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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 #182

World AIDS Day stories

This week we bring you three more new stories to mark World AIDS Day. A common theme in these stories is raising awareness and telling your story, whether this be through theatre, forming a group, or simply talking to your neighbours and friends about your experience with HIV and AIDS.

Last week we received news from one of our broadcasting partners, the Ugunja Community Resource Centre, about floods in their region of Kenya. Read more in our first story. We wish them well as they assist communities in need.

In a small town in Guinea, one organisation is using theatre as a way to reach people with information about HIV transmission. Theatre can be a non-confrontational and light-hearted way of dealing with a difficult topic, and results are being seen.

Roselyne Rajwero, from Kenya, lost hope when she was diagnosed HIV positive. But she found the courage to approach others and form a support group. They now successfully raise and market chickens together.

In our third story, Collen Banda from Zambia tells us how his life has changed since his diagnosis. He tries to maintain a healthy diet and wants his story to be heard.

-The Farm Radio Weekly team

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Western Kenya: Floods displace hundreds, crops lost (Farm Radio Weekly, AllAfrica)

John Owida and his family are one of hundreds of families in Western Kenya who have lost their crops and are left homeless by recent floods. The Siaya and Ugenya districts are the worst hit areas close to Ugunja, where the River Nzoia has broken its banks due to heavy rains.

Mr. Owida explains: “My family and I have nowhere to call home now. My house and livestock were all swept down the river. We are counting on the generosity of neighbours and well-wishers to get a place to spend the night.”

Torrents of water swept homesteads along the river banks away. People have lost stocks of food, animals and household goods. More than 100 families are camping in schools and other institutions, waiting for government aid.

The Ugunja Community Resource Centre is one of Farm Radio International’s broadcasting partners based in this region. Aggrey Omondi is the Chief Executive Officer. He estimates that over 20,000 people are affected. By email, he advises that the situation is so bad that any assistance is welcome. Immediate needs include medical services, food, blankets and bedding. The floodwaters have not yet receded, and conditions are getting worse. Mr. Omondi says, “Cases of waterborne diseases like cholera have started and we would wish to act but we have no resources to do anything except to visit and counsel [people].”

The Kenya Red Cross has been distributing cooking oil, blankets and medicine. But Mr. Omondi contends that the response from relief agencies is slow. He says, “Red Cross has not reached many of the places despite desperate calls to assist infants and old men who we found shivering from the harsh cold.” Mr. Omondi and his colleagues have been out meeting affected people in their camps and taking their data to share with the authorities.

Officials are assessing need and advising people to move to higher ground while relief efforts are being organized.

For further reports on this story, see:

Kenya floods displace thousands (video) http://www.trust.org/alertnet/multimedia/video-and-audio/detail.dot?mediaInode=a158147b-968f-414e-abdd-4f2bc6d588b3 (video)

Flash floods displace families in Siaya

http://allafrica.com/stories/201112050077.html

Floods’ death toll rise to 24, displace 100,000

http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/InsidePage.php?id=2000048220&cid=4&ttl=Floods’%20death%20toll%20rise%20to%2024,%20displace%20100,000

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Guinea: Theatre teaches youth how to avoid HIV transmission (by Ibrahima Sory Cissé, for Farm Radio Weekly, in Guinea)

The public square in Mambia is unusually busy. People are gathering for an evening of open-air theatre. Tonight, educators from an HIV and AIDS counselling centre will perform a play. The performance will deliver information and raise awareness about HIV and AIDS.

The characters use expressive language to describe how HIV is transmitted. They cover everything, including unprotected sex and the use of contaminated objects. The peer educators expose the danger posed by a person who has many sexual partners. In Soussou, the local language, they explain the importance of voluntary testing.

Mambia is a mining town in western Guinea.  The counselling centre that performed the play is known as CECOJE. They chose Mambia because sexual activity is booming in the area. This is due to the presence of the bauxite mine in nearby Débélé. The men who work here are separated for long periods from their families. Many take multiple partners, and prostitution is common. HIV prevalence is around 1.5%. But through awareness raising activities such as the theatre performance, things change.

The audience is surprised when the actors say that the thinnest person in the village is not necessarily the one carrying the virus. The most well-dressed, or the most well-respected person in the village may have HIV. The person may not even know it. The play urges young women and men to use condoms, or to practice fidelity or abstinence. The messages provoke emotional responses from members of the audience. They feel threatened by HIV and AIDS. After the play, many proclaim that they will start to use condoms, which they used to reject.

Yanrie Bangoura was in the audience. She says, “The play made an impression on me, especially where it showed a young AIDS patient who was being badly treated.” She declares that from now on she will use the female condom to avoid infection.

