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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 #189

More on World Radio Day: Stories from Burkina Faso and Zambia

This week, we continue our celebration of World Radio Day with two more stories exclusive to Farm Radio Weekly.

Our first story comes from Burkina Faso, and highlights the mutual appreciation between Radio Vénégré and the station’s listeners’ club. The members of the club show their appreciation for the station by buying loyalty cards, which allow them to send personal messages during a special listeners’ club program.

From Zambia, we hear from a farmer who appreciates many aspects of his local radio station’s programming: how it informs him of news developments in Zambia and abroad, how it boosts his family’s appreciation of their cultural heritage, and, most of all, how it helps his farming activities. In the light of recent concerns over decreased press freedom in the country, the farmer speaks out, saying that by shutting down journalists, the voices of the citizens like him are being shut down.

Our third story introduces you to a Kenyan woman who has an unusual attitude towards weeds. Instead of uprooting them, she grows selected weeds and cooks them, or turns them into juice and sells the highly nutritious indigenous crops for a good profit.

Don’t miss our Action section. This week, we announce the release of three reports that document the activities of Farm Radio International’s groundbreaking African Farm Radio Research Initiative. This three-year action research project showed how Participatory Radio Campaigns can lead significant numbers of farmers-listeners to adopt of beneficial farming practices.

Until next week, happy reading!

-The Farm Radio Weekly team

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Burkina Faso: Listeners’ club gratitude for local radio station lifts broadcasters’ spirits (by Nourou-Dhine Salouka, for Farm Radio Weekly in Burkina Faso)

Awa Kande is a housewife in the town of Nagrengo. The mother of two has long resisted the idea that infants should be exclusively breastfed from birth to six months old, as advocated by health services. It took a radio program to change her mind. She explains: “The program on exclusive breastfeeding helped me a lot. Before, I was breastfeeding my children without paying attention to medical advice … For my next children, I will follow this method strictly.”

The radio station KaKoaadb Yam Vénégré (which means “awakening peasant” in the Mooré language) is a key player in social life in the central Burkina Faso districts of Ziniaré, Loumbila and Nagrerengo. Communities access vital information on health, farming and current events through the radio station.

Broadcasting from Ziniaré, Radio Vénégré has created a community of listeners who are concerned about the well-being of the station. Now, the listeners’ club is actively involved in the life of the radio station. The club organizes regular meetings and listeners buy loyalty cards for its programs.

The loyalty cards cost between 500 and 1000 CFA per year, about one or two U.S cents. The cards allow listeners to send personal messages during a special listeners’ club program called “le concert des auditeurs.”

The club members invest their cash because the station is important to their lives. It informs them of local and national news, and it raises their awareness. It also provides a forum for them to express their views on farming issues, health, and other concerns. In this region perhaps more than in other places, the oral traditional is important.

Though the station broadcasts health programs like the one Awa Kande listens to, Radio Vénégré never forgets that its first duty is to broadcast agricultural information. The station has helped to improve the knowledge and practices of many producers in the region.

Boukari Sinaré is a farmer and president of the listeners’ club. He found the program on making organic manure very beneficial. He has mastered the art of compost-making. He says, “This allowed me to have better yields. I see that the millet heads are larger. This has improved family nutrition.”

According to Mr. Sinaré, the listeners’ club was created to thank the station for all the services it provides the community. Mr. Sinaré is enthusiastic, saying, “I know that the small contributions we make through our purchasing cards cannot improve the station’s finances, but it is a way to show our appreciation.”

Jean-Baptiste Sawadogo is the director of Radio Vénégré. For him, the listeners’ club is a source of inspiration. He says, “It’s not easy to manage a rural station every day … Fortunately, these signs of friendship from the listeners’ club boost our spirits.”

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Zambia: ‘Shutting down journalists is shutting us down’ says Zambian farmer (by Brian Moonga, for Farm Radio Weekly in Zambia)

From weather forecasts, to news on how agricultural inputs are distributed, or how farmer co-operatives are created, radio has helped many of Zambia’s small-scale farming communities achieve success.

Irvine Milandu farms in Moonze, an agricultural district in Southern Zambia. He listens to radio throughout the day, especially when he is working in the fields. He appreciates the amount of information he hears on farming and governance issues. He says, “It’s easy for me, especially with the new technology of cell phones which have radio. I just work and listen.”

