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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 #190

Farmers face serious challenges: Stories from Zimbabwe, South Sudan and Congo

This week we bring you stories of farmers facing serious challenges – drought, conflict, and lack of land on which to farm.

Our first story comes from Zimbabwe, where, until recently, no rain had fallen for several months. Local farmers are worried that the recent rains came too late to save their crops.

Our second story describes an unusual situation in Point-Noire, Republic of Congo. Faced with a lack of land for farming, a group of residents has moved into an unused urban cemetery and is growing food. Other citizens and the city administration are offended and want the farmers to stop. The farmers respond that they have no choice.

In South Sudan, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization reports on actions it is taking to support herdsmen and farmers. The new country’s Jonglei State has been the focus of recent conflict, and FAO’s actions are designed to support animal health, fishing and vegetable production.

Don’t miss our Action section this week. Farm Radio International has long wanted to provide scripts to our partners in languages other than English and French. This week, we announce that 15 of our partners’ favourite scripts are now available in Swahili and Hausa.

Happy reading!

-The Farm Radio Weekly team

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Zimbabwe: Erratic rains and long dry spell worry farmers (by Zenzele Ndebele for Farm Radio Weekly in Zimbabwe)

Farmers in the Mangwe district of southern Zimbabwe are expecting low yields this farming season because of erratic rains and long dry spell.

Mrs. Sipho Ndlovu is a farmer in Mangwe district. She explains that the district last received good rains in December 2011. She says, “Since then we have been praying and looking up in the sky hoping that God will smile at us and bless us with the much needed downpours.” She worries that she and other farmers in Matabeleland, west of Bulawayo, will experience hunger this year.

Last year, many farmers in the district faced starvation. They survived on food aid from NGOs. Recently, the Mangwe chapter of the Zimbabwe Farmers Union concluded that over 60 per cent of farmers’ crops were in urgent need of rain. They warned that continued delay in the rains might spell doom for farmers. Mrs. Ndlovu agreed, saying, “The situation in our fields is not good at all and some crops are not going to recover even if it rains today.”

It is estimated that Zimbabweans consume about two million tonnes of maize every year. The country has been facing serious food shortages since 2000 when the government’s fast track land reform disrupted the agricultural sector. In recent years, the country has relied on imports and food agencies.

Bishop Clement Malaba is chairman of the Zimbabwe Farmers Union for Mangwe district. He says, “Our main worry is farmers who prioritized maize, especially those who used long-season varieties.”

Bishop Malaba advised farmers who were still planting to sow drought-resistant small grain crops. He says, “Some of our members … concentrated on small grains such rapoko, millet and sorghum, and their situation is promising.”

Agricultural extension officers have been advising farmers on water management methods. Some farmers have dug drains in their fields, which have helped to retain moisture.

Robert Tapela has been a small-scale farmer in this area for twenty years. He thinks the long-term solution for Mangwe district is to establish irrigation schemes. He explains, “This area is very dry and prone to drought. It is very difficult to even invest in livestock because it’s very risky. One can lose all the animals in one year because of drought.” He urged the government to consider irrigation schemes for farmers so they are not dependent on food handouts every year.

Meanwhile, farmers now have a ray of hope. There were significant rainfalls in most parts of Matebeleland South in mid-February. Farmers are expecting the rains to continue. Farmer Angelina Ndlovu says that the crops she planted in November are not going to recover because the rains came a bit too late. But, she says, “I have about two acres of maize that I planted in January. I am expecting to get a good harvest from that.”

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Congo-Brazzaville: Lack of land drives residents to grow food in cemetery (by John Ndinga-Ngoma, for Farm Radio Weekly in Congo-Brazzaville)

Felicia Ibingou is a farmer without land. But she has found refuge in recent months in the old cemetery of Mongo-Kamba, northwest of the city of Pointe-Noire.

Ms. Ibingou used to rent a field at the edge of a creek, but it proved expensive. “Paying a lease did not make things easy for me, because I sometimes had financial troubles and was forced to stop. Here in Mongo-Kamba, nobody comes to claim rent from me,” she explains, removing a weed next to a maize plant.

