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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 #207

Mauritian sugar farmers turn to fair trade

Faced with cuts in crop prices, sugar farmers on the island of Mauritius are turning to fair trade. Though not all Mauritian sugar farmers are convinced that fair trade works for them, many have embraced this social movement that promotes just conditions for farmers and workers. The Mauritian government is helping out by subsidizing the costs of fair trade audits.

Our second story features Farm Radio International partner, Radio Mang’elete, which broadcasts from Kenya’s Eastern Province. Much of the station’s programming is devoted to helping local farmers adapt to the changing climate. The station has also broadcast programs on weather prediction through a combination of traditional and modern forecasting techniques.

In northwestern Cameroon, a farmer has benefited from installing a biodigester. Using a feedstock of animal dung and water, the device not only delivers biogas directly to her kitchen, but also produces a liquid fertilizer which has increased crop yields. Her success has attracted other farmers to invest in the biodigester.

This week’s Action section directs you to our latest subscriber survey. Complete the survey before July 27 and you will be eligible to win an MP3 player! Your participation in the survey helps us make FRW more useful, relevant and interesting to all subscribers. Please take time to include some comments with the survey.

Thanks and happy reading!

-The Farm Radio Weekly team

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Mauritius: Sugar farmers turn to fair trade (IPS)

When sugar farmers on the island of Mauritius were faced with a 36 per cent cut in sugar prices, they turned to fair trade. Keshoe Parsad Chattoo is one of the affected farmers. He  says, “Our income was dwindling. So it was better to be fair trade certified to earn some more money.”

Fair trade is a social movement that promotes just conditions for farmers and workers and encourages sustainability in the developing world. Fair trade certified products command a higher price because they meet internationally agreed environmental, labour and developmental standards.

Many farmers and farmers’ groups in Mauritius are joining the fair trade movement, allowing them to receive a better price for their products. Consumers in the US and Europe willingly pay more for fair trade products such as sugar and fruits.

Kishan Fangooa is a farmer and secretary of the Long Mountain Pineapple and Allied Growers Cooperative Society Ltd.  He says that the farmers in the co-operative “…are now producing and exporting good-quality food free of chemicals that trouble our health and our environment, and earning additional income.”

Becoming fair trade certified is a difficult process with many stipulations, but farmers like Fangooa feel it is worth the effort. He says, “The criteria may be constricting, but it helps improve the quality of our produce and we are determined to earn an increased income.”

Fair trade certification requires farmers to donate some of their proceeds to their local communities to support social or development projects.

But some farmers feel the process does not provide enough benefits. In the south of the island, members of the Southern Planters Association, or SPA, are reluctant to join the movement. SPA president Gassen Modely said the requirements cause more problems for farmers.

Mr. Modely is concerned about the amount of money that fair trade farmers must devote to community development projects, instead of supporting their own livelihoods. He says, “We thought the extra money obtained from fair trade would go into the pockets of small producers directly to help them manage the rising costs of production.”

The audit fees necessary to remain certified also present a barrier for farmers. Each co-operative society must pay a fee of between 1,000 and 3,500 dollars annually. These fees are very high for farmers, though they are currently subsidized by the government.

Inder Rajcoomarsingh is a member of the Sebastopol Multi-Purpose Cooperative Society. He agrees that the certification fees are too high for farmers to pay without government assistance. He explains, “Had we incurred the expenses ourselves, we would not have seen any profit in this concept.”

Business and Cooperatives Minister Jim Seetaram justifies the subsidy, saying the government wants small producers to have a choice between traditional farming and farming with fair trade policies.

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Kenya: Farmers gain from radio broadcasts on climate change (IPS)

Small-scale farmer Josephine Mutiso listens to Radio Mang’elete 89.1 FM to hear meteorological experts discuss changing rainfall patterns in the county.

Ms. Mutiso lives in Makueni County, one of Kenya’s driest areas. She has previously followed advice from the community station, such as successfully using “Zai” planting holes to restore her dry farmland.

This traditional technique involves digging pits about 30 centimetres deep and filling them with manure and topsoil. When it rains, the mixture of topsoil and manure retains moisture for a longer period, and ensures crop nutrients are concentrated in the pits.

Makueni County suffers from persistent drought and famine, and about half of the population lives below the poverty line.

While Makueni County has always been an arid area, the rains have become more erratic over the last 15 years. Farmers like Ms. Mutiso have had to change their methods.