There are more than 20 community radio stations in Zambia. Most have a coverage radius of less than 20 kilometres. Yet they are significant to both rural and urban dwellers, whose interests range from politics to agriculture.

Radio is not only a source of entertainment and information for Mr. Milandu, it is also a unifying influence on his family. He explains, “With my small radio set, on some evenings we listen to some of our favourite radio dramas. It’s very nice because my children learn to express themselves and appreciate some of our heritage, our values, and discover more and more who we are as a people.”

But radio has had its greatest impact on Mr. Milandu’s maize farming. Many Zambian farmers used to depend on their own observations to predict rainfall and other weather events. But many struggled when the rains did not arrive as expected.

Farmers like Mr. Milandu find weather forecasts helpful. He says, “Last farming season, I planted my maize too early because many of us here in Moonze thought the rains would come on time. But there was a long dry spell.” He says the weather this year has been similar, adding, “There is no rain. [But] luckily this time I learnt that this part of the country would experience rainfall much later.”

Milandu’s favourite channel is his local radio station Sky FM, which runs political debates and a special farmers program, Mulaso WaBalimi, which discusses agricultural techniques.

New technologies such as cell phones with built-in radio sets have helped many farmers stay tuned despite erratic electricity supplies. Mr. Milandu says, “Once my cell phone battery is fully charged, I can listen to radio, [and] send SMS for two or three days. Like this, I am fully tuned into developments taking place in- and outside the country.”

But Zambia’s progress towards meeting this new demand for information is meeting some obstacles. The country recently dropped four places on the Reporters Without Borders index of press freedom.

Gagging of journalists, censorship and political interference have all negatively affected the quality of service delivery to Zambia’s listening audience.

Mr. Milandu comments, “It’s us the people who want to speak out and the journalists just convey our thoughts and aspirations. So shutting down journalists is shutting us down.”

However, many journalists are happy with new government media reforms which include enactment of a freedom of information bill, and enable local media organizations to go national.

Hector Simfukwe is a reporter with Joy FM in the capital city, Lusaka. He says, “The new government which closely worked with journalists during the elections is showing very progressive tendencies towards media development in Zambia. This is different from the previous regime which really gagged the media, especially towards the general elections of 2011.”

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Kenya: A farmer makes her fortune by turning weeds into juice (by Sawa Pius, for Farm Radio Weekly in Kenya)

Sixty-year-old Margaret Wanjiru has made a fortune from the weeds on her farm in Ngong, near Kenya’s capital of Nairobi. Instead of uprooting them, Ms. Wanjiru cultivates them and uses them to make juice.

Among the weeds she uses are blackjack, pigweed, Lantana camara, yellow sorrel, and wandering Jew. She makes a cocktail from a mixture of these and common indigenous leafy vegetables such as spider plant, black nightshade, and amaranth. She explains that weeds are those plants which most farmers uproot and throw away. They are not usually eaten. Indigenous vegetables are plants that farmers have been eating for many years, and are now becoming well known again as agriculturalists promote them.

Mrs. Wanjiru’s long experience as an organic farmer started back in 1962, when she used to accompany her grandmother to the farm. She learned that different varieties of weeds were eaten many years ago, though people do not know about them now.

When she got married in 1974, she tried the weeds and found that they were delicious. She cooked a mixture of weeds, and her husband and children liked them. In 2002, she introduced them to a nearby market, both fresh and cooked.

She says, “When people saw the uncooked weeds, they would sneer and say they were not for human beings, as the weeds were commonly eaten by goats and rabbits. But when I gave them the cooked assorted weeds, they were surprised.”

With drought in recent years, Mrs. Wanjiru had fewer weeds to sell to the increasing number of clients. So she tried making juice from the weeds. The profit from selling the juice is almost triple that of selling the weeds.

She explains, “One paper bag of the weeds could produce about eight litres of juice. One litre of juice goes for 250 Kenyan shillings, which is slightly above $3. But a bunch of vegetables is 100 shillings, which is just about $1.”

Making the juice is simple, says Mrs. Wanjiru. “I boil water in a big pan. After boiling, I remove the water from [the] fire, wash the weeds and immerse the weeds in it, including the stalks, and keep stirring, then cover it.” After the juice has cooled, she sieves and pours it into containers, adding lemon as a preservative. The juice is then ready to drink.

