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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 #196

Land: it’s all over the news!

This week’s first story is a preview of next week’s special edition on land issues. It touches on three land-related stories – from Malawi, Mozambique and Kenya. Land issues are all over the news these days –it is becoming common to see stories on land grabbing, women’s fight for equality of land ownership, and secure access to land for small-scale farmers. As a broadcaster, it’s important to familiarize yourself with national, regional and customary laws concerning land and land ownership in your region.

Our second story comes from northern Namibia. For a fourth consecutive year, farmers’ fields have been flooded by heavy rains. But the farmers are fighting back. With the aid of shovels, hoes, and other hand equipment, they are digging drainage canals to direct excess water away from crops. Their efforts appear to be bearing fruit.

This week’s Resource section directs broadcasters to an organization called La Via Campesina. To mark the International Day of Peasant Struggle on April 17, the NGO is focussing on land grabs. La Via Campesina invites people everywhere to send information on local examples of land grabs. To mark April 17, the organization will post a map on its website, showing the location, acreage, and persons or organizations involved with each land grab, as well as all actions taken to protest land grabs.

Happy reading!

-The Farm Radio Weekly team

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Land: A big item in African news (Open Society Foundations, Reuters, TrustLaw)

All over Africa, land is a big issue these days. Land rights, land tenure, land grabs, foreign investment in land – stories about land are all over the news.

In honour of the International Day of Peasant’s Struggle on April 17, land issues will be the focus of next week’s special issue of Farm Radio Weekly. As a preview, we bring you a sampling of recent news stories on land from Malawi, Mozambique and Kenya.

November 2011 was a good month for women in Malawi. Parliament finally recognized that women have the right to inherit from the marital estate. In the past, after the death of her husband, a woman and her children were often left with nothing. In addition to losing the family home, widows had to contend with the husband’s relatives descending to grab property – silverware, bedding, clothes, everything.

But Malawi’s new Deceased Estates Act now protects the spouse’s and children’s share of the estate. The Act makes property grabbing an offense, liable to a fine of one million Malawian kwacha, about $6000 U.S., or imprisonment for up to three years.

This victory didn’t come without struggle. Last year, a bill requesting an amendment of the inheritance laws reached Parliament only to be rejected. Members of the largely male Parliament expressed discomfort with the idea that wives and children should be legally entitled to a share of the estate after a husband’s death. They argued that their inheritance should be dictated solely by the husband’s will. Parliamentarians also maintained that if wives were legally entitled to inherit their husband’s property, this would be an incentive for them to kill their husbands.

Now that the new law has been enacted, the next step is education. Malawi’s women will only benefit if judges and communities are educated about the new law. An important milestone has been reached, but the struggle for justice continues.

Next, we turn to Mozambique. Between November 2009 and December 2010, the Brazilian mining company Vale resettled more than seven hundred families 60 kilometres away from its Moatize mining sites in the country’s coal-rich Tete Province. In January of this year, about 500 villagers blocked the railway line that transports coal from the mines to the coast. The villagers demanded that the company fulfil promises made to them in 2009. They demonstrated against the lack of access to water, electricity and agricultural land in their resettlement area.

Community leader Eduardo Zinocassaka said, “Last December we sent a document-complaint to the government of Moatize District requesting their official intervention to solve the problems faced by the communities, and as we saw the government’s incapacity, we decided to demonstrate.”

An independent report backed the villagers’ claims, and laid responsibility at the feet of both the company and the government. Adriano Ramos is director for sustainability at Vale-Mozambique. He admitted that the complaints are justified, and promised that everything would be set right within six months. The report also charged that Vale had not fulfilled its objective of contributing to the local economy and hiring local workers, a charge disputed by Vale.

In Kenya, a new constitution grants women the same land rights as men. But widows are still being forced off their land. Some have even been driven to squatting.

Hundreds gathered in western Kenya’s Siaya County last month to hear crying widows tell how they had been robbed of their land because culture bars them from inheritance. One elderly women said, “I thought it was a dream and tried to resist, but the man went ahead to destroy my house and property as the police watched.” The woman’s husband had died some weeks earlier. She continued, “I am now living as a squatter on someone else’s land with my six children.”