In June 2011, a drought in the region was declared a national disaster. Many harvests failed. Dependence on food aid in the region has increased. According to the World Food Programme, over two million people in Kenya were given emergency food aid towards the end of 2011.

Food insecurity in Makueni County and Kenya’s Eastern Province is one reason why Radio Mang’elete was established in 2009.

The Mang’elete Community Integrated Development Programme, or MCIDP, is a network of 33 women’s groups in Makueni County. The organization owns the station.

Sabina Mwete is Chairperson of the MCIDP. She says the world is experiencing new challenges brought by disease and climate change. Technology is needed to help get important information to farmers. She explains, “To survive in the new world, we thought that we needed a tool that would guide us as we cope with it.”

The station’s producers devote much of their broadcast time to programs on adapting to climate change. They’ve covered how to plant drought-tolerant crops and keep drought-resistant animals. They have also broadcast programs on how to integrate modern agricultural techniques with traditional farming methods.

Dominic Mutua is head of programmes at the station. He says the station invites experts or people with experience to share their knowledge on-air.  In order to help local farmers determine the correct planting time, says Mr. Mutua, the station has “…been forced to integrate the scientific meteorological forecasts with indigenous weather prediction knowledge.”

Small-scale farmers in the region are benefitting from Radio Mang’elete’s broadcasts. Ms. Mwete says they have seen a change in how people adapt to climate change. She says, “They attribute it to the information learnt from Radio Mang’elete. This gives us much pride.”

Susan Wambua is one of the small-scale farmers who are now very aware of the changing rainfall patterns. She uses radio to help her predict when rains will fall, so she can plant maize seed before it comes. The predictions are not always accurate. Wambua has had losses as well as successes. But, she says, “It is better to risk with the seed than to risk with the harvest.”

Recently, Ms. Wambua used a combination of the radio and indigenous knowledge to calculate that it would rain in six days. Five days later the rain came, just as she predicted.

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Cameroon: Farmer increases income thanks to cow dung (by Anne Mireille Nzouankeu, for Farm Radio Weekly in Cameroon)

Mary Siri is a 48 year-old farmer from Akum, a village in northwestern Cameroon. She must grow enough on her small farm to feed thirteen people every day. In 2010, Ms. Siri installed a biodigester. This is an underground tank that produces gas from the fermentation of fresh animal dung.

The biodigester delivers gas directly to Ms. Siri’s kitchen. She explains, “Every day I pour cow dung and water into the biodigester. I turn the mixture and the machine does the rest. I have as much gas as I want.”

Now that she has biogas, she has stopped using firewood and butane. She says, “I used to spend a lot of time collecting firewood. Then I used butane gas. But it was too expensive. I spent 12,000 CFA a month (about $25 US). Today, with biogas, I do not spend anything.”

The biodigester has also helped Ms. Siri increase her income. She has been able to buy a refrigerator, a TV and pay school tuition for her children and nephews.

As well as gas, the biodigester also provides organic fertilizer.

Esther Pedie is an expert in renewable energy who works for a local NGO that promotes biodigesters. Ms. Pedie explains that the biodigester produces a liquid substance called digestate. This is easily stored, and when needed can be poured directly onto the fields as a fertilizer. Before installing the biodigester, Mary spent 125,000 CFA francs or about $240 US every year on chemical fertilizers.

Ms. Siri saw no difference in her yields after one year of using digestate. But she saved money on energy. In the second year, she says, “Not only did I continue to save money, but my production increased. For example, I harvested two extra 50-kilogram bags of chili.” Vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, carrots, green beans and spinach are now thriving on her farm, and she expects a good harvest.

Rodrigue Mbarga is in charge of environmental impact studies for Cameroon’s Ministry of the Environment and Protection of Nature. He is confident that the digestate does not pose a risk to people or the environment, unless the dung comes from a sick animal. Mr. Mbarga has a recommendation: “The digestate loses some properties when processed or packaged. For best results, it should be used immediately after removal from the biodigester.”

Mary Siri’s good yields have drawn the attention of other farmers. Peter Ngu grows maize and bananas. He installed a biodigester so he could benefit from the organic fertilizer and the energy. He adds, “I was told that adding a generator to the biodigester could produce electricity. I want to create a poultry farm. Having free electricity will help me save money.”

Despite its advantages, the biodigester has one serious drawback. The installed cost of the smallest model is 550,000 CFA francs, or more than one thousand US dollars. This is a fortune for many small-scale farmers. But in Ms. Siri’s opinion, it was a good investment.