She says the juice and the leafy vegetables have high levels of nutrients that can help cure illnesses like diabetes and arthritis and fight common ailments. There may be some scientific truth in her claims according to nutritionist, Florence Habwe. Mrs. Habwe, from Maseno University, Kenya, has carried out nutritional analyses of indigenous African vegetables such as nightshade, amaranth, slenderleaf and cowpea.

She explains, “There is [a] need for scientific tests to be carried out to see whether there are any poisonous substances like aflatoxin. But it could be found that the content has even more nutritive value than they know. It is true several indigenous vegetables have medicinal value.”

Mrs. Wanjiru’s clients consume a five litre container of juice in about three weeks. She says, “I tell my fellow Africans: let’s go back to our traditional foods and vegetables. These days people are lazy; they don’t want to go to the garden and collect the vegetables. But if you are a farmer and continue eating these vegetables, you will remain healthy.”

Now Mrs. Wanjiru travels round the continent encouraging people to eat and drink weeds and indigenous vegetables. But the juices made from weeds and indigenous vegetables remain Mrs. Wanjiru’s main source of income.

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Notes to broadcasters on making juice from weeds

There has been a lot of interest recently in growing, processing and marketing indigenous African crops, including vegetables and some plants commonly thought of as weeds. A number of national and international organizations have conducted research and reported on the nutritional or medicinal benefits of the crops, ways to process and market them, and ensure a good, reliable supply of seed.

Here are three recent news stories on African indigenous vegetables.

Kenya: Scientist’s Fight for Adoption of African Vegetables Rewarded


Kenya: Seed Projects Sprout From Rising Demand for High Value Greens


Tanzania: Indigenous Vegetables to Fight ‘Hidden Hunger’ http://allafrica.com/stories/201012170600.html

Florence Habwe is the nutritionist quoted in the story. Here are two of her scientific papers which look at the nutritional content of African indigenous vegetables. These are technical papers and may be somewhat difficult to understand. Try reading through the “abstract” at the beginning of the paper. The abstract summarizes the research paper.

Florence O. Habwe et al, 2009. Iron content of the formulated East African indigenous vegetable recipes. Available free online at: http://academicjournals.org/ajfs/PDF/Pdf2009/Dec/Habwe%20et%20al.pdf

Florence Habwe, Mary Walingo and Mary Abukutsa, 2010. Copper and Ascorbic Acid Content of Cooked African Indigenous Vegetables. http://www.tropentag.de/2010/abstracts/full/127.pdf

Here is a full-length book on African vegetables which can be read on-line. It talks about some of the indigenous crops which Mrs. Wanjiru grows, plus many others “lost” or neglected African crops which are receiving new attention.

Lost Crops of Africa: Volume 2: Vegetables. http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=11763

This script talks about indigenous African vegetables: A community fights malnutrition with local leafy vegetables (Package 93, Script 3, April 2011). http://www.farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/93-3script_en.asp

FRW has produced several stories on African indigenous vegetables. Here are two:

East Africa: Indigenous vegetables make a comeback (FRW #87, November, 2009) http://weekly.farmradio.org/2009/11/09/2-east-africa-indigenous-vegetables-make-a-comeback-new-vision-new-agriculturalist-2/

Zimbabwe: Renewed interest in traditional food creates opportunities for entrepreneurs and farmers. (FRW #121, July, 2010) http://weekly.farmradio.org/2010/07/26/3-zimbabwe-renewed-interest-in-traditional-food-creates-opportunities-for-entrepreneurs-and-farmers-ips/

Do farmers in your listening audience grow, eat or process indigenous African vegetables? In some areas, such as Nairobi, there is an established market for indigenous vegetables and farmers can make a good income. Talk to extension workers to see if they know farmers who grow indigenous vegetables, either for sale or for home consumption.

You might also want to talk to older farmers. In some cases, knowledge that is lost to younger generations is still held by older farmers. Perhaps there is a farmers’ group or co-operative with older members in your area, maybe linked to an NGO. Talk to these experienced farmers and get their perspective on indigenous vegetables.

If farmers are growing these vegetables in your listening audience, find out why. What are the benefits? Have they tried cooking them, or making juice from them? Tell them the story of Margaret Wanjiru and see what they think.