The city closed the cemetery three years ago. Like Ms. Ibingou, other people grow food there. Peanuts, corn and sorrel all grow nicely on the fertile soil.

The lack of arable land is what forced these people to grow food in the cemetery. Pressure on land is a common reality in the Congo. In 1991, responsibility for land management was given to traditional chiefs. This has been blamed for the land problems in Pointe-Noire. The chiefs have been accused of selling everything, including land reserved for agriculture.

By farming in the cemetery of Mongo-Kamba, residents are trying to resolve the land issue for themselves.

César Ibouanga grows food in the cemetery. He says the rising price of consumer goods means that everybody needs some land to grow food. He continues, “But there is a lack of land. All the land belongs to the landowners. My wife and I … have just harvested two bags of peanuts …  so we will not have to spend money on peanut butter, for example. This cemetery is a godsend. ”

But not everyone is happy. Using the cemetery to grow food is considered a desecration by many residents of Pointe-Noire. A woman known only as Jeannice says, “Today I have a hard time finding the grave of my grandmother because it was destroyed and replaced by a field of peanuts. Imagine the pain and suffering that causes me.”

Jacques Magloire Obabaka is director of the department of agriculture in Pointe-Noire. He’s also offended by the desecrated graves. He explains, “This shows insensitivity for the dead who should be resting peacefully. The cemetery is a place of compassion. It is difficult, with our customs, for a Congolese person to consume products of such agriculture.” He feels that lack of agricultural land is no excuse for growing food in the cemetery.

He adds: “The state is trying to find land for agriculture.” As an example, he says that agricultural villages have been set up in Imvouba, north of Brazzaville.

While some consumers feel that eating these products is immoral, others see no problem. Bob Mounbélé consumes food grown in the cemetery. He says, “From a moral standpoint, it must be said that we only live once. We have to stop giving in to these clichés that say ‘the dead are not dead.’ Man is of value only when he is alive.”

The residents of Mongo-Kamba are aware of the criticisms levelled against them. Expressing his regret at desecrating the graves, farmer Faustin Etikono explains that he has no choice. He suggests, “The state has to find agricultural land so that everyone is content.” He says that, like his neighbours, he will keep farming until the harvest is ready.

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South Sudan: FAO to help South Sudanese families (FAO)

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization recently reported on actions it is taking to help people in conflict-affected areas of South Sudan to feed themselves and rebuild their lives.

In the state of Jonglei, and throughout South Sudan, poor harvests, increased demand, rising prices, conflict, and internal displacement have produced a shortfall in cereal production. It is estimated that the country will produce only half of the cereal it needs for domestic consumption in 2012.

The UN agency, also known as FAO, plans to distribute livestock vaccines and antibiotics to prevent the spread of animal diseases. The organization hopes to treat up to 100,000 animals over a one month period.

The supplies will be administered by networks of veterinarians and Community Animal Health Workers, an approach which ensures that animal health care reaches even the most remote villages. FAO aims to deliver as much assistance as possible in the two to three months before the rainy season starts and the roads become impassable.

South Sudan is the sixth largest cattle economy in Africa, and livestock are the country’s number one source of food and livelihood.

Nimaya Mogga is a Livestock Officer for FAO. He says, “These people are pastoralists, or herders. These cattle are their livelihood. Without them, they have nothing.” This is especially true in Jonglei, where the economy and culture are based on cattle ownership.

Mr. Mogga continues, “Cattle are seen as wealth in South Sudan. During lean periods, they’re sold or exchanged for food. The sale of one cow alone can buy a family three months’ worth of grain.”

Many of those fleeing from conflict took refuge in the town of Boma. Residents have taken in many of the displaced people. But their stock of staples such as sorghum and maize are running low, and they will need assistance.

It is the dry season and there are no crops in the fields. But a river near the town has sparked some hope.
Michael Oyat is FAO’s Deputy Emergency Coordinator in South Sudan. He explains, “The River Chelimon is about two hours walk away from Boma. It’s believed the displaced people could access it to fish.” But, he adds, they lack the tools for fishing.

