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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 #187

Solar fish dryers benefit women’s group, fish eaters and the environment

A pilot project on Malawi’s Lake Chilwa is introducing women fish processors to solar dryers. The project is so successful that other women’s groups are asking for it to be scaled up. Compared to traditional drying methods, solar dryers improve the taste of fish, prevent tree felling, and improve food safety. On top of that, the solar dryers dry fish more quickly.

Vegetable farmers in Zanzibar have not benefited from the growing tourist trade on the small island off the Tanzanian coast. But now, 200 growers in the Umwamwema farmers’ association have joined forces and, with the help of agricultural experts, are adopting farming and water management practices that have increased their yields and incomes.

Our Action section alerts readers to a new commemorative day: World Radio Day. The annual event will be held for the first time on February 13th. It gives radio practitioners and enthusiasts a chance to celebrate their craft and share experiences.

Don’t forget to check out our Script, Event, and Resources sections too.

We will take a publishing break next week, but we will be back in your inboxes with a special issue for World Radio Day on February 13th.

Happy reading!

-The Farm Radio Weekly team

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Malawi: Women benefit from solar fish dryers (by Norman Fulatira, for Farm Radio Weekly in Malawi)

A successful pilot project is transforming the way that fish are processed on Malawi’s Lake Chilwa. And women fish processors are reaping the benefits.

Sellina Naphwinya is chairperson of Tadala women’s fish processing group, which works on one of Lake Chilwa’s beaches. She and her group are now using solar fish dryers. She says they are far better than previous ways of processing fish. She explains, “Solar fish dryers improve hygiene and the quality of fish processed because, compared to other methods, the fish has good taste and comes out clean, since it is dried inside the tents.” Another important advantage is that  solar dryers reduce time for drying.

The shoreline of Lake Chilwa is dotted with small fishing villages, and provides 20 per cent of all fish caught in Malawi. For many years, fish processors around the lake relied on traditional open-air drying and smoking. But open-air drying exposes fish to flies. And smoking uses a lot of firewood, causing environmental problems.

To address these issues, the World Fish Centre designed a pilot project. They started by building solar dryers and handing them over to two women’s groups on Lake Chilwa. The pilot project was successful, and now women fish processors around the lake are calling for the program to be scaled up.

The chairperson of a group of women fish processors from Swang’oma beach says that solar dryers have many benefits. “Most women fish processors in my group have also liked this new technique because at the market, buyers now prefer fish from solar dryers to either smoked or open  sun-dried, due to the quality of fish processed.”

The solar dryers are small tent-like houses wrapped in transparent plastic sheeting. The sheeting allows the sun’s light and heat to dry small fish placed on racks inside the tent. Drying fish takes no more than 24 hours with the solar dryers, compared to two days using traditional means.

The solar dryers are now in high demand. Dr. Jamu is the director of the World Fish Centre. He states that the Centre is ready to collaborate and reach out to women fish processors on more beaches around Lake Chilwa. Dr. Steve Donda is Deputy Director of the Department of Fisheries. He says the technique will be scaled up to all the beaches on the lakes in Malawi.

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Tanzania: Farmers’ group profits by expanding vegetable production (AllAfrica)

Fields of okra, tomatoes and peppers fringe the small village of Fuoni, just outside Zanzibar City. The vegetable plots represent three years of hard work for Umwamwema, a farmers’ association with over 200 members.

Five years ago, farmer Omari Abdullah faced many challenges. Poor roads, limited transport facilities and, most importantly, a lack of storage facilities, forced him to sell his vegetables for whatever price he was offered.

Zanzibar is a small island with just over a million people, the majority of whom are subsistence farmers. Tourism has become the major industry in the last 20 years. But farmers like Mr. Abdullah are enjoying few benefits from the estimated one million tourists who visit the island each year. Eighty per cent of the vegetables supplied to the hotel industry are not grown on the island, but in mainland Tanzania. .

