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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 #185

Banana bakery increases women’s incomes

Welcome to the 185th issue of Farm Radio Weekly.

This week, we tell you about a group of Kenyan women who are making good use of a food that’s ubiquitous in East Africa: bananas. The group processes ripe bananas into a multitude of edible products – cakes, bread, biscuits, ugali flour and more. Now, they have increased their incomes. And their community is happy. From morning to evening, customers flock to their bakery to take advantage of their delicious, nutritious, and locally made foods.

We travel to Ethiopia for our second story, where highland villagers are growing apples as part of a project to restore their damaged environment and denuded hillsides. We meet a farmer who took a chance on apples, and whose gamble paid off. Now he earns US $600 per year from selling his fruit. Other locals are emulating his success with their own orchards.

Our last story is of special interest to those who raise animals. A project in Cameroon is making it possible for livestock farmers to use manure to create cheap power. They are now powering their homes and business with cheap biogas from community biodigesters. Good quality fertilizer is a welcome by-product of the biodigestion process.

Don’t forget to read our non-news items. This week, our Resource section introduces readers to “Facebook for journalists”!

Happy reading!

-The Farm Radio Weekly team

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Kenya: Women in Kisii succeed with banana processing (Nairobi Star)

You can find bananas in almost every compound in Nyaura ward, in southwestern Kenya. Now a local women’s group is taking advantage of this abundance, and making a good living producing a variety of banana-based food products.

The Kenyuni Women’s Group has shown that bananas are not only for cooking or ripening, but are versatile and easily processed. The 20 women now make cakes, bread, biscuits, crisps, ugali flour, banana porridge and banana jam. They decided to start processing bananas for sale after they discovered that middlemen were exploiting them by giving them as little as 100 Kenyan shillings (just over one US dollar) per bunch of bananas.

Everline Onserio is the group leader. She says, “We have varieties which are only used for ripening and those [used] for baking. Each member has planted some [of each] in her piece of land to avoid a shortage.”

Mrs. Onserio explains that when the crop is ready, it is carefully harvested and cleaned with salt water. Then the bananas are transported on a motorbike to the groups’ mini-bakery, one kilometre away. At the bakery, they make bread, chapati and snacks from ripened bananas. The women sell these products to the public at affordable prices. Mrs. Onserio says, “Even though we face many challenges in our business, we are committed to making our families earn a living through our small income.”

The group leader says that most of their products are purchased by the locals who flock to their bakery from morning to evening. Their customers appreciate the quality of the products. She explains, “Our products are chemical-free. That is why we encourage people to buy and consume them.”

Residents praise the group, saying that their products are local and original compared to those sold in supermarkets. Many locals have changed their eating habits, and often buy the group’s products because they are nutritious.

Mrs. Onserio explains the value in keeping good records, “We keep records on daily transactions because we want to establish whether we are making progress or not. Initially when we didn’t have such records, it was difficult for us to know the position of our business.”

Veronica Nafula is the financial record keeper. The group sponsored her training in financial management. Mrs. Nafula explains one of the charts in their office, which shows that the group used to make nearly 300,000 shillings (about 3450 US dollars) annually. Now that they are adding value to the bananas, they rake in more than double that amount. To celebrate their progress, a group member has composed a Kiswahili poem which praises the banana as a plant that can help the community jump out of poverty.

Patrick Siro is deputy mayor of the town of Kisii, and a patron of the group. He is optimistic that the women will be successful in the long run. Mr. Siro said there is a need for more funding so that members can attain food security and improve their economic base. He expressed optimism that the ongoing construction of a banana factory near Kisii town will help the group and other banana growers.

At a time when Kenyans are suffering from inflation, Mrs. Onserio says that food security can be attained if growing bananas and adding value is embraced. “I think [the] time has come for Kenyans to change their eating habits and embrace ugali cooked from banana flour instead of maize flour.”

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Ethiopia: Apples bring wealth to highland farmers (The Guardian)

Fields of red sorghum stretching into the distance are a common sight in the scenic mountains of eastern Ethiopia. Farmers tie five or more tall sorghum stalks together so they support one another, and the red seeds at the top of the plant grow heavier as the plants ripen. But while sorghum is everywhere, apple orchards are new to this landscape, in the region around Dire Dawa, 350 kilometres northeast of the capital, Addis Ababa.

