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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 #242

Profit from sunflowers, profit from home gardening. And: whose land is it, anyway?

Welcome to Farm Radio Weekly issue #242.

This issue brings stories from Uganda and Burkina Faso. In Lira District, northern Uganda, Mr. Odongo George had been struggling to feed his family while growing cotton as a cash crop. But a neighbour showed him that, by switching to sunflowers, there is money to be made from the soil.

Breastfeeding women in Burkina Faso are going back to school! To counter malnutrition, the women have learned how to supplement their diets – and those of their breastfeeding infants – by growing vegetables in school gardens, then applying their lessons at home.

April 17 is the International Day of Peasant Struggles. Across the world, people are losing their lands and habitats to corporate and multinational interests. This week in Tanzania, Maasai people will be ejected from a fifteen hundred square kilometre area of the Serengeti. In what is being described as a “green grab,” the pastoralists face dislocation from their traditional grazing lands in the name of conserving wildlife habitat. But is there another reason for the decision?

Keep broadcasting!

–          The Farm Radio Weekly Team

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Uganda: Small-scale farmers profit by switching from cotton to sunflowers (By Geoffrey Ojok, for Farm Radio Weekly, in Uganda)

Seventy-four-year-old Odongo George has worked hard his whole life. But a shortage of land and low cotton prices in his native Uganda have kept him poor.

Mr. Odongo hails from Abongoamone village, about 25 kilometres north of the city of Lira in northern Uganda. He started growing cotton in 1960 on less than half a hectare of land.

For many years, Mr. Odongo rarely grew food crops or other cash crops. His family frequently went hungry because cotton occupies land for six to seven months before it is ready for sale.

For five decades, Mr. Odongo harvested and sold his cotton. And each year, he was forced to use all his income to pay back the debts he had accumulated during the growing season.

In 2010, he planted one and a quarter hectares and received his best ever harvest. He sold 400 kilograms to the Cotton Development Organization, but received only $148 US. He says: “I used the money to pay for the beans and maize I borrowed from a neighbour for family consumption. My children couldn’t go beyond primary school because I could not afford to pay school fees for them in secondary school.’’

Mr. Livingstone Otto is a 42-year-old school teacher from Abongoamone and former cotton farmer. After graduating from a National Teachers’ College in 1999, he planted cotton to supplement his income. He says, “I grew cotton for two years, but gave up after realizing that my profit dwindled every year.’’ Mr. Livingstone decided to switch from cotton to sunflowers. Prices were much better and he made a profit after only two seasons.

After seeing Mr. Livingston’s success, Mr. Odongo decided to give the new crop a try. He planted two acres and harvested thirteen 90-kilogram bags in the first six months, worth 90,000 Ugandan Shillings ($35 US) each. His harvest sold for more than a million Ugandan shillings, three times what he had earned from cotton. In 2012, he grew soya beans alongside his sunflowers, and earned $1500 US from the two crops.

Now that he grows sunflowers, Mr. Odongo’s house has much more food. He says, “My family now has enough food because we have time to grow beans, cassava, maize and sweet potatoes for home consumption.’’

Sunflowers have rekindled hope in Mr. Odongo’s life. He is able to pay for his third-born son to study at Comboni College in Lira, and now owns a pair of oxen and an ox-plough. He says, “My new source of income has enabled me [to] set [up] a two-bedroom permanent house. I no longer have to worry about my financial stability.’’

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Burkina Faso: Mothers learn to feed their children better by growing their own vegetables (by Inoussa Maiga, for Farm Radio Weekly, in Burkina Faso)

The heat of the burning midday sun is unbearable in the village school’s garden. In one arm, Risnata Yonaba holds her six month-old child. In her other hand, she holds a watering can. As she waters her garden, she stops for a moment to breastfeed her crying baby.

In Burkina Faso, deficiencies of nutrients such as vitamin A, iron and zinc are common in children, and also in pregnant and breastfeeding women. An international NGO called Helen Keller International or HKI introduced village school farms to counter the high levels of malnutrition. Mrs. Yonaba is a member of one such project introduced in 2010 to Fonghin, in eastern Burkina Faso.

Ms. Yonaba and thirty other women in Fonghin are learning improved farming techniques, which they will use later in their own gardens.

In this tiny, one-quarter hectare school farm, Ms. Yonaba is learning how to grow okra, onion, spinach, sorrel leaves and beans. Production is small-scale and mainly for family consumption.

Ms. Yonaba says she is learning to grow vegetables so she can feed her child properly. She understands that breastfeeding women have to eat well in order to produce enough milk for their children. She explains: “Vegetables give more milk than beans and lentils. This is good for breastfeeding women. Fresh vegetables are also good for malnourished children. It helps to strengthen them.”

