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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 #183

Climate change and farmers

This issue of Farm Radio Weekly is devoted to climate change. The recent climate change talks in Durban have received wide media coverage. Farmer’s organizations were represented at the talks, although the outcomes have disappointed many observers, especially those from developing countries.

We have chosen two stories related to the talks. One story details how local solutions to climate change are often more appropriate and long-lasting. Local successes are also generating discussion at the policy level.

The second story talks about the efforts of women’s groups to get their opinions heard at the conference.

We also present a short report written for us by Serge Adam’s Diakité, who attended the Durban talks as part of the AMARC (World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters) team.

Happy reading!

-The Farm Radio Weekly team

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Kenya: Home-grown solutions help pastoralists adapt to changing climate (IPS)

When donor-funded projects failed in Kalacha, a village on the edge of the Chalbi Desert in Kenya’s North Eastern Province, local pastoralists proposed their own plans. Two years later, it’s clear that their home-grown response has worked.

The North Eastern Province has always been dry. Recent erratic and unpredictable rainfall has only worsened an already challenging situation. The government estimates that more than 50 million domestic animals may die in the region, and that more than 1.4 million people need food relief.

Pastoralists were excited five years ago when a group of NGOs introduced horticulture to the region. “But before long,” says Abdi Tuya, a Kalacha resident,” we discovered that all was useless because monkeys and other animals fed on the crops.”

After the project failed, scientists at the Kenya Arid and Semi-Arid Lands Research Programme, or KASAL for short, heard that the community had a different idea.

Dr. David Miano is the head of KASAL. He says, “They insisted that they wanted to use the water and the land to grow grass to fatten [their] malnourished goats and camels …” The residents wanted to use water from a rare freshwater desert spring to irrigate indigenous grass. The grass would then be used for animal feed. In response, KASAL began to identify indigenous grasses that are drought-tolerant and appropriate for fattening animals. Two years later, thousands of animals that would have died in the drought are still alive.

Home-grown successes like this one have climatologists and African think tanks announcing that African solutions are the only way for the continent to adapt to climate change. Their call came before the recent 17th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The conference took place in Durban, South Africa from November 28 to December 9 this year.

Opinions are mixed on how the Durban talks will affect farmers. Patrick Verkooijen is the World Bank’s coordinator for climate-smart agriculture. He says, “This outcome is historic, as this is the first time that UNFCCC adopts a decision on agriculture.”

But many agricultural organizations had pushed for a specific program of work on agriculture. Instead, a working group announced that a decision on agriculture would be made at COP18, to be held in November 2012 in Qatar.

The international farmers’ movement La Via Campesina announced that “no deal is better than a bad deal” in Durban. They want developed nations to commit to at least 50% emissions reduction targets under the Second Commitment Period of the Kyoto Protocol, which would cover 2013-2017.

Back in Kachala, home-grown solutions to climate change have worked. Before the pastoralists proposed their own solution, their only alternative would have been to slaughter their animals. But now, says Abdi Tuya, “Grass farming is the best thing that happened to me … In the past year, I have been able to save up to 80 goats that were succumbing to the drought.”

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South Africa: Rural women make themselves heard in Durban (IRIN)

More than 500 women from across Africa arrived in Durban last week, chanting and singing. While heads of state and negotiators gathered behind closed doors at the 17th Conference of Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the women gathered at the University of KwaZulu Natal to voice their concerns in an alternative “People’s Space.” They sang, “They are refusing to sign the deal! We want a legally binding agreement with sanctions. Men, you don’t know what you want!”

The Rural Women’s Assembly of Southern Africa is a network of women’s groups from a number of African countries, including Mozambique, Swaziland, Lesotho, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Burundi. The women met in Durban, joining civil society meetings outside the conference. Their goal was to raise awareness about the impact of climate change at the grassroots level.

Ana Paula Tauacale represented the National Union of Farmers of Mozambique. She says, “[Climate change] affects us as women because we are the main food producers and we depend on the rain. We are not like men, who can migrate to find work elsewhere.”

The Durban conference included substantial participation from NGOs. But many on the outside of the conference felt their interests were not sufficiently represented. Mercia Andrews is director of the Trust for Community Outreach and Education, part of the Rural Women’s Assembly of Southern Africa. She says, “There is hardly any or no relationship between the conference and social movements. We are saying … there should be no negotiations without us.”

More than 6,000 people took to the Durban streets on December 3 in a Global Day of Action. They called for climate justice and for a legally binding mechanism on reducing emissions. The protesters marched through the city to the conference centre. They waved banners reading, “Stop Cooking Africa” and “Listen to the people, not polluters.”

Inside the conference hall, negotiators from developing countries urged developed countries to commit to emissions reductions. But they faced many frustrations. Rashmi Mistry is climate change advocacy coordinator for Oxfam South Africa. She noted, “It’s really frustrating to developing countries that developed countries are not increasing their ambitions.” She added that time is running out, saying, “If we continue along this path, it’s been estimated by the International Energy Agency that in the next five years, we won’t be able to prevent the worst onset of climate change.”

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Notes to broadcasters on the climate change talks

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is an international treaty developed nearly twenty years ago. For the last 17 years, countries which have signed the convention have met to discuss and strengthen the global response to climate change. The Kyoto Protocol is a protocol to the UNFCCC that commits developed countries to legally binding reductions of their carbon emissions. The first period of the Protocol began in 2008 and will expire in 2012. One of the topics on the agenda in Durban was to decide on a way forward after 2012. Many farmers’ organizations were present, hoping to get their concerns heard, and lobbying for agreements which would benefit farmers over the long term.