Dadi Yadete is a 72-year-old farmer from the village of Thefebanti. Three years ago, he took a gamble and began to grow apples, a fruit he was unfamiliar with. Hesitant and doubtful at first, he planted only 12 trees. But his experiment paid off. Apples thrive in the temperate climate of Ethiopia’s highlands.

Mr. Yadete, who has two wives and nine children, now has 70 flourishing apple trees on his half-hectare plot, plus a large avocado tree. He also grows barley, a few coffee bushes, sweet potato, green pepper and bright red hot chillies.

“Life was very difficult when I was trying to grow maize and barley,” says Mr. Yadete. “I was producing nothing and I was receiving food aid. Now I don’t need food aid.” He receives about $600 US dollars a year from the sale of his apples, and he owns four cows and two oxen. This makes him a relatively wealthy man.

Others in the village, which has about 200 households, are also prospering by selling apples and growing seedlings.  A few steps away from Mr. Yadete’s plot, women nursery workers fill pots with soil and compost. A regular market and proximity to the main road give the village an advantage over remote villages higher in the mountains.

Mr. Yadete and his fellow villagers are the beneficiaries of Meret (from the Amharic word for “land”), a joint venture between the UN’s World Food Programme, called WFP, and the Ethiopian government. Meret originated as a response to the food crises of the 1970s and targets chronically food insecure communities. The WFP provides food to each participant – three kilograms of cereals every work day.

Population pressure has led to overfarming in Ethiopia’s highlands. Trees have been cut down, allowing water to flow downhill instead of being retained in the soil. In parts of the region, the terraces look bone dry and the sorghum stunted. Meret provides technical advice to farmers on reforesting barren hillsides and building or refurbishing terraces.

Meret staff talk to farmers, discussing their problems and helping them determine the steps they need to take.  With Meret’s help, Mr. Yadete and his fellow farmers agreed to stop farming or grazing on the top of the mountain above their village for two years. They planted trees, built or repaired terraces, and dotted the slopes with mini water barriers made from stone and earth. These help to retain water and heal the land.

Ethiopia is devoting 17% of its national budget to farming, well above the 10% commitment agreed to by African governments. The country’s ambitious growth and transformation plan calls for more than doubling the production of key crops to nearly 40 million tonnes by 2015.

Despite Ethiopia’s dependence on rainwater, agricultural experts see no reason why the country cannot be Africa’s breadbasket. “As long as you can control the water, you can grow whatever you want,” says a private investor who is leasing land for dairy cows.

While government officials and other experts grapple with policy issues in Addis, Mr. Yadete is doing his bit for Ethiopian agriculture by growing his apples. Despite successfully growing a fruit he had never tasted until three years ago, he and his wife hardly eat their apples, which he describes as tasting like bananas. “I don’t eat the apples,” he says. “Whenever I see them, I see money.”

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Cameroon: Livestock farmers turn dung into power (Alertnet)

Livestock farmers in this heavily agricultural nation are becoming unlikely heroes in Africa’s fight to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

Every year in Cameroon, thousands of trees are cut down for wood and charcoal. These are the main sources of cooking fuel for the rural dwellers who make up over 65 per cent of Cameroon’s population. Livestock farmers, like other rural people, are starved for electricity. But they have plenty of manure. Now, that manure is yielding valuable methane gas when processed in biodigesters.

Forty-six-year-old Juliana Mengue was widowed five years ago. She cares for 40 cows by herself, on her half-hectare farm in Bafut village in northwest Cameroon. Traditionally, cattle manure is used as fertilizer for crops. But a new government program, established with the help of global non-profit Heifer International, is turning her animal manure into fuel. As a result of the cheap biogas she now produces, Mrs. Mengue is able to spend more on medical care, education and increasing her animal stock. She says, “We also use (the biogas) for lighting and heating, replacing our local bush lamps and the use of wood fuel.”

The project has established demonstration biogas production centres in her village and two nearby villages. Many farmers say the technology has brought meaningful changes in their lives and to their community, especially given the spiralling cost of fuel.

Henry Njakoi is country director for Heifer International in Cameroon. He says that building biogas digesters on demonstration farms can generate enough gas for whole communities. Farmers pay only a quarter of the $120 US dollar cost of a manure biodigester, with Heifer International and the Ministry of Agriculture picking up the rest of the tab.

