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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 #184

Women and farming, valuable tomatoes, and push-pull

Rice yields in parts of central Madagascar are rising and families are thriving. What’s the cause? For the first time, women are loosening the bonds of tradition and joining their husbands in the fields. Read how inspiration, training, and determination are leading to better incomes and happy families.

We all know there are no magic bullets. But sometimes a simple thing like a new variety of vegetable can cause quite a stir. Our second story tells how a new variety of tomato called Moungal is boosting farmers’ incomes in Guinea.

Over the last decade, many farmers have adopted an approach called push-pull to manage stem borers in maize. Now there is news that Napier grass and desmodium – the plants used to push and pull stem borer moths – are also being used as livestock fodder. Read how dairy farmers in Kenya are receiving double benefits by using push-pull.

And be sure to check out our new action, event and resource listings, plus our script of the week.

Happy reading!

-The Farm Radio Weekly team

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Madagascar: Women break with tradition by embracing farming and improving lives (by Patrick Andriamihaja, for Farm Radio Weekly in Madagascar)

For the last seven years, the women of Fitampito have been defying tradition by helping their husbands to farm. Local traditions did not permit women to work the land. But that era is over.

Masy Ramazoto is a farmer in Fitampito, a village in central Madagascar. “Because of our customs, I never thought that I would one day have the chance to farm,” she says. “Now that I can work just like my husband to improve our living conditions, I put my whole heart into it.”

Since women started farming in a few isolated villages in the High Matsiatra region, yields have improved significantly. In three years, rice yields have increased from two tonnes per hectare to five tonnes.

Faly and Noro Ndremazoto are farmers from the town of Vohitrafeno. Noro is responsible for growing vegetables, while her husband Faly builds ox-drawn plows. The living conditions of the couple have improved greatly since Noro began farming. Faly says, “I now understand how certain aspects of tradition can hinder development. Since my wife starting helping me, I finally have the opportunity to return to my passion, which is woodworking.”

The main crops women grow in the area are rice, cereals, fruits and vegetables. To help get them started, women attended trainings offered by local associations. The trainings focused on growing rice and vegetables. The women have learned the rice growing system called SRI, or System of Rice Intensification. They carefully follow SRI procedures by weeding regularly, transplanting and re-planting failed seedlings. Njaka Harivelo is a trainer with Santatra, an association involved in educating farmers. He explains, “SRI requires more work than traditional rice-growing techniques, but it guarantees better production.”

In addition to SRI, the women farmers were asked to adopt hybrid rice. Farmers in some communities had yields of eight tons per hectare when they combined SRI with hybrid rice varieties imported from China.

Veromanitra Soazanany is a farmer from the town of Anjoma Itsara, near Vohitrafeno. She welcomed the training. “With the training we have been given, I am very comfortable in my work.” She passed on everything she learned and convinced her husband to abandon less productive farming practices. The couple grows a wide range of vegetables in addition to rice. Her husband Besa Narisaona is even considering raising cattle now that his wife has mastered growing vegetables. He is happy: “I’m glad my wife was trained in farming, or we would not be where we are now.”

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Guinea: Growing tomatoes all year round (by Ibrahima Sory Cissé, for Farm Radio Weekly in Guinea-Conakry)

Aboubacar Sylla grows tomatoes in Koliada, southwestern Guinea. But he doesn’t grow just any variety. For the last two years, Mr. Sylla has dedicated two hectares of land to a variety called Moungal. The impact has been enormous. In just two years, he has earned enough to build a modern concrete house.

Mr. Sylla is not the only one who is impressed by the new variety. Many tomato producers are happy. The income they earn by selling Moungal tomatoes is solving everyday problems  such as paying children’s school fees.

According to Mr. Sylla, this variety is more productive than others, is easy to grow, and farmers can grow it in any season. In the dry season, it can be grown in the lowlands. During the rainy season, it thrives on upland  slopes. It grows in all kinds of soil. Moungal is  new to this part of Guinea.

Moungal was developed during trials at the Foulaya Agricultural Research Centre, in Guinea. It was introduced to Koliada in 2000 through farmers’ associations.

Thierno Hamidou Camara is a researcher at the Foulaya Agricultural Research Centre. He is full of praise for Moungal tomatoes. He says, “We began tests to find  the qualities requested by the farmers, and  chose the best from  25 tomato varieties.” Five varieties were selected, and Moungal was developed from these. According to Mr. Camara, one hectare of Moungal grown with appropriate farming practices yields up to 25 tonnes of marketable tomatoes.