In response, FAO is planning to provide 20,000 pieces of fishing gear to Boma and two other towns affected by the recent conflicts. FAO is also helping local communities to plant vegetable gardens along river banks, and is providing tools and seeds.

At the national government’s request, FAO is also preparing a cash-for-work program. The program will provide families with money to buy food locally.

Longer-term recovery strategies are also being pursued. FAO is developing water-harvesting structures to provide water for livestock and human use. It also plans to improve agricultural service delivery through approaches such as Farmer and Pastoralist Field Schools.

Etienne Peterschmitt is FAO’s Senior Planning and Programming Officer in South Sudan. He says, “It’s essential we move quickly in Jonglei. The sooner we move to support this vulnerable population, the sooner they can help themselves.”

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Notes to Broadcasters on the recent dry spell

Many parts of Africa are currently receiving less rain than expected at this time of year – or the rains are late, or erratic. All these scenarios raise fears of poor harvests. Some farmers are returning to traditional methods or experimenting with different crops and varieties as part of their coping strategy – even going against the advice of extension workers, in the case of farmers in Zimbabwe. Here are two recent reports on the poor start to the rainy season, and farmers’ responses:

Zimbabwe: Farmers Turn Back to Tradition As Rainfall Changes:


Tanzania: Farmers look to science and tradition to resist drought: http://allafrica.com/stories/201201191221.html

Some aid agencies are already warning of severe food insecurity this season in West Africa and the Sahel: http://reliefweb.int/disaster/ot-2011-000205-ner

Pastoral populations face food, fodder shortages across the Sahel:


Farm Radio Weekly has often reported on erratic weather, and methods for coping with drought. For example:

Zimbabwe: Collecting rainfall in the city (FRW 141, January 2011) http://weekly.farmradio.org/2011/01/17/zimbabwe-collecting-rainfall-in-the-city-ips/

East Africa: Pastoralists survive drought by adapting (FRW 110, May 2010) http://weekly.farmradio.org/2010/05/10/2-east-africa-pastoralists-survive-drought-by-adapting-daily-nation-irin/

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/

Farm Radio International has produced many scripts on water management. Browse through them here: http://farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/water.asp.

Rain is a topic which preoccupies most farmers. You could research and produce a program dedicated to rain. Here are questions to get you started:

Start by reviewing the situation locally – are rains expected soon?

When do farmers predict they will arrive?

What methods do farmers use to assess when rains will come?

What are the expected dates for the onset and end of the rains?

Have these dates changed in recent years?

Can farmers easily access meteorological forecasts? How?

Do they have any faith in these forecasts?

Talk to NGOs who work with farmers, or talk to extension workers. Try to get a sense of how farmers cope when rains do not arrive, or when too much rain arrives all at once. Have farmers changed practices in recent years to cope with either eventuality – for example by installing rainwater harvesting, or digging channels or ridges to stop soil erosion by water? Try to record and broadcast farmers’ voices and experiences on your program.

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Notes to Broadcasters on land pressure in the Congo

Pressure on land is common in urban areas, and increasing in rural areas. There are many causes, including inequitable systems of land ownership or land management, as described in this week’s story from the Republic of Congo.

A UN report from 2010 called “Access to land and the right to food” details some of the causes of pressure on land, including speculative investment, expansion of biofuel plantings, sale or lease of agricultural land to foreign countries, environmental degradation, and growing population. You can read a summary of the report here, and also link to the full text: http://peopleandplanet.net/?lid=29423&topic=23&section=34

Here’s a script which describes a different kind of solution in urban areas to the problem of lack of land:

Women use ‘hanging gardens’ to grow vegetables and solve land crisis (Package 90, Script 8, April 2010). http://farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/90-8script_en.asp

Here are two FRW stories on farmers’ response to a lack of land for farming:

Kenya: Urban agriculture greens metropolis (FRW 40, October 2008.)  http://weekly.farmradio.org/2008/10/13/2-kenya-urban-agriculture-greens-metropolis-the-east-african-un-integrated-regional-information-network/

Senegal: Rural women demand improved access to farmland (FRW #91, December 2009) http://weekly.farmradio.org/2009/12/07/2-senegal-rural-women-demand-improved-access-to-farmland-ips/

You might also want to check out the Notes to Broadcasters on this urban agriculture story at: http://weekly.farmradio.org/2008/10/13/notes-to-broadcasters-on-urban-agriculture-2/

One major challenge for farmers, especially women farmers, is lack of secure land tenure. Lack of secure ownership can mean that farmland is sold for urban development or other uses, which may lead to situations such as the one described in this week’s story.