To produce biogas, farmers collect dung from their livestock and carry it by wheelbarrow to the biodigester’s tank. They mix the manure with an equal amount of water and stir. The mixture is left to decompose for several weeks, and the resulting methane gas settles in an upper compartment of the tank. At the end of the process, the manure is removed, dried and used as fertilizer. The technology is affordable enough that many livestock farmers can integrate it with traditional practices without major financial assistance.

Mr. Mengue says her family has not only gained financially from the project, but that she now has a greater understanding of the connection between the environment and climate change. “We were not aware how much destruction the decomposing dung was doing to the environment. Now we have been told it releases tonnes of methane gas that is very harmful,” she says.

Methane released from manure is a potent driver of climate change. Global efforts to curb its release range from capturing the gas to produce biofuel, to changing livestock diets to produce less methane.

Micheal Mbu raises pigs and goats and cares for 50 cows. He says the biodigestion process is simple enough for any farmer to understand. He believes that it will ensure a consistent profit, especially for those who use the new source of energy in income-generating projects. Mr. Mbu has connected the methane pipes to 10 cookers with two burners each, which ensures a constant supply of fuel. He adds, “I use the energy to bake potatoes and flour cake and bread. This cottage baking industry employs five persons.”

The manure generated by the biodigester is high in the nutrients needed by plants, and is an effective fertilizer. Eugene Ejolle Ehabe works with the Institute of Agricultural Research and Development in northwest Cameroon. He says that making biogas from manure and other waste matter could reduce the large volumes of fuel wood used for cooking. He continues, “The production of biogas will reduce emissions of greenhouse gas, reduce deforestation, help preserve the forest and soil fertility, and above all improve the livelihood of farmers.”

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Notes to broadcasters on banana processing

The hundreds of varieties of banana provide food for millions of people in Africa. Bananas are relatively easy to grow, and a common sight along roadsides and in gardens. But on top of their value as a household food, bananas are versatile and nutritious and can be processed into chips, cakes, flour, purees for baby food, and even vinegar and beer. Processed banana products can be a small-scale business opportunity, as we see in this story. Post-harvest processing, especially of common crops such as banana or cassava, is an important way for farmers to add value to their crops and boost their incomes.

For background information on processing bananas, visit: http://bananas.bioversityinternational.org/en/what-we-do-mainmenu-27/processing-aamp-marketing-mainmenu-100.html

Read about some banana products and descriptions of processing techniques at: http://www.techno-preneur.net/information-desk/sciencetech-magazine/2010/july10/Value%20Added%20Products%20from%20Banana/Banana.html

Here you can read all about how to make banana chips: http://practicalaction.org/practicalanswers/product_info.php?products_id=69

Banana leaves and other by-products are also increasingly used in handicrafts: http://www.africanaturally.com/paper.htm

Here are some recent stories from FRW on bananas:

East Africa: Handmade banana briquettes could replace firewood (FRW 66, May 2009) http://weekly.farmradio.org/2009/05/18/2-east-africa-handmade-banana-briquettes-could-replace-firewood-bbc-news/
-Rwanda: Processing bananas changes lives in Rwanda (FRW 41, October 2008) http://weekly.farmradio.org/2008/10/27/1-rwanda-processing-bananas-changes-lives-in-rwanda-by-sawa-pius-for-farm-radio-weekly-in-mombasa-kenya/

Rwanda: Ban on plastic bags creates new market for banana bags (FRW 94, January 2010)


Browse our bank of scripts on food processing here: http://farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/food.asp

You may wish to produce a program on local opportunities for small-scale processing. Which crops are commonly processed as street food, for example? Is this only a women’s domain – how common is it to see men engaged in food processing? Is there a surplus of any particular crop in one season, which may provide an opportunity for processing? You could seek out local enterprises which make juice or chips, and ask them how they started, what the difficulties are, and how they have benefited.

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Notes to broadcasters on Ethiopia and apples

Ethiopia has an extremely varied geography and climate. Its highland areas are very fertile, and provide a good climate for growing both tropical and temperate fruits. Some kinds of temperate fruit were introduced centuries ago by Europeans; others, like the apple, are relatively new introductions.