Before Moungal, tomatoes were only grown on higher slopes during the dry season. But now, growers can plant in the rainy season too.

But Moungal risks becoming a victim of its own success. Overproduction is now a serious concern. The only major market is in Conakry, and this market is almost saturated. There is little opportunity for processing excess production. For example, Guinea  has no cannery to manufacture tomato paste.

To protect the farmers from the effects of overproduction, the Foulaya Agricultural Research Centre recommends that growers produce only enough to satisfy existing orders from major cities.

As for Mr. Sylla, he avoids the problem by producing other crops. He explains, “Next to my cherished Moungal tomatoes, I grow maize in April in the lowlands. ” He sells his maize in the local market, and uses the money to help his family through the lean period before harvest. He says, “The drop in sales does not take me by surprise, I always have something in the ground.”

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Kenya: Double benefits from the push-pull technique (by Pius Sawa for Farm Radio Weekly in Kenya)

Things changed for the better for Simon Wanyoike when he adopted the push-pull technique to control stem borers in maize. Not only did he increase his maize yields from one and half to fifteen bags per season, but his dairy business also improved.

Simon Wanyoike and his wife Jane Njeri Wanyoike farm half a hectare of land in Gatanga district, central Kenya. The changing weather, unreliable rains and increased pests made it increasingly hard to sustain their family of twelve. But, he says, “For the past two years since I started using the push-pull technology, I have experienced a tremendous change in my family as we have been able to produce enough food.”

Mr. Wanyoike explains how push-pull helps his dairy business: “I did not know that push-pull technology had multiple benefits. Currently my cows are being fed on Napier and desmodium [grasses] that [also] control the maize stem borer.” He has three dairy cows that now provide up to fifteen litres of milk per day.

He says the push-pull technology is easy to learn. Mr. Wanyoike plants Napier grass around the perimeter of his maize field. This attracts or pulls the stem-borer moths away from the maize. He also plants desmodium between rows of maize. Desmodium repels or pushes any remaining moths away from the maize plants. Together, the Napier grass and desmodium keep the maize free from moths that lay stem borer eggs.

Napier is a fast-growing grass which forms a bushy border around the maize field. Mr. Wanyoike explains how he feeds his cows: “I cut the Napier, then bring it home and chop the leaves and the stalks, add some salt and put it in a trough to feed the cows.” The Napier grass continues to grow after the maize has been harvested.

Desmodium is a low-growing plant which quickly covers the soil. Mr. Wanyoike feeds desmodium to his cows in the same way as Napier.

He says the two crops are locally available, and that they increase milk production when used as fodder: “I can now sell milk to the neighbours, have some for my family, while at the same time I have enough maize to feed the family.”

Mr. Wanyoike sings the praises of the push-pull technique. It has brought hope not only to his family, but to his entire community. He says, “Buying animal feed from shops is quite expensive for a rural farmer. But since the push-pull system was introduced, farmers like me in my area have double benefitted in crops and dairy farming.”

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Notes to broadcasters on women and farming

Our story from Madagascar highlights the benefits of women becoming involved in agriculture. In most of Africa – and indeed around the world – women are already responsible for the bulk of the family’s food production.  But there are often traditions and customs which dictate, or at least strongly influence, which crops women can and do grow.

For facts and figures, stories from around the world, and links to further resources on gender and agriculture, see: http://www.un.org/womenwatch/feature/idrw/

The 2012 World Development Report on Gender Equality and Development is available at: http://go.worldbank.org/CQCTMSFI40

For your reference, here are two recent news reports on gender, agriculture and development:

-“Give women the seeds and they can feed the world:  http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=105234

-“Gender equality: Why involving men is crucial: http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportid=93870

Women make up the majority of small-scale, subsistence farmers in the developing world. Gender inequality in agriculture is a problem not just for women but for the agricultural sector, for food security, and for society as a whole. The Food and Agriculture Organization stated that, if women in developing countries worldwide had the same access to productive resources as men, they could increase yields on their farms by 20-30 per cent and lift 100-150 million people out of hunger.