Another widow said that a senior civic leader had forcibly taken her family land soon after her husband died. She added, “Every time I try to file a case in court, he threatens me with death, and no one is willing to help me, as many people fear him because of his political connections.”

Women’s rights campaigners have called upon the government to form legal committees in villages. Such committees could help women enjoy their land rights and prevent them and their children from being evicted from their homes.

Women’s rights activist Phoebe Nyawalo said, “The culture that dictates that only men should have their names in title deeds is repugnant and should have died with the promulgation of the new constitution.”

Despite the new constitution, many widows and children still lack access to justice because of intimidation, ignorance and the high cost of filing cases.

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Namibia: Farmers dig to save flooded crops (by Johanna Absalom for Farm Radio Weekly in Namibia)

Subsistence farmers in northern Namibia are hoping for a better harvest this year, as they try to save crops threatened by heavy rainfall.

Getrud Aron, Namushingo Mateus and Hilma Asser are neighbours in Oshaandja village in Oshana region. They are hard at work trying to rescue crops from flood damage. The farmers planted in November and December. The heavy rainfall arrived in mid-January, and fields were quickly flooded.

This is the fourth year in a row that the village has been hit by heavy rains that flood farmers’ fields.

Mrs. Aron has lived in the village for almost 35 years. She says, “After a few years of poor harvests, we then thought of a way to improve the situation. We decided to save our crops by draining the water.” When she saw that this practice was working for her neighbours, she decided to follow suit.

Mr. Mateus explains that each household focuses on removing water from its own field. First, the farmers identify the flooded plots that have not been severely damaged. Then they use spades, hoes, wheelbarrows and shovels. They dig channels so that water can flow out of the fields into the open plain.

It is a difficult and labour-intensive task. The soil is heavy. According to Mr. Mateus, five or six people from a household work each day for eight hours. Sometimes neighbouring farmers help each other out.

In recent years, northern Namibia has received above average rainfall. Faced with this great challenge, farmers from Oshaandja village have taken it upon themselves to save their staple crops of sorghum and millet.

The farmers say that their initiative has been helpful. Drained fields are in much better condition that those which are untouched. Mr. Mateus says, “On the parts of the field that were left, the plants were severely damaged. But we saved the others.”

Amidst the challenges posed by uncertain weather, farmers continue exploring innovative practices such as digging channels to let excess water drain away.  Mrs. Aron is hopeful that their efforts bear fruit. She says, “This year, we might get [a] surplus once more.”

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Notes to Broadcasters on land

The international farmers’ organization La Via Campesina has marked April 17 as the International Day of Peasant Struggle. The day aims to raise awareness of the rights of small-scale farmers around the world. A principle right is the right to land. The day calls farmers and their supporters to unite, raise awareness about land issues and “land grabs” and support the agricultural production model based on family farming and food sovereignty.

For more information about the International Day of Peasant Struggle, visit: http://viacampesina.org/en/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1212:call-for-april-17-international-day-of-peasant-struggl&catid=26:17-april-day-of-peasants-struggle&Itemid=33

We will mark the day and support farmers and their rights to land by bringing you three full stories and more extensive notes on land issues next week. This week, as an introduction to the topic, we offer some news stories related to this week’s three short items, plus a few general resources on land issues.

News stories related to the Mozambique story:

Mozambique: Vale Promises to Solve Resettlement Problems http://allafrica.com/stories/201201200153.html

Coal versus Communities in Mozambique: Exposing poor practices by VALE and Rio Tinto http://www.osisa.org/open-policy/economic-justice/mozambique/coal-versus-communities-mozambique-exposing-poor-practices-v

Foreign mining companies accused of disrupting lives of villagers in central Mozambique

http://www.canadianbusiness.com/article/68907–foreign-mining-companies-accused-of-disrupting-lives-of-villagers-in-central-mozambique

The real facts about Vale (the company’s response to the situation) http://www.valeesclarece.com.br/deslocamento-forcado-de-pessoas-em-mocambique/?lang=en

Here’s a report related to the Kenyan story:

Double Standards: Women’s Property Rights Violations in Kenya. A report from the UN Refugee Agency (UNCHR) http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/docid/3f4f59583.html

Also, check out the resources on these three websites:

Land for African Women: www.landforafricanwomen.org

The African Women and Child Feature Service’s Land Rights Project: http://www.awcfs.org/new/projects/land-rights-project

Women’s Inheritance Now: http://winafrica.org/

Here is a resource related to the Malawi story:

Victory for women in Malawi: http://winafrica.org/2011/11/victory-for-women-in-malawi/

Stay tuned for next week, when we’ll go into much more depth on land issues, and offer some programming suggestions.