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Notes to broadcasters on fair trade

Fair trade is based on a partnership between producers and consumers. The principles of fair trade encourage environmentally sustainable production practices while securing fair prices for the producers. Fair trade practices also aim to direct a portion of the profits to encourage community development.

Farmers are able to get better prices for their products by becoming fair trade certified. But, as seen in this story, the process of obtaining and maintaining certification can be costly.

To learn more about certification through FLO CERT, an independent certifier of fair trade products, visit: http://www.flo-cert.net/flo-cert/

For information on Fair Trade in Africa, described as an “independent non-profit umbrella organization representing all Fairtrade certified producers in Africa,” visit: http://www.fairtradeafrica.net/

We have covered the topic of fair trade certification in Farm Radio Weekly #68:

Burkina Faso: Women live better thanks to cooperative’s fair trade certification (Farm Radio Weekly #68): http://weekly.farmradio.org/2009/06/01/1-burkina-faso-women-live-better-thanks-to-cooperative%E2%80%99s-fair-trade-certification-farm-radio-weekly/

You may wish to produce a news feature on farmers or farmers’ co-operatives in your area that have obtained fair trade or organic certification (or perhaps one that is in the process of obtaining certification). Questions to explore include:

-Where did they receive the information about certification?
-What changes did they need to make in order to meet the certification requirements?

-Did they receive assistance in making these changes?
-What certification procedures (inspections, audits, etc.) did they go through?
-What costs were associated with making changes and meeting requirements to obtain certification?
-How has their income level changed as a result of certification?
-What tips do they have for other farmers or farmers’ co-operatives who wish to obtain certification?

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Notes to broadcasters on airing traditional and scientific weather forecasts

Radio Mang’elete is a Farm Radio International broadcasting partner. If your station would like to join our network, please send your request to info@farmradio.org

In this story, farmers benefit from combining  traditional weather forecasting and meteorological forecasts to better predict rainfall. The results are then broadcast on radio to help farmers prepare for these changes.

Research has shown that traditional forecasting methods have been and continue to be successful in predicting future weather and helping farmers prepare. But as climate change brings more erratic weather patterns and drought, scientific weather prediction is becoming more important.

This website discusses the importance of combining traditional and scientific weather knowledge in Kenya:

http://www.adaptationinafrica.org/combining-tradition-and-science-in-weather-forecasting/

Here are four other news stories on this topic:

Kenya: Successful Weather Prediction Uses Old and New:

http://allafrica.com/stories/201004300008.html

Predicting Weather with Science and Spider Webs:

http://www.ipsnews.net/africa/nota.asp?idnews=44202

Kenya: Drought Puts Traditional Weather Forecasters On The Defensive:

http://allafrica.com/stories/201202060189.html

Traditional weather prediction incorporated into Kenyan forecasts:

http://www.trust.org/alertnet/news/traditional-weather-prediction-incorporated-into-kenyan-forecasts

The following two–part Farm Radio International script talks about traditional weather forecasting:

-Farmers have important knowledge about weather and environmental change – Part I: Learning about local signs of drought (Package 75, Script 5, June 2005)

http://www.farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/75-5script_en.asp

-Farmers have important knowledge about weather and environmental change – Part II: Preparing for drought (Package 75, Script 6, June 2005)

http://www.farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/75-6script_en.asp

This script also touches on traditional weather forecasting techniques:

-Changing farming production in Africa to adapt to climate change (Package 84, Script 14, April 2008)

http://farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/84-14script_en.asp

Also, check out the lead article in Farm Radio International’s Voices newsletter #75, from June 2005: Tapping Into Farmers’ Traditional Systems of Forecasting Drought and Other Environmental Change

http://farmradio.org/english/partners/voices/v2005jun.asp

Here is a story from Farm Radio Weekly related to weather forecasting:

Mali: Sali Samaké’s journey from literacy class to weather reports (FRW 147, March 2011)

http://weekly.farmradio.org/2011/03/07/mali-sali-samake%E2%80%99s-journey-from-literacy-class-to-weather-reports-by-soumaila-t-diarra-for-farm-radio-weekly-in-mali/

Are there traditional weather forecasters in your area? Have they been collaborating with scientific weather forecasters? Ask local “rainmakers” or traditional weather experts their opinions on the changing climate, and the challenges this brings for their methods. What kind of signs do they look for to tell them about upcoming weather? Have their methods changed?

