security and the fight against poverty in rural communities.

Action plans for each of these key themes will be developed in 2012. Participants and their partners, including Dutch development organisations such as ICCO, IICD (International Institute for Communication and Development), and SNV, pledged to support the work.

Finally, a website “AGRI HUB Mali” (http://apf-mali.ning.com/ in French only) has been established to enable exchange and sharing of information between stakeholders and their partners.  Organizations wishing to become partners in these efforts may visit www.agri-profocus.nl.

For more information from Agri-ProFocus about the workshop, visit (English only): http://www.agri-profocus.nl/2011/articles/multi-stakeholder-workshop-mali-jumpstarts-agri-hub-process/.

To view photos from the workshop, visit: http://apf-mali.ning.com/profiles/blogs/quelques-photos-de-l-atelier-agri-hub-a-sikasso-le-10-novembre.

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The three sisters: Maize, beans, and squash

One of our stories this week is about intercropping. So our script of the week, also on intercropping, may inspire your programming. This script tells the story of how three crops grow well when they are planted near to each other. The storytellers describe how farmers can grow these crops together and what benefits they may see!


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