Things have changed for the better for some farmers over the last few years. With help from an international NGO, Umwamwema has started working with agricultural experts. The experts have helped in many ways. For example, they suggested that farmers kill harmful soil-dwelling pests by putting infested soil in a clear plastic bag and leaving it in the sun for a week. Local farmer Mama Mariam adds, “It’s really good feeling connected; knowing there are specialists on hand, both for the more routine stuff, but also for when we have problems.”

In October 2009, the Tanzanian Agricultural Productivity Programme, or TAPP, started training the farmers. The training is helping new farmers like Yasmin Mahmoud. It’s also educating experienced farmers on responding to supply and demand, and on choosing to grow products with a strong market, such as mint and basil.

Farmers are learning how to prepare their land, stagger their plantings, and use water harvesting and drip irrigation to strengthen their resilience to unpredictable rainfall. TAPP provides improved seeds to the farmers for free. Omari Abdullah adds, “We’ve also introduced compost-making, rather than relying on commercial fertilizer, which isn’t always that good.”

In the past, poor electricity supplies prevented farmers from keeping their vegetables cool and from using pumps to irrigate their crops. But by digging a well, farmers are no longer dependent on electrical pumps, and can move water by hand. This, plus a simple drip irrigation pipe, has reduced the amount of labour necessary to grow vegetables and improve crop security.

All these measures have increased the Umwamwema farmers’ productivity. And the increased productivity is paying off in improved food security and higher incomes.

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Notes to broadcasters on solar fish drying

This story presents a situation with triple benefits: for the women fish processors involved, for people who eat fish, and for the environment. The women receive a better price and preferential treatment from fish buyers; fish consumers eat fish which is cleaner and more hygienic; and the environment benefits because trees are not cut to smoke the fish.

Here is a recent story on solar dryers:

Solar Tent Fish Dryer Will Reduce Loss (August 18, 2009) http://allafrica.com/stories/200908180027.html

Here is a blog entry which talks about the situation in Lake Chilwa: http://mosephiri.blog.co.uk/2011/09/20/solar-drying-tech-saves-fish-wastage-money-11880430/

You might want to look at the results of this scientific study. The study shows that fish processed with a solar drier retained less moisture than sun-dried fish. Dried fish with lower moisture are less prone to infestation by mould, and have a longer shelf life. Solar-dried fish were also more hygienic in the experiment in terms of lower bacterial infection. Finally, the study showed that full drying took only three days with solar dryers, as opposed to seven days with sun-drying.

You can see the study here:


The NGO Practical Action has many resources on solar dryers. See: http://practicalaction.org/drying-answers

One Practical Action document is entitled, “Construction and Maintenance of the Solar Fish Dryer.” You can see it here: http://practicalaction.org/construction-and-maintenance-of-the-solar-fish-drier

Here is a more general resource, from CTA, on drying agricultural produce:  http://www.anancy.net/documents/file_en/RRRP_01-8-en.pdf

Farm Radio International published a script on solar dryers in 2006.

Three Fishing Ladies with a Message about Solar Dryers (Package 79, Script 6, November 2006)


If fishing or aquaculture is an activity in your listening area, talk to fishers, processors and traders. Ask them:

In what ways are fish processed?  For example, they may be dried, smoked, ground into fish meal, used for fertilizer, used as animal feed, etc.

How are fish dried?

Do fishers, processors, traders, or consumers report any problems with dried fish?

Are solar dryers used to dry fish?

If so, how were they introduced to the area?

Do those who use solar dryers report benefits?

Do they report any problems?

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Notes to broadcasters on Zanzibari vegetable farmers

This story shows a group of determined farmers who are changing their fortunes, with the help of agricultural experts. The story mentions a variety of practices that the farmers are now using, from water management, to pest management, to marketing practices.

Farm Radio International has produced many scripts on these topics. For example, you can find scripts on crop production at: http://www.farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/crop.asp

Scripts on pest management are available at: http://www.farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/pest.asp

And scripts on water management can be found here:  http://www.farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/water.asp

Here’s a script that talks about drip irrigation, one of the practices mentioned in the script.

Supply Water Directly to Plant Roots with Pitcher and Drip Irrigation (Package 71, Script 10, June 2004).