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2012 SADC Media Awards Competition

Journalists and reporters from the SADC region are invited to submit one of more stories to the 2012 SADC Media Awards Competition. There are four award categories: print, radio, television and photo journalism. A prize of US$2000 will be awarded in each category.

Entries should have been broadcast or published in 2011. Broadcast materials should have a minimum duration of five minutes and a maximum duration of thirty minutes. Print journalism submissions should be between 600 and 2000 words. Entries can be submitted in English, French or Portuguese.

All entries must be submitted to the National Adjudication Committee no later than March 31, 2012.

Rules: http://www.gcis.gov.za/newsroom/events/sadc_awards/2012/sadcrules2012.pdf
Entry form: http://www.gcis.gov.za/newsroom/releases/advisories/2012/120214.htm

SADC countries include: Angola, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, Swaziland, Botswana, Madagascar, Mauritius, Seychelles, United Republic of Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mozambique, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

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Community Media: A Good Practice Handbook

UNESCO’s “Community Media: A Good Practice Handbook” provides a comprehensive look at community media across the world, encompassing different regions, cultures and political systems.

Thirty countries are featured, in case studies which cover community radio, television, internet and mobile devices. Whether it’s the Giheta Community Media Centre in Burundi encouraging post-conflict reconciliation or femTALK promoting women’s empowerment in Fiji, each case study provides insight into community media’s best practices.

The handbook can provide inspiration for community media journalists on how to make community media sustainable, meaningful and a positive force for social change.  It looks not only at good practices, but solutions too.

To download this publication, visit http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0021/002150/215097e.pdf

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Farm Radio International releases findings from successful radio-for-development project on World Radio Day

In 2007, Farm Radio International began implementing the African Farm Radio Research Initiative (AFRRI). This research project aimed to find out more about the effectiveness of radio, whether farmers listen to farm radio programs and adopt new practices they hear about, and how using ICTs can make radio stronger. After four years, five countries, 25 radio stations and 49 Participatory Radio Campaigns, we now have an unprecedented body of evidence which shows that agricultural radio, combined with new ICTs, can reach and educate huge numbers of farmers living within range of its broadcasts. More importantly, we have shown that targeted participatory radio strategies result in impressive uptake of new farming practices – in some cases, one in five farmer-listeners adopted the practice discussed.

The AFRRI project model provides an evidence-based methodology that can be used to scale up innovations in agricultural development. Using the Participatory Radio Campaign format, programs that now reach 10-20,000 farmers can be scaled up to reach 200,000 or more at a cost of less than $1 per farmer served and under $5 per adopter.

It was fitting for FRI to release three AFRRI research reports on the first annual World Radio Day. The reports describe in detail what we learned about Participatory Radio Campaigns, radio-based Market Information Services, and how new ICTs can make radio stronger.

We hope you find these reports useful for your work, and welcome any feedback that you might wish to offer. We encourage you to share this exciting research with your network by forwarding these links, or sharing our homepage on Facebook and Twitter: http://www.farmradio.org/english/partners/home3.asp

You can access the reports directly here:

-“Participatory Radio Campaigns and food security: How radio can help farmers make informed decisions” http://bit.ly/farmradioprc

-“The new age of radio: How ICTs are changing rural radio in Africa” http://bit.ly/farmradioict

-“Marketing on the airwaves: Marketing information services and radio” http://bit.ly/farmradiomis

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Improved Market Information Services programs increase farmers’ income and knowledge

In last week’s issue, we featured a script from our latest script package, which was distributed last December. The script highlighted a Participatory Radio Campaign on using vetiver grass in Malawi. This week’s script is also from our latest package, but presents a different kind of radio program that is of great value to farmers: market information services.

This two-part script shows how farmers in four countries benefited from market information programs on their local radio stations. These market programs went way beyond simply broadcasting market prices! They invited farmers to call in to the stations, connected buyers and sellers, interviewed buyers and sellers right in the market, and educated farmers on how markets really work. Not only were farmers excited about the shows – broadcasters also were enthusiastic, with many promising to continue market programming even after special funding had been completed.

You can read this two-part script at: http://www.farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/94-7script_en.asp & http://www.farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/94-8script_en.asp

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