Fonghin is one of 30 villages that HKI works with. The NGO trains mothers of children between three and 11 months to grow fruits and vegetables that are rich in food nutrients.

Azara Moyenga recently registered for the project. She is already seeing the benefits: “When you cut a few leaves of spinach, onion and cowpea and prepare without salt, [and] you add a little peanut when you eat, your milk starts flowing.” Mrs. Moyenga now regularly prepares spinach leaves in her kitchen.

Ousmane Tiendrebeogo is one of the researchers hired by HKI to monitor the food situation in the villages. He says, “We [have] recorded fewer cases of severe anemia in the 30 intervention villages.”

The women’s farm schools have been established as demonstration plots, and serve as places where the mothers can learn improved farming techniques. Once trained, the women receive seeds and cuttings to use in their own gardens.

Now that Mrs. Yonaba has been trained, she plans to set up a garden beside her house.

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News brief: Tanzanian Maasai to lose land to ‘green land grab’ (Agencies)

The government of Tanzania is preparing to create a “wildlife corridor” in Serengeti National Park, which will deny local Maasai access to their traditional grazing lands.

The Serengeti, chosen in February 2013 as one of Africa’s Seven Natural Wonders, is home to the largest migration of land animals on the planet. Over two million wildebeest and zebra, along with thousands of gazelle, travel over 800 kilometres across the endless plains of the Serengeti.

The area is home to over 70 species of larger mammals. But this week, Tanzanian authorities are seeking to exclude two species in particular: humans and cattle.

Tanzania’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism announced last week that it would no longer allow Maasai and their herds to enter a 1500 square kilometre section of the Loliondo Game Controlled Area. Opinion is divided as to the purpose of the plan.

Local Maasai herdsmen say their cattle cannot survive without access to traditional dry season grazing land. The government says the land is needed as a wildlife corridor between the Serengeti and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.

Land grabs are not new. Often, land without an official title deed is bought by, or granted to, private companies engaged in commercial agriculture. But the Tanzanian government’s plan has been referred to as a “green grab,” in which land is set aside for conservation purposes. It will affect the lives and livelihoods of over 30,000 Maasai people indigenous to the area.

Khamis Kagasheki is Tanzania’s Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism. He argues: “There is no government in the world that can just let an area so important to conservation to be wasted away by overgrazing.” However, many people think that there is more to the decision than ecological concerns.

One of these is Sarah Gilbertz. Ms. Gilbertz works for Survival International, a London-based group that works for the rights of tribal people worldwide. She says: “Although the government claims that the land is needed as a corridor for wildlife, the area is leased to the Ortello Business Corporation of the United Arab Emirates to use for trophy hunting.”

Robert Kamakia is a Maasai who claims that the restriction will mean the end of the local community. He points out that 90 per cent of the population affected by this restriction depend on pastoral activities such as herding cattle and goats for their income.

The Tanzanian government says they will send the secretary of the ruling party to the area to discuss the issue. But the Maasai say there is nothing to discuss. They want their land back, and believe that there is corruption in the air, from the national to district levels.

The Maasai warn that they will fight for their land. Seventy-year-old Elirehema Saakai is a Maasai resident of Ngorongoro. He says that animals in Tanzania face extinction through hunting and export. He warns, “It will be like other countries which are able no longer to offer wildlife safaris because they’ve allowed their animals to be hunted or removed to extinction.”

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Notes to broadcasters: Sunflowers and cropping decisions

-Sunflowers were originally brought to Africa, via Europe, from their native area in the Americas. The plants produce seeds which are used as cooking ingredients, animal feeds and as a source of fibre for paper. But sunflowers seeds are particularly valuable for the oil they produce when crushed.

Mr. Odongo George found that he had to change crops in order to make a profit. This is not an uncommon situation. In issue #240, FRW highlighted the story of Mr. Timothy Mutobera, who chose to grow rice rather than the maize his family was used to eating. You can find the story here: http://weekly.farmradio.org/2013/03/24/kenya-upland-rice-gives-hope-to-small-scale-maize-farmers-by-sawa-pius-for-farm-radio-weekly-in-kenya/

Other farmers have discovered that the crops they were growing were not suitable, and have switched to crops which do better in their climate and conditions. Read about it here: http://weekly.farmradio.org/2009/11/09/3-africa-re-discovery-of-traditional-crops-helps-farmers-cope-with-climate-change-farm-radio-weekly/

A story from Farm Radio Weekly issue #45, November 2008, tells of a women’s initiative in Uganda that successfully marketed organic sunflower oil. It can be found here: http://weekly.farmradio.org/2008/11/24/uganda-women-farmers-drive-the-economy-with-sunflower-oil-by-sawa-pius-for-farm-radio-weekly-in-kampala-uganda/ and the Notes to broadcasters are available here: http://weekly.farmradio.org/2008/11/24/notes-to-broadcasters-on-sunflower-oil/