Tafsir Diallo was also in the audience. He was shocked. He says, “I did not know how to use condoms. I did not know that [finger]nails could puncture the condom and make me vulnerable.” He promises to use condoms in his extra-marital affairs, to protect himself and his spouse.

Mamadouba Yansané is director of CECOJE. He says their activities have reached over 500 young women and 1,200 young men.  In the last three months, CECOJE distributed over 3,000 condoms..

AIDS is now the subject of sermons in the mosque in Mambia. Elhadj Mahamoud Camara is the imam. He lost a famly member to the disease, and is now committed to raising awareness of HIV and AIDS. He believes that as a citizen, he must do all he can to protect his community. He explains, “Our religion recommends that Muslims save lives, so if AIDS is a threat we must talk about it to help eradicate it.”

He is also taking practical steps. He says that while his religion allows each man to take four wives, they must all know each other’s health status. He now makes this a requirement. The last couple he married sent him their test results before the ceremony.

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Kenya: HIV-positive support group finds success with poultry project (by Sawa Pius, for Farm Radio Weekly in Kenya)

For many years, Roselyne Rajwero lived happily with her family. But in 2003, she lost her husband due to an AIDS-related ailment. She did not know her own HIV status. After her husband’s death, she decided to go for testing. She was found to be HIV positive. The hospital advised her to start taking antiretroviral medication, or ARVs.

Mrs. Rajwero completely lost hope. Her life became even worse when people in her community learned that she was HIV positive. She explains, “Life was never the same. I was stigmatized soon after the moment I tested HIV positive.” Mrs. Rajwero is a small-scale farmer in Samia district, near the Kenya-Uganda border.

Mrs. Rajwero thought she was the only person in her community taking ARVs. But one day she met some of her neighbours collecting their drugs at the hospital. When she realised her neighbours were facing similar challenges, she decided to form a group. Although she found it difficult to approach the neighbours, one day she found the courage. They called themselves the Vumilia Support Group. Vumilia is a Swahili word meaning “be patient.”

As time passed, the group grew in number to 27. They started generating income through different activities. One of their first activities was piece-work for other farmers. They earned money from this farm work, but it took a lot of their energy.

As time went by, the group had saved enough money to start a poultry project. Mrs. Rajwero says, “We saw that our energies were reducing, so, in 2007, we started the poultry project and decided to drop the idea of working in people’s farm[s] and concentrate on poultry.”

The members rear chickens collectively, in one area. Each member brings feed for the chickens. Exotic, or hybrid, chickens are fed kale and maize. Local chickens are fed using a free-range system. Some eggs are shared among members for eating at home, and some are sold for cash.

The group’s business strategy is to sell their chickens every December. The prices are very high then, as it is the festive season. Part of the money from the chickens is shared among the members, to buy items for Christmas.

The Vumilia Support Group also goes to other villages. They encourage women to go for HIV testing so that, if they are HIV positive, they can start drugs in good time. She adds that the group has remained at 27. When one member dies, a new one is brought on board.

Mrs. Rajwero says that despite making strides in their quality of life, group members still face some challenges. It is not easy to maintain a good diet for the whole family, while maintaining the ARV schedule and finding time to earn money. She adds, “When my children finish primary education, they stay at home because I don’t have money to send them to secondary school.”

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Zambia: Living with HIV: Mr. Banda’s story (by Mutimba Mazwi, for Farm Radio Weekly in Zambia)

Collen Banda used to consider himself “a star among young men.” Those were the days before he contracted HIV. Looking back on that time, his face changes and he adopts a serious tone. He says, “Now, you can see what this illness has done to me.” Mr. Banda is almost bedridden.

For Mr. Banda, his HIV status is an opportunity to discuss responsible sexual practices with his community. He believes that by telling his story, future generations will be saved.

Mr. Banda is a middle-aged man. He has one daughter and one son. Upon seeing that his health was failing, his wife of five years left him. Mr. Banda says, “I guess she will remember me one day when I am no more.” The responsibility for his upkeep and care is now with his stepmothers.

Like any other small-scale farmer in the Zambian village of Mutakwa, farming is used to be his livelihood. But Mr. Banda can no longer earn a steady income. He relies on his family. To make ends meet, his mother sells greens from his once-booming vegetable garden.

Mr. Banda says that while HIV is an illness like any other, there is still some stigma attached to it. The stigma makes it harder for him to tell his story, but he persists. A constant stream of friends and relatives come to visit Mr. Banda. He makes a point of talking to them about the dangers of having multiple partners and unprotected sex.

Referring to condoms, he tells his friends, “Some say you cannot have a shower while wearing a raincoat, but that philosophy cannot be applied to sex.” He makes it clear to them that if they take more sexual partners, they have a greater chance of contracting HIV.