Here are some quick facts on women in sub-Saharan Africa:

-Women are responsible for 70 to 80 per cent of household food production
-Women are responsible for obtaining 90 per cent of water, wood, and fuel
-55 per cent of primary students not enrolled in school are girls
-Nearly twice as many women over age 15 are illiterate compared to men
-Women are 1.6 times more likely than men to be infected by HIV
-77 per cent of all HIV-positive women live in sub-Saharan Africa

(Sources: The Hunger Project, IFPRI, UNAIDS, UNFPA)

Here are three recent reports on these issues:

“African women farmers, an untapped goldmine”: http://www.afrik-news.com/article18377.html

“Female Farmers Overcome Barriers to Feed Africa”: http://www.worldwatch.org/node/6431

“100 Years of International Women’s Days: African Women Farmers Struggle for Fairness”: http://www.trust.org/trustlaw/blogs/100-years-of-international-womens-day/african-women-farmers-struggle-for-fairness/

IPS News hosts The Gender Wire, which is full of resources and stories on women in the news. You can subscribe to their newsletter here: http://ipsnews.net/genderwire/

Farm Radio International has produced many scripts on women, gender and agriculture. Take a look at these two scripts;

– Gender mainstreaming in farmers’ co-operative: Groups in Ghana achieve food security for small-scale farmers (Package 94, Script 10, December 2011). http://www.farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/94-10script_en.asp

– Women produce most of our food (Package 70, Script 1, March 2004). http://www.farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/70-1script_en.asp

You can browse the complete list here: http://farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/gender.asp

Read again the stories and links in the special issue of Farm Radio Weekly for International Women’s Day, March 2011: http://weekly.farmradio.org/topic/issue-147/

Gender and the roles of women and men in professional and domestic life is always a rich topic for discussion and debate. Broadcasters could produce programs on this topic to provoke debate and raise awareness. Don’t forget to talk to men in their families or communities to get their perspective.

You might want to find out whether there are limitations on the ways in which women are or can be involved in farming. Talk to farmers, extension workers, and, especially, women!

You might start by asking what kinds of work women usually do in the community. Depending on the response, you could follow up with questions about what crops women grow, and what crops women do not grow and why.

You could ask if there are traditions that specify which crops and which kinds of farming work women can be involved with. For example, women might be allowed to grow vegetables and beans, but not cash crops. They may also be allowed to raise small but not large livestock. Sometimes the rules are rigid; at other times, they are not.  You could talk to elders in the community and ask them about the origins of these traditions. You could also ask whether people – including young farmers – think these traditions are still relevant, or whether it is time for things to change.

Finally, you might ask whether people think there are some benefits to women contributing to the family income by farming.

This story also mentions SRI, the System for Rice Intensification. For more information on SRI, see the following reports:

“Systems of Rice Intensification: Achieving more with less – A new way of rice cultivation”: http://info.worldbank.org/etools/docs/library/245848/index.html

“SRI-Rice Online”: http://sri.ciifad.cornell.edu/

“How to help rice plants grow better and produce more: Teach yourself and others”:


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Notes to broadcasters on new varieties

This story tells how farmers in Guinea have benefitted from growing a new variety of tomato. The new variety was developed according to farmer’s needs, and suits local conditions well. In fact, it has been such a success that markets are becoming saturated. This can be a danger with any successful crop. Prices may drop, so farmers should ensure that they can rely on other crops or incomes. On-farm diversity benefits farmers and the environment in many ways. In this situation, growing a variety of crops can act as a cushion against one crop failing, or remaining unsold.

For technical details of the Moungal variety (in French only) see: http://technisem.com/index.php?m=0&lang=fr&rub=3&opt=3&cat_prod=95

In French only, here is the website of the research centre which developed the tomato variety: http://www.irag-guinee.org/index.php?query=irag&id=institut&target=centre&rub=region&region=foulaya

Here are some recent stories from Farm Radio Weekly on tomatoes, and also on biodiversity:

Madagascar: Women blend agriculture with forest restoration (FRW 112, May 2010) http://weekly.farmradio.org/2010/05/24/2-madagascar-women-blend-agriculture-with-forest-restoration-ips-gender-links/

Rwanda: Don’t waste your waste! Farmers use human urine as fertilizer (FRW 124, August 2010)


Democratic Republic of the Congo: Farmers learn rainy season techniques from across the border (FRW 106, April 2010)


Browse Farm Radio International’s archive of scripts on biodiversity here: http://farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/biodiversity.asp

This story may inspire you to produce a program on the advantages and disadvantages of growing new varieties. Here are some general questions to get your research started. You could interview farmers, seed merchants, researchers or NGO staff.

-Under what circumstances are new varieties beneficial?

-What benefits have farmers seen with new varieties?