Talk to farmers in your area and find out the situation – do they turn to national broadcasts based on modern methods, or do they have confidence in traditional weather forecasts?

You might want to set up a roundtable discussion between traditional and modern scientific forecasters. Perhaps they could collaborate in your area, just as they do in Kenya.

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Notes to broadcaster on biodigesters

The benefits of domestic biogas for rural households include:

  • Improved health and sanitation (for example, greatly reduced incidence of respiratory illnesses caused by smoke inhalation);
  • Increased agricultural production;
  • Reduced cost of fuel for lighting and cooking, and for chemical fertilizers;
  • Reduced use of non-renewable fuels;
  • Increased time for community and income-generative activities; and
  • Improved lighting (for example, so children can do homework in evenings and for chick brooding.)

(From Benefits of Biogas: http://africabiogas.org/blog/abpp-knowledge/benefits-of-biogas/)

There is a lot of information on biogas and biodigesters on this Practical Action website: http://practicalaction.org/biogas-answers

Take a look at the following recent news stories on biodigesters:

Cameroon: Farmers Turn Dung Into Power: http://allafrica.com/stories/201201051187.html

West Africa: Households Turning to Cow Dung for Energy:  http://allafrica.com/stories/201109200794.html

Farm Radio International has not distributed any scripts on biodigesters specifically, but has produced a few scripts on safer and cheaper sources of energy, and on composting human waste for use as fertilizer. Here are some examples:

SolarAid’s micro solar project in rural Tanzania: Tremendous solar energy potential http://www.farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/87-6script_en.asp

Biodiesel production: Generating income for small-scale farmers in Kenya http://www.farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/87-7script_en.asp

Women are actively involved in planting jatropha in a Malian village http://www.farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/87-4script_en.asp

ECOSAN latrines bring benefits to village health – and farming

http://www.farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/86-4script_en.asp

Farm Radio Weekly published the following story on alternatives to firewood for domestic use.

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/\

If there are farmers, farmers’ groups, municipalities,  institutions or other organizations who are using biodigesters in your area, interview then in the studio, or – better yet – at the site where the biodigester is located. Have them “walk you through” how the biodigester works. Ask them how it can benefit individual farmers and farming communities, and ask about detailed purchase and installation costs.

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Clean Development Mechanism African Radio Contest 2012

The secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has announced the Clean Development Mechanism African Radio Contest 2012. The contest aims to spread the word about the benefits of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) in Africa.

Broadcasters and freelancers from Africa are invited to submit a compelling story on the topic: “How can my community/city/country benefit from the CDM?” Radio stories will be judged on originality, technical excellence, clarity of message, thoroughness of investigation, level of professionalism, and presentation skills.

Selected winners will be invited to visit CDM project sites in Africa, and will have an opportunity to learn about the CDM and produce new radio stories and documentaries.

The deadline to submit your stories is August 6, 2012. More information at: http://cdm.unfccc.int/about/multimedia/africanradiocontest/2012/

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Africa Renewal website

The Africa Renewal website, hosted by the United Nations, provides useful resources and information for journalists, including backgrounders, press releases and feature articles about politics and development in Africa.

Africa Renewal examines economic reform, debt, education, health, women’s advancement, conflict and civil strife, democratization, aid, investment, trade, regional integration, rural development and many other topics.

Check out the website to learn more: http://www.un.org/en/africarenewal/index.html

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Farm Radio Weekly subscribers’ survey

The team at Farm Radio Weekly invites you to fill out our subscribers’ survey − we want to make sure FRW is useful, relevant and interesting to all subscribers and appreciate your comments.

The survey should take between 8 – 15 minutes to complete. As a small thank you, all subscribers who complete the survey will be entered into a draw to win an MP3 player. To be eligible for the draw, please complete the survey by July 27. We will publish a summary of the survey results in Farm Radio Weekly.

Click here to take the survey:

English: http://fluidsurveys.com/s/farmradioweeklysurvey/

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Drip Irrigation

This week’s script was written by the current head of programming at Radio Mang’elete, the community radio station featured in this week’s story from Kenya.

In Radio Mang’elete’s catchment area, climate change affects everybody. This script highlights one strategy which local farmers use to adapt to the lack of predictable rain: drip irrigation. The script talks about how farmers use this technique to make best use of the little water they receive.

http://www.farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/84-12script_en.asp

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