In this week’s story, Mr. Odongo also experimented with intercropping and started growing food for his own table. For more information on intercropping, and stories published by Farm Radio Weekly on the subject, read the Notes to broadcaster here: http://weekly.farmradio.org/2013/01/14/notes-to-broadcasters-on-intercropping-pigeon-peas/

Intercropping is a relatively easy, low-input, and low-cost technique that can improve soils, increase productivity, enhance on-farm and dietary diversity, and boost income. Certain kinds of crops work well together, such as cereals and legumes. Farmers may be interested to hear more about the science involved, and then experiment with their own crop mixtures. You could seek out an expert from an NGO or Ministry of Agriculture, as well as a farmer who has experience with intercropping, to air an informative, discussion-based radio show.

What crops do your listeners grow? Do they grow these out of tradition, or have they decided to grow something new because of a market opportunity? Where does your listening community get its information about what, or what not, to grow?

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Notes to broadcasters: Nutrition

The women featured in our story from Burkina Faso are learning to augment their diets with foods they can grow at home at little or no cost. The benefits they gain from eating a more balanced diet are also passed on to their infants in the form of breast milk.

Malnutrition is defined as the condition that develops when the body does not get the right amount of the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients it needs to maintain healthy tissues and organ function. The term is commonly used to refer to children and adults who do not have enough to eat, or are undernourished. But people who are over-nourished, or overweight, can also be malnourished if they do not consume enough essential vitamins and minerals. This can be caused by a lack of variety in the diet. Infants, young children, and pregnant or breastfeeding women need larger quantities of some nutrients includin calcium, iron, and vitamins A, C and D. They are therefore more susceptible to malnutrition. So avoiding malnutrition is not jut about eating more, it is about eating better. In many cases, “better” means a more varied diet.

For more facts and information about malnutrition, please visit these sites:




The website of the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) also provides useful background information: http://www.gainhealth.org/about-malnutrition

GAIN is part of a partnership called Thousand Days, which promotes investment in improved nutrition for mothers and children in the 1,000 day period from pregnancy to age two. According to the GAIN website, better nutrition during this period can have a life-changing impact on a child: http://www.thousanddays.org/

Read more about the World Food Programme’s activities in DR Congo here: http://www.wfp.org/countries/Congo–Democratic-Republic-Of/Operations

Farm Radio International has produced many scripts on health and nutrition. Browse our archive here: http://farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/health.asp

Here are some stories from Farm Radio Weekly related to nutrition:

Zimbabwe: Women grow better lives near the city (FRW 168, August 2011) http://weekly.farmradio.org/2011/08/15/zimbabwe-women-grow-better-lives-near-the-city-by-zenzele-ndebele-for-farm-radio-weekly-in-zimbabwe/

Mali: Traditional healers join fight against malnutrition (FRW 165, July 2011) http://weekly.farmradio.org/2011/07/25/mali-traditional-healers-join-fight-against-malnutrition-irin/

As part of the United States Agency for International Development’s Infant and Young Child Nutrition Project, the Zambia Ministry of Health and partners developed a 13-part radio series called “Bushes That Grow Are the Future Forest.” The aim of the series was to improve infant and young child nutrition practices. Follow this link to find more information and links to scripts and radio spots: http://weekly.farmradio.org/2012/02/27/radio-series-on-infant-nutrition-in-zambia/

Farm Radio International is also working to improve maternal, newborn and child health in Burkina Faso. Follow this link to find out more: http://www.farmradio.org/portfolio/improving-maternal-newborn-and-child-health-in-burkina-faso/

Poor nutrition and hunger are all too common in sub-Saharan Africa, especially in rural areas. You might wish to produce a program that covers the basic facts of nutrition and malnutrition, how to recognize and treat symptoms of malnutrition, or how to prevent malnutrition and promote good nutrition. As well as presenting facts, ask women and men farmers what they understand by malnutrition, and try to identify and clarify any misconceptions. Interview health experts or representatives from  NGOs that work on nutrition and health. You could also explore the links between agriculture and nutrition, such as growing vegetables to diversify diets. It is a huge topic, so be creative!

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Notes to broadcasters on land grabs

This story takes a different perspective than the usual stories about land grabs. Often, land is appropriated by large corporations to grow commercial crops on a large scale, or for mineral prospecting. In this case, we have a situation where traditional pastoralists will be excluded from their grazing lands to promote conservation efforts. Thus, it has been called a “green grab.”

To complicate the issue, the involvement of a foreign tourism and hunting company has raised concerns that government authorities are more concerned about income from foreign investment than land conservation or the rights and livelihoods of local people.