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Notes to broadcasters on water management

We often hear stories of farmers suffering from lack of water. But farmers in the very dry region of northern Namibia are used to little rain, and plant crops which are suited to this, such as millet and sorghum. Heavier than usual rains have brought new challenges in recent years. But the villagers in this story did not sit by and watch; instead, they began to dig.

Here are some related news items from Namibia:

-“More heavy rains: flooding expected in region”: http://allafrica.com/stories/201203060173.html

-“Villages in north under water”: http://allafrica.com/stories/201203190522.html

For more on water management in Africa, visit:

http://www.iwmi.cgiar.org/

For scripts on water management, please browse our archive: http://farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/water.asp

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Intajour Fellowship Program

This year’s International Academy of Journalism Fellowship Program is a ten-month course called “Journalism in the Digital World.” The program starts on September 2, 2012. The course aims to attract professional journalists from countries where there is a shortage of this kind of training. Journalists begin with a three-week training program in Germany, followed by a four-month e-learning phase in their home country. They return to Germany for two more training courses over the following five months, interspersed with a home-based e-learning phase. A stipend is available to assist with travel costs and course fees.

Journalists must constantly build and update their skills in collecting, evaluating and publishing information. This is particularly true in the digital world. The course offers an opportunity to update technical skills and discuss current issues in media ethics. Participation in the program will develop Internet and investigative skills, and explore ethics, freedom, and responsibility in the media.

The application deadline is May 7, 2012. For more detailed information about the course, entry requirements, and the application/selection process, visit: http://www.intajour.com/Int.-Academy-of-Journalism/program/Program-description.html

You can find the online application form here.

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April 17: International Day of Peasant Struggle

Every year on April 17, the International Day of Peasant Struggle commemorates the 1996 killing of 19 landless peasants in Brazil. At the time, about 1,500 landless peasants had been blocking a road in the northern state of Para when police opened fire on the demonstrators.

La Via Campesina, an international movement of small-scale farming organizations, is encouraging people to take action around the world “in defense of peasants and small-scale farmers struggling for their rights.”

This year, La Via Campesina is focusing people’s attention on land grabs. They want small-scale farmers to denounce land grabs by filling out this poster with their country, the name of the person who is involved in the land grab, and the number of hectares of land involved, plus send a picture of how they are protesting.

La Via Campesina plans to publish a map on their website of all the different actions that will take place on International Peasant Day.

Broadcasters can use La Via Campesina as a resource to find out what actions are taking place in their area. They can also ask the organization to put you in touch with the local farmers’ organizations that are planning an action.

For more information, email La Via Campesina: viacampesina@viacampesina.org or visit their website www.viacampesina.org . You can also get more information from the Facebook event page set up for the day: http://www.facebook.com/events/262282300519236/?ref=ts

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Broadcasters meet in Arusha

For two weeks in March, the Farm Radio International (FRI) office in Arusha was abuzz with broadcasters attending a training-for-trainers course. FRI hosted radio station staff from Zambia, Rwanda, Kenya, Ethiopia and Tanzania. The broadcasters practiced interviewing skills, listened to samples of each other’s work, gave and received constructive criticism, and learned some key training techniques to prepare them for their new role as “in-station” trainers. Some of the broadcasters had met before, and others were happy to meet in person after swapping messages on Barza, our online networking site for broadcasters. At the end of two intensive weeks, they returned to their home countries refreshed with new skills and new friends!

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Land Ownership Rights: Access Denied – Why Women Need Equal Access to Land

Our script of the week is a mini-drama that illustrates some of the issues and concerns in the complex area of land ownership rights. Though women spend hours every day working on the land, they are often not allowed to own land. Limiting women’s access to land limits their ability to produce food more abundantly, and affects the well-being of their families and their communities. Women are increasingly searching for ways to bring awareness to the issue of land ownership rights. Some women are calling for changes to the laws and customs that restrict their right to own and inherit the land they work so hard.

You can access the script at: http://www.farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/57-9script_en.asp

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