Here are two scripts and one FRW story which consider different aspects of women’s right to land.

Land Ownership Rights: Access Denied: Why Women Need Access to Land (Package 57, Script 9, October 2000) http://www.farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/57-9script_en.asp

Women, Property and Inheritance (Package 73, Script 4, January 2005) http://www.farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/73-4script_en.asp

Swaziland: Landmark ruling gives Swazi women property rights (FRW 103, March 2010) http://weekly.farmradio.org/2010/03/15/1-swaziland-landmark-ruling-gives-swazi-women-property-rights-ips-irin/

Here are the Notes to Broadcasters for the FRW story on women’s land rights: http://weekly.farmradio.org/2010/03/15/notes-to-broadcasters-on-women%E2%80%99s-land-rights-3/

Talk to farmers, local officials and politicians, land developers, farmers’ groups, and extension agents. Ask whether there is pressure on farmland in your listening area.

People with different personal and financial interests may have different perspectives on this issue. Gather different opinions, and ask people what they think might be causing the pressure on land.

You could also ask them what should be done about the pressure on land.

Should agricultural land be protected? If so, how?

Find out also about the situation in your area related to land ownership. Do small-scale farmers own the land they live on and farm? Do they have a secure title? Or do they enjoy customary rights? Are these customary rights respected and recognized by the government and by courts?

You could host a roundtable discussion, inviting those with differing opinions to debate the future of land use in your listening area. Invite listeners to call in, ask questions, and tell their own stories.

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Notes to Broadcasters on South Sudan

On July 9, 2011, South Sudan became the world’s newest country. Its official title is the Republic of South Sudan. His Excellency Salva Kiir Mayardit was sworn in for a four-year term as president. According to the official government website, agriculture will be a priority economic sector. For more details and information, visit the official website of the Government of South Sudan:  http://www.goss.org/

For a profile of South Sudan, visit: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-14069082

Here are four news stories which discuss different aspects of the food crisis and the conflict in South Sudan:

-South Sudan: Worsening Food Crisis http://allafrica.com/stories/201202201746.html

-Food Crisis in South Sudan can impact millions http://womennewsnetwork.net/2012/02/12/food-crisis-south-sudan-impact-millions/

-High levels of food insecurity in South Sudan http://reliefweb.int/node/475452

-Sudan: Jonglei’s Pibor Resumes Business After Displacement: http://allafrica.com/stories/201202131693.html

Here is a briefing on the recent violence in Jonglei State:

-South Sudan: Briefing on Jonglei violence http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportid=94837

This website highlights the work that Farm Africa is doing in South Sudan:

-Farm Africa’s work in South Sudan: http://www.farmafrica.org.uk/where-we-work/southern-sudan

The executive summary (starting on page iv) of this 2009 report from USAID gives an overview of the agricultural potential and challenges in the country.  http://pdf.usaid.gov/pdf_docs/PNADQ841.pdf

FRW has published a few stories related to the conflicts in South Sudan:

-South Sudan – Uganda: Farmers fear landmines (FRW 169, August 2011) http://weekly.farmradio.org/2011/08/22/south-sudan-uganda-farmers-fear-land-mines-irin/

-Landmine threaten livelihoods (FRW #75, July 2009) http://weekly.farmradio.org/2009/07/27/1-sudan-landmines-threaten-livelihoods-by-david-de-dau-for-farm-radio-weekly-in-southern-sudan/

-Madi community fights land grab attempts (FRW #69, June 2009) http://weekly.farmradio.org/2009/06/08/2-sudan-madi-community-fights-land-grab-attempts-by-david-de-dau-for-farm-radio-weekly-in-juba-southern-sudan/

Farm Radio International has also produced scripts which discuss conflict and its aftermath.