-Why do farmers choose newly bred varieties?

-What are the main drawbacks – for example, do farmers need to buy seed each year?

-Are any farmers returning to traditional varieties instead of seeking seeds of new varieties?

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Notes to broadcasters on the push-pull technique

The push-pull approach was designed to protect maize from stem borers. This type of pest management − using plants which are locally available as part of a system that is easy to set up and manage − often produces benefits beyond controlling pests. In this case, Napier grass and desmodium can provide good fodder for livestock. Farmers, as in this story, are now taking advantage of this and increasing their milk production and sales. Other benefits − of desmodium in particular − as reported by farmers and researchers, are soil improvement, including better water retention and increased nitrogen, and management of striga.

For full details on the push-pull technique and the plants involved, visit: http://www.push-pull.net

This webpage from infonet-biovision outlines 12 steps to planting a push-pull field: http://www.infonet-biovision.org/default/ct/253/soilFertilityManagement.

To browse Farm Radio International scripts on pest management, go to:  http://farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/pest.asp.

Read this previous Farm Radio Weekly story on push-pull:

Kenya: ‘Push-pull’ method protects maize from major pests (FRW 108, April 2010)


If stem borers and striga (sometimes called witchweed) are major problems in your area, you may wish to produce a program on the topic, sharing this week’s news story and highlighting this technique. You could also include a live discussion featuring one or more farmers or extension workers familiar with the push-pull method, or other natural pest control techniques.

You might also wish to produce a show that invites farmers to call-in or text-in their experiences with alternative pest control methods:

-Have farmers in your area heard of or tried intercropping as a way to control weeds or unwanted insects?
-Have farmers in your area discovered other alternatives to commercial pesticides?
-Do they find the alternatives more or less effective in reducing pest damage and increasing yields?

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One World Media Special Award

This Special Award from One World Media targets local radio and media projects in the developing world that work on social or development issues. It recognizes initiatives which have had a real impact on those living or working nearby. Last year’s winner was Shujaaz FM in Kenya.

Entry is by email, with a project description and two letters of reference.  For full details visit: http://oneworldmedia.org.uk/awards/how_to_enter/special_award

The deadline for entries for the Special Award is Monday, January 30, 2012.

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Earth Journalism Toolkit

From Internews’ Earth Journalism Network, the web-based Earth Journalism Toolkit is designed to help journalists report on links between climate change, pollution, other environmental problems and the well-being of the planet, particularly the effects on human beings. It contains information about environmental problems and ways to address them. The toolkit includes tips for journalists covering each issue, case studies of specific problems, and examples of good reporting. Information is organized in three main sections – knowledge, skills, and resources, with each page linked to other parts of the toolkit.

You can find the toolkit (in English only) at: http://earthjournalism.net/toolkit/

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Now available online: Script package on Participatory Radio Campaigns and agricultural co-operatives

Package 94 is now available on our website at http://www.farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/. The package offers  15 brand new scripts and two issue packs. It has two themes – first, the Participatory Radio Campaigns developed through Farm Radio International’s African Farm Radio Research Initiative (AFRRI), and second, agricultural co-operatives.

In the accompanying magazine, Voices, the feature article focuses on the two themes and summarizes the different items (scripts and issue packs) in the package. There is also a profile of Radio Ada, a community radio station in Ghana that was involved in AFRRI. In addition, we welcome a record number of new broadcasting partners.

We are happy to recognize the achievements of Fatogoma Sanogo of Radio Fanaka in Mali, who is the winner of this year’s George Atkins Communications Award. He receives the award as a result of his innovative market information program.

We are pleased to announce the launch of Barza (www.barzaradio.com), the online community for African radio broadcasters. Over 100 people from 18 countries have signed up so far! Information on how you can participate in this vibrant community is in Voices. Please join us on Barza. In addition to helping you connect with your peers across Africa, Barza will soon be the best place to go for a wide range of radio scripts, tools, and tips for creating better farm radio programs.

As always, we hope that you use all the materials in this package to create interesting, informative, participatory and entertaining radio programs. Please share your feedback with us – we love hearing from you.

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The ‘Push-Pull’ Approach to Controlling Stem Borers in Maize

To fit with this week’s story  on using the push-pull approach to both manage stem borers and increase dairy production, this week’s script gives more details about the practice. In the script, the host explains exactly how to implement the practice. The host also mentions some of its other benefits, including improving soil fertility and even controlling striga.


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