Here’s a general introduction to agriculture in Ethiopia from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agriculture_in_Ethiopia

Here are 13 photos which accompanied the original story, as published in the Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/gallery/2011/dec/21/farming-eastern-ethiopia-in-pictures

Here are two stories on growing temperate fruits in Ethiopia:

Temperate fruits transforming lives in a tropical country: http://www.norway.org.et/News_and_events/etiopia/fruits/

Apple trees transform the life of a farmer in Ethiopia

And here is a report from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization on fruit nurseries in two Ethiopian states:

FAO’s Fruit Nurseries in Amhara and Tigray Regions: Vibrant Projects Full of Promise http://www.fao.org/uploads/media/FocusMagazine8.pdf

Farm Radio International has published a number of scripts on the benefits of growing fruits. See the following two, for example:

Fruit Changes Farmers’ Lives (Package 81, Script 10, August 2007). http://www.farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/81-10script_en.asp

Growing fruit trees: A Participatory Radio Campaign in Uganda helps farmers earn income, improve the environment and enhance household nutrition (Package 94, Script 2, December 2011). http://www.farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/94-2script_en.asp

If you live in a highland area, farmers may already be growing apples, pears, cherries, grapes, or other temperate fruit. If not, temperate fruit production might be a good investment, especially if there is easy access to large towns and cities, or to export markets.  Of course, growing fruit also brings health benefits – if, unlike the farmer in the story, your family decides to actually eat the fruit!

Talk to farmers and extension workers in your listening area. Find out if the climatic conditions are right for growing temperate fruit. If so, is there a ready market? Does your national government have any plans to diversify into producing temperate fruit? Interview an official from the Ministry of an extension supervisor. Perhaps some farmers have tried growing temperate fruit in the past, and failed. But perhaps conditions have changed. Maybe the road infrastructure has improved, or nearby towns have grown and offer a larger and more diversified market.

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Notes to broadcasters on dung and biogas

This story is a good example of a project which has benefits for both farmers and the global environment. Farmers benefit by getting access to cheap energy, which leaves them more money for education and other goods and services. They also make good quality fertilizer as a by-product. The environment benefits because methane is not released into the atmosphere from decomposing manure.

For more general and technical information on biogas, see these reports and websites:

“Biogas, a Technical Brief by Practical Action. Downloadable at http://practicalaction.org/biogas

Supergas website: http://www.supergas.info/

African Biogas Partnership Programme: http://africabiogas.org/knowledge-center/

Here are two recent new reports on cow dung and biogas in Senegal and in Uganda:

-“Cow Dung Generates Energy for Households in Senegal”: http://www.africagoodnews.com/infrastructure/energy/2735-cow-dung-generates-energy-for-households-in-senegal.html

-“Bio Gas Brought a New Dawn in Mugisha’s Life”: http://allafrica.com/stories/201108040446.html

You may also wish to revisit some stories from the Farm Radio Weekly series on energy in June 2011. Here is one story on biogas from that series:

Rwanda: Powering homes with cow dung (FRW 160, June 2011) http://weekly.farmradio.org/2011/06/20/rwanda-powering-homes-with-cow-dung-alertnet/

Farm Radio International has produced many scripts on climate change, and on livestock farming. You can browse these scripts at http://www.farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/climate.asp and http://www.farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/livestock.asp

The following script talks about a method for decreasing greenhouse gas emissions in livestock farming:

Breeding cows in a zero-grazing system can be a dual environmental solution (Package 89, Script 5, December 2009) http://www.farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/89-5script_en.asp

This story touches on several issues: the livelihood of livestock farmers, ways to decrease or mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, and sources of renewable energy.

Biogas is one form of renewable energy. Others include solar energy, energy from moving water (electricity from small or large dams, for example), and biofuels made from plants like jatropha.

You could ask farmers in their area where they get their energy for cooking, lighting, and other uses, including charging mobile phones.

Do they use any renewable resources such as the ones mentioned above? Many farmers use only wood or charcoal for household energy. Unless carefully stewarded, this results in deforestation.

Are there individuals, businesses, schools, or other institutions in nearby villages or towns that use solar energy? Talk to farmers, merchants, local business leaders, and local NGOs.

What do farmers in your listening area do with their animal manure? Is it used for fertilizer? Do they compost the manure, or is it simply left in place or carried to the fields? Are there biodigesters in your listening area? If so, interview the people who own and/or use the biodigester and get their story. How did the biodigester project start? What benefits do they expect and have their received from the biodigester? How is it working? How was the initial investment covered?