The story talks about “peri-urban” farmers, farmers who grow crops outside of, but near to, a city. Here are two scripts that talk about urban dwellers using “sack farming” to grow vegetables. .

Sack farming: Unlimited vegetable harvest! (Package 90, Script 9, April 2010).


Women use ‘hanging gardens’ to grow vegetables and solve land crisis (Package 90, Script 8, April 2010).


The story also refers to marketing strategies – understanding supply and demand, and choosing to grow crops which are in high demand. Farm Radio International published four scripts on marketing issues in Package 66, in March 2003. You can access these scripts here:  http://www.farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/numerical.asp Scroll down to package 66.

There are good opportunities for small-scale farmers to sell into nearby tourist markets in Africa. One study found that a very high percentage of hotels in tourist areas on the Kenyan coast purchased their fruits and vegetables, dairy products, eggs, chicken and fish from small-scale producers. See: http://www.ajol.info/index.php/kjbm/article/viewFile/52163/40789

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Journalism competition: Young People, Farming and Food

An international conference to debate the theme “Young People, Farming and Food: The Future of the Agrifood Sector in Africa,” will take place on March 19-21, 2012 in Accra, Ghana.

As part of the conference, organizers are holding a competition to find the best media reporting in Africa on young people and agriculture. The competition is aimed at young African journalists and media specialists between the ages of 18 and 40. Entries should investigate the challenges and opportunities associated with young people’s engagement in agriculture, or highlight successes or best practices.

Entries should be original pieces that are based in the country or region in which the journalist operates. Applicants must submit their entry in English only by email. Entries should be submitted to: post@wrenmedia.co.uk and copied to: info@future-agricultures.org

The deadline for entry is Friday, February 17th. For further information, see: http://www.future-agricultures.org/events/young-people-farming-a-food

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Resource publication: Why Radio Matters – Making the Case for Radio as a Medium for Development

While the field of new information and communication technologies (ICT) is growing fast, radio remains the principal media in developing countries, where it is the most common form of mass media. Mary Meyers uses this point to demonstrate the relevance of radio as a vehicle for development in her publication, “Why Radio Matters – Making the Case for Radio as a Medium for Development.” This publication, written at the request of Developing Radio Partners, shows that radio is an essential tool for reaching and mobilizing marginalized people. More specifically, it shows how radio: can help save lives; can disseminate vital information to prevent disasters; allows oppressed peoples to express and affirm their identity, while holding authorities responsible; and can educate and inform in the most remote areas of the planet. The document can be downloaded in English by clicking on this link.

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Preparations for the first World Radio Day

UNESCO recently announced that February 13th has been chosen as the new annual World Radio Day. This special day gives all radio practitioners and enthusiasts a chance to celebrate their craft and share experiences. Farm Radio Weekly plans to publish original stories from the field on how farmers value and benefit from radio. A special issue will be published on February 13th.

UNESCO has details of the day on its website: http://www.unesco.org/new/en/communication-and-information/events/prizes-and-celebrations/celebrations/world-radio-day/

Full details on how the day came about, and the importance of radio, can be found here: http://www.worldradioday.org/

Various activities have already been planned. UNESCO will present a number of initiatives on its website, and more activities will be announced on the World Radio Day Facebook page, which you can access here: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1235132307&ref=tn_tnmn#!/pages/World-Radio-Day/244826332245912 Click “Like” to ensure you receive updates.

We would love to hear about any activities you or your station are planning. Perhaps you are preparing a dedicated radio program. Or interviews? Or maybe a community event? Please let us know. We will share your activities in this section in the coming weeks. Contact: farmradioweekly@farmradio.org

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Three Fishing Ladies with a Message about Solar Dryers

This week’s script fits perfectly with our story from Malawi’s Lake Chilwa. Three fishing women from different countries in West Africa are interviewed about their experiences with solar fish dryers. They describe how solar dryers are constructed, talk about the improved quality of dried fish with solar dryers, and mention that solar-dried fish can be stored for a longer period of time. Last but not least, they talk about how their incomes have doubled.


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