Scripts in package 67, distributed in June 2003, deal with the themes of conflict and rebuilding lives after conflict. The feature article in the June 2003 edition of Voices, available at  http://www.farmradio.org/english/partners/voices/v2003jun.asp, provides good background information for creating programming on these themes.

Here are some examples of scripts on the theme:

-Rebuilding Local Seed Supplies After Armed Conflict or Other Emergency Situations (Package 67, Script 1, June 2003). http://farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/67-1script_en.asp

-Women Face Many Challenges After Conflict (Package 67, Script 8, June 2003).  http://farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/67-8script_en.asp

-Mummy Tiger and Her Babies: How Children Experience Conflict (Package 67, Script 10, June 2003).  http://farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/67-10script_en.asp

This website provides a lot of useful information and resources on how radio can contribute to building peace: http://www.radiopeaceafrica.org/index.cfm?lang=en

If you broadcast to a region which is affected by conflict, you might consider looking for stories which feature positive examples of people, especially farmers, successfully coping with conflict. These may be difficult to find, but can be inspiring and supportive for listeners. If you have examples to share with other Farm Radio Weekly readers, please let us know: farmradioweekly@farmradio.org

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WASH Media Awards 2011-2012

The fourth WASH Media Award is now accepting entries. WASH refers to issues related to water supply, sanitation or hygiene (WASH). The competition is open to journalists who publish or broadcast original investigative stories and reports on WASH-related issues and their impact on individual and country development. The awards are administered by the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) and the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI).

The WASH Media Awards aim to promote coverage of WASH issues in the media, and positively influence decision-makers, the private sector, and civil society as well as individuals and households.

Six prizes will be awarded, including the categories of radio, print and online, and TV. The six winners will receive a cash prize and participate in World Water Week in Stockholm in August 2012 as special guests of WSSCC and SIWI. All entries will be evaluated by an international jury of distinguished media professionals.

Entries will be accepted in English, French and Hindi. Works not originally produced in these languages must be translated into one of them. To be eligible, entries must be published or broadcast between April 1, 2011 and April 1, 2012.

Deadline for entries is April 1, 2012.

For more details and entry procedure, visit: http://www.siwi.org/washmediaaward

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Farm Radio International scripts now available in Swahili and Hausa!

Farm Radio International has for a long time wished to provide scripts in languages other than English and French.  We are now pleased to announce that some of our most popular scripts are available in Swahili and Hausa!

Using feedback from broadcasters, and focusing on scripts that were particularly relevant to the regions where each language is spoken, we chose fifteen scripts to be translated into each language. Some scripts are available in both Hausa and Swahili. Others are only available in one of the languages, depending on content and regional relevance. For example, you can now read script 86.1 Local water committee helps villagers, but especially women and children

in Swahili: 86.1 Kamati za maji zinasaidia wanavijiji, hususan wanawake na watoto;

and in Hausa: 86.1 Kwamitin ruwa na gida na taimaka wa yan kyauye, samma ma mata da yara.

Visit these links to view and download all the translated scripts:

We would love to hear your response to these scripts. If the languages are relevant to your broadcast area, are you more likely to use them on-air now? Will it be easier for you to use the scripts to create your own programs? Which other languages would you like to see? Please send any comments, questions or examples of how you use these new translations to: farmradioweekly@farmradio.org

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Choosing Crops for Drought-Prone Areas

This script is relevant to our story this week from Zimbabwe, on farmers facing drought and erratic rains. One strategy in a situation such as this is to plant at least part of your fields to crops which are well-known for their tolerance to low rainfall and drought. The crops mentioned in this script include cassava, finger and pearl millet, tef, fonio, amaranth species, sorghum, and date palm. Many varieties of indigenous African vegetables are also drought-tolerant.

The right crops to choose for drought-prone areas will depend on your region: the soil, the availability of labour, the market for crops, cultural preferences, the possibilities for storage and processing, and many other factors. Take a look through this script and think of crops that might work in your listening area.

You can read this script here: http://www.farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/73-3script_en.asp

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