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AMARC Africa to hold first capacity building conference in Dakar

AMARC Africa will hold its first capacity building conference, “Enhancing the Impact of Community Radio Broadcasting in Africa,” in Dakar, Senegal, on January 24-26, 2012. The event will be an opportunity for more than 70 community radio broadcasters and practitioners from Eastern, Western, Central and Southern Africa, along with partners and scholars, to evaluate the effectiveness of community radio stations engaged in current projects on water and sanitation; HIV and AIDS; and women’s participation in radio, civil society and good governance in Africa, as well as to share knowledge and define common strategies to increase the social impact of community broadcasting.

The Conference will feature five thematic workshops to train trainers on the main topics in AMARC Africa’s Action Plan for 2012-2014: achieving the MDGs, women’s empowerment, climate change and mitigation, agriculture and food, and governance, notably elections.

AMARC Africa will also present its Program of Activities for 2012-2014, and share ideas on how best to enhance the impact of community radio broadcasting in Africa in the next five years and mobilize support for the program.

For more information, see http://africa.amarc.org/dakar_conf_2012/dakar_2012_EN.html http://africa.amarc.org/index.php?p=home&l=FR [VC1]

The conference registration form is available at:  http://africa.amarc.org/dakar_conf_2012/form/index.php?lang=EN

For further enquiries, please contact Alymana Bathily, Regional Coordinator, AMARC Africa, at: alymanab@yahoo.fr

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Facebook for journalists

Facebook is one of the many social media that can be useful for journalists. A page has been created that explains how journalists can use Facebook in their work Click the “Like” button to view the information (link below). You can then access many other links and information, post on the “Wall,” and interact with a community of journalists across the world. Most of the Facebook pages are available in many languages.

Click here to access the page.

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Statement to COP17 by AMARC

A delegation of community radio journalists from the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC) covered the activities and events of the 17th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP-17) held in Durban, South Africa from November 28 to December 9, 2011. AMARC also participated in the COP17 debates as an observer NGO. On December 8th, AMARC issued a press release which outlines its perspective on climate change and the media’s role in promoting environmentally sustainable development. Passages from the press release are excerpted below.

We, as community broadcasters, are acutely aware that dominant patterns of production and consumption are causing environmental devastation, resource depletion and extinction of species.… In treating information as a commodity and not as a right of peoples, the mainstream media pay more attention to short term gain and the interests of the powerful. Thus, the environmental agenda has been reduced to the fatalities and catastrophes when in reality the environmental crisis is also the moral crisis of an economic system and of our political and social institutions. We believe it is necessary to reaffirm the social responsibility of the media to act in the public interest and to defend the most vulnerable and we encourage community media to promote environmentally sustainable development.

We commit ourselves to:

* Uphold the right of everyone to receive clear and timely information on environmental issues, and on development plans that may affect us, or in which we have an interest.

* Adopt the climate change agenda so that communities we work with in different parts of the world have quality information that enables them to take more effective action and to demand to those in power to adopt policies in order to mitigate the causes of climate change….

* Support civil society at local, regional and global levels, and promote the participation of all individuals and organizations in decision making that affects their lives and livelihoods.

* Protect and exercise the right to freedom of opinion, expression, association and dissent to rethink new, more just, more equitable and more sustainable models of development….

* Adopt best practices in our own activities with respect to environmental management and promote a carbon neutral community media sector….

We call on governments as well as international and multilateral organizations:

* to promote the existence and development of community media that serve those populations most excluded from development and those most affected by the consequences of climate change;

* to establish mechanisms and adequate economic investment for local community media to realize their full potential in order to build informed societies that are conscious of the need to implement local actions to mitigate the global phenomenon of climate change.

Likewise we call on the nations of the world to rethink the current development model which is the leading cause of climate change, and to establish new economic, political, social and ethical systems that improve the distribution of wealth and assure a more rational and sustainable use of natural resources and protect indigenous people, local and rural communities.

You can read the press release in its entirety at:  http://wiki.amarc.org/?action=shownews&id=1342&lang=EN

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An alternative fuel source: Make charcoal briquettes from banana peels

This week’s story talks about the financial benefits of processing bananas into a wide variety of foods. But bananas are even more versatile than that! Our script of the week shows how banana peels can be made into banachakol or banana charcoal. In this script, a group of women has grasped the initiative. They transform a product that is usually wasted into a fuel that can partially replace the use of wood and other expensive or distant sources of fuel.


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