Mr. Banda’s condition has given his father reason to reflect. Mr. Banda senior comments that HIV was almost unheard of in his time. He says, “I used to indulge in sex without fear of meeting death as is the case with this generation.” Mr. Banda senior has three wives, but notices that polygamy is not so common nowadays. He believes it has been replaced by extramarital affairs among young people. He comments, “Today, I see young men and women change partners like stockings.”

Yet, despite his father’s concerns, Mr. Banda is keen to make an impact on his community. There are no HIV support groups, or counselling available nearby. But Mr. Banda will continue telling his story, despite lacking the energy to knock on doors.

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Course on writing and reporting news

The Thomson Reuters Foundation is offering a course entitled “Writing and reporting news.” The course will focus on practical exercises aimed at improving journalists’ writing and news reporting skills. It will cover accuracy, structure, and clarity. The course combines face-to-face teaching, in London, England, with an online module to be completed over six months.

Applicants must currently be working as journalists, have two years’ professional experience, and have a good level of spoken and written English. Bursaries are available for journalists from the developing world. Deadline: January 6, 2012. See full details here: http://www.trust.org/trustmedia/journalism-training/writing-and-reporting-news-london-20120319

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Role of agricultural extension takes centre stage at Nairobi conference (by James Karuga, in Kenya)

Three hundred and fifty agricultural stakeholders from 74 countries gathered at Nairobi’s Hilton Hotel recently to highlight and put extra focus on the role agricultural extension and advisory services play in increasing food production and improving livelihoods. The Innovations in Extension and Advisory Services conference, supported by CTA (the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation), ran from November 15-18.

Michael Hailu is the director of CTA, which is based in the Netherlands. According to him, the core agenda of the conference was to put the dying practice of agricultural extension and advisory services back on the radar screen. He sees the practice as key to fighting poverty and food insecurity, especially in smallholder farmer settings. “To fight poverty, it will have to start with agriculture and making rural farming more attractive to young people,” said the director.

On the opening day of the conference, Ray Kiome, Kenya’s Permanent Secretary for agriculture, urged private players in Kenyan agriculture to join with his ministry to reach more rural farmers. His ministry has 5,700 extension employees, yet is tasked with reaching an estimated five million Kenyan farmers.

Conference participants from around the world shared solutions from their own countries. Maria Senar Linibi, a farmer from Papua New Guinea highlighted the farmer-to-farmer, needs driven extension approach. Through this approach, she has trained mostly rural women farmers in her country to grow crops.  The approach ensures they get agricultural training and disseminate it to other women farmers in their local dialects.

To help the conference delegates get a feel for the role of extension at the grassroots, five field trips were organized around Kenya. The trips were synchronized to capture extension themes discussed, like capacity development, tools and approaches in extension, learning networks, and policy. One trip to eastern Kenya’s Kalama Division in the Machakos region focused on the learning networks theme. It illustrated how farmers work with extension officers from the agricultural ministry to construct sub-surface dams.  The presence of five dams has altered the fortunes of locals who long relied on rain-fed agriculture to grow their staple maize crop. Now they have diversified to growing fruits like watermelons and vegetables all year round.

The conference also focused on the role electronic media plays, directly or indirectly, in agriculture. Doug Ward, Chair of the Board of Farm Radio International, gave various examples of how uptake of new farming practices was attributed to farmers listening to radio shows. In a plenary presentation, he presented Farm Radio International and some results of the recent African Farm Radio Research Initiative.

Plenary sessions on the last day of the conference focused on Kenya, discussing response to the food crisis in the north eastern region. This had local agricultural stakeholders discussing issues pertinent to Kenyan agricultural value chains. The conference also featured around 20 agricultural exhibitors from various countries that showcased agricultural progress from their regions.

For more information, and to read the Nairobi Declaration on Agricultural Extension and Advisory Service, visit: http://extensionconference2011.cta.int/.

Farm Radio International would like to congratulate James Karuga (who wrote this piece for Farm Radio Weekly) on being selected as one of six regional winners of a journalists’ competition organized by CTA as a run-up to this conference. His article entitled “Public and private agricultural stakeholders join to boost extension capacities” was selected out of 145 entries. To contact James, or obtain a copy of his article, please contact Farm Radio Weekly at farmradioweekly@farmradio.org

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Gender and HIV/AIDS

This script looks at the situation of three women who are facing problems related to HIV and AIDS. The effects of the virus and disease on the family can be many. If men are working away from home, women cannot work on the farm while looking after sick children; incomes and food supply may drop. The script explores the question: who faces the biggest share of problems that HIV and AIDS bring to the home, women or men?

Has anyone in your listening area found effective and creative solutions to HIV andAIDS-associated problems? You can adapt this script to your local needs by interviewing people in your listening audience who are working on these issues and hearing about their problems and solutions.

http://farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/81-7script_en.asp

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