For more information on the talks and the framework convention, visit the UNFCCC’s official pages:




AMARC’s reporters have been uploading audio and photos to their site:



Some recent news reports from Africa on the climate change talks:

-“Commitment needed for climate change” http://www.monitor.co.ug/Magazines/Farming/-/689860/1288854/-/1hvnj0z/-/

-“Rural Women in Africa Speak Out at Climate Conference”


Here are a few other recent pieces on climate change and agriculture:

“Climate Change: Agriculture at the Negotiating Table”

http://spore.cta.int/images/stories/pdf/SE156-web.pdf (page 4)

“Peasant agriculture: a real solution to climate change”


“Victories for food and farming in Durban climate deals”


Script package 89, from December 2009, focused on farmers adapting to climate change. Access scripts from this package and earlier scripts on the same topic here: http://farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/climate.asp

Here are some recent stories on climate change published in Farm Radio Weekly:

-Southern Africa: Agricultural unions to observe climate change meeting (FRW 178, October 2011) http://weekly.farmradio.org/2011/10/31/southern-africa-agricultural-unions-to-observe-climate-change-meeting-afp/

-Rwanda: Climate change worries farmers on World Food Day (FRW 131, October 2010) http://weekly.farmradio.org/2010/10/11/rwanda-climate-change-worries-farmers-on-world-food-day-by-jean-paul-ntezimana-for-farm-radio-weekly-in-rwanda/

-Kenya: Re-discovering cassava during drought (FRW 160, June 2011) http://weekly.farmradio.org/2011/06/20/kenya-re-discovering-cassava-during-drought-ips-daily-nation/

-Uganda: Drama and song raise awareness of climate change (FRW 118, July 2010)     http://weekly.farmradio.org/2010/07/05/1-uganda-drama-and-song-raise-awareness-of-climate-change-by-sawa-pius-for-farm-radio-weekly-in-uganda/

-Kenya: Farmers use drought-resistant crops and improved access to water to adapt to climate change (FRW 114, June 2010) http://weekly.farmradio.org/2010/06/07/2-kenya-farmers-use-drought-resistant-crops-and-improved-access-to-water-to-adapt-to-climate-change-farm-radio-weekly-scientific-american/

The Issue pack from package 89 has lots of background information and program ideas: http://farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/89-1script_en.asp

In view of the talks in Durban, you might want to prepare some radio pieces to highlight climate change. You could ask farmers if they have noticed any changes in the weather over the long term, and whether they know about or are interested in the climate negotiations. Find out if the local agricultural extension department has information or projects on climate change, and ask them how the high-level talks affect their work. Ask if there is funding available for climate change projects for farmers, or if local government or NGO staff have experience accessing funding for climate change initiatives.

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Fellowship available in media ethics

The Center for International Media Ethics (CIME) is offering a year-long fellowship for media professionals who are interested in the ethical aspects of journalism. Selected fellows will conduct research about ethics in their chosen region (preferably in their country of residence), supported by a mentor from CIME. They will also participate in online trainings in media ethics and represent CIME at events, workshops, and conferences.

The fellowship lasts one year, starting January 2012. Applicants should have a minimum three years of professional experience related to journalism/media and a strong interest in media ethics. Fluent English is needed; other languages are a benefit. The deadline to apply is December 23, 2011.

For more information and to apply, visit http://www.cimethics.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=84

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Online course “Covering climate change”

Poynters News University website is offering a free online course for journalists wishing to learn more about how to cover climate change.  The course is self-directed, which means you follow it on your own. You can also stop and start as you like, and go over material as many times as you need. The full course takes around four hours.

By the end of the course, you will gain a good grounding in the science and policy related to climate change. The course will give you tools, knowledge and confidence to cover climate change and environment stories in your region.


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Report from climate change talks (by Serge Adam’s Diakité, for Farm Radio Weekly in Durban)

Durban’s International Conference Centre hosted the 17th Conference of Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change from November 28 to December 11, 2011. Known as CoP 17, it is estimated that the meeting attracted over 30,000 participants from 190 countries. Attendees included government delegations, climate change experts, NGOs, observers and farmers.

For participants from developing countries, the meeting served as an opportunity to help convince developed countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Ban Ki-Moon, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, told the gathered heads of government that now is the time to act. He stated, “The world and its people cannot accept ‘no’ for an answer in Durban.”

The conference concluded two days later than planned. Reactions to the meeting’s conclusions and formal statements are mixed. The official withdrawal of Canada from the Kyoto Protocol, 24 hours after the conference ended, further convinced those who doubted the sincerity of some industrialized countries to respect “agreements.”

Civil society groups marched through the streets of Durban to protest the slow pace of negotiations. A representative from a South African farmers union who participated in the protests commented, “The National Farmers Union of South Africa wants to educate the great powers on climate change, so they make good decisions that are in favour of the people. These countries should not think only of the [interests of] capitalists, but also of the farmers who are most likely to suffer the effects of climate change.”

Conference documents and communications materials were almost all in English. This presented a barrier for non-English speaking participants. The World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters, known as AMARC, sent correspondents to the talks. But, on the whole, the African press was not well represented, compared to the number of reporters from Europe and Asia.

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Farmers around the world face climate change

To reflect the international nature of the climate change talks in Durban, this week’s script is based on true stories from farmers in different parts of the world. The script imagines that farmers can talk to each other. It presents short stories and reflections on how climate change affects different farming communities around the world.


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