Elirehema Saakai, a Maasai elder from Ngorongoro, was quoted as saying: “…  The contract was renewed, allowing this Arab man to stay for many more years. Other local leaders say that when they tried to question the government about this, the government said that it’s because they collect a lot of tax from him … they have extended the exclusion area for Maasai so the Arab man can own the areas where the Maasai are living. The Arab man is running a hunting company, and also transports the wild animals to Arab countries.”

For more background on this story, please go to the following webpages: http://www.irinnews.org/Report/97786/Balancing-conservation-and-people-s-access-to-land ; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/huff-wires/20130405/af-tanzania-maasai-land/?utm_hp_ref=green&ir=green ; and  http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/mar/30/maasai-game-hunting-tanzania

African farmers would feel more secure if they knew that the land they live on and work could not be taken away from them. Yet this is just a dream for many. Farmers without a and titles face many forms of insecurity. Many are reluctant to invest time and effort on improving their farm, particularly on long-term projects such as tree planting or actions to control soil erosion. Many believe that secure access to land is the biggest challenge faced by Africa’s small-scale farmers. In May 2012, a UN committee endorsed voluntary guidelines on land investment (http://www.fao.org/fileadmin/user_upload/nr/land_tenure/pdf/VG_en_Final_March_2012.pdf). Many international organizations welcomed the guidelines as a step in the right direction.

Here are some key websites where you can find out more about current issues and news related to land:

http://www.oaklandinstitute.org/land-rights-issue − The Oakland Institute is an independent policy think tank, researching and promoting debate on key environmental, social and economic issues. It has done extensive research on the purchase and lease of land from developing countries by wealthier nations and international private investors. The Institute aims to increase transparency about land deals. They document impacts on farmers, and the long-term impact on development in several African countries.

http://farmlandgrab.org − This website gathers news reports in various languages about “land grabs,” which they define as “the global rush to buy up or lease farmlands abroad as a strategy to secure basic food supplies or simply for profit.” It is a comprehensive resource for social activists, non-governmental organizations and journalists. It is updated daily. You can subscribe by weekly email or through an RSS feed.

http://www.landcoalition.org/ − The international Land Coalition is an alliance of organizations that work together to promote secure and equitable access to and control over land for poor women and men. On this site, you can find news from Africa, background documents on land, and links to many related websites.

http://landportal.info/ − This is an online community for people interested in land governance issues. You can join, access information, and interact with other users.

Listen to a recent BBC World Service debate entitled: “Is land grabbing good for Africa?” In the debate, farmers and other speakers discuss the potential benefits and disadvantages of large-scale land leases by international companies in Africa, including a recent case in Sierra Leone:


Many international NGOs campaign on the issue of land. In September 2011, Oxfam released a report examining land investments, with case studies from Uganda and Sudan: http://policy-practice.oxfam.org.uk/publications/land-and-power-the-growing-scandal-surrounding-the-new-wave-of-investments-in-l-142858

Since the Oxfam report was released, the United Nations has finalized and proposed a set of voluntary guidelines on land governance. See this report: http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/2012/mar/14/negotiators-consensus-global-land-governance-guidelines

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization published a comprehensive review of land investment issues in 2012, with case studies from six African countries: http://www.fao.org/fileadmin/templates/est/INTERNATIONAL-TRADE/FDIs/Trends_publication_12_November_2012.pdf

-Benin: Small-scale farmers denounce land acquisitions (FRW 203, June 2012)
-Congo-Brazzaville: Farmers ousted by urban development seek new land (FRW 222, October 202)

In April 2012, Farm Radio Weekly published a special issue on land deals, which you can revisit here:

http://weekly.farmradio.org/topic/issue-197/. The accompanying Notes to broadcasters provide many links for further information: http://weekly.farmradio.org/2012/04/16/notes-to-broadcasters-on-land-2/.

In November 2010, Farm Radio Weekly ran a series of stories reporting on an IDRC research program on women and access to land: (http://weekly.farmradio.org/2010/09/20/farm-radio-weekly-freelancers-cover-idrc-symposium-on-women%E2%80%99s-land-rights-in-nairobi-kenya/). Browse the stories here: http://weekly.farmradio.org/2010/11/

And in 2009, Farm Radio Weekly published a series on international land grabbing and investment. Issue 69 was the first in the series: http://weekly.farmradio.org/topic/frw-issues/issue-69/.

Has the “land investment” issue reached your country or broadcast area? It is a topic of great importance to farmers. Though governments and large investors may be reluctant to talk, you could start examining land ownership issues by researching the following questions:

Are there any local or national laws which govern land ownership or inheritance?

Do these contradict or are they different from traditional or customary rules?

How do the two systems interact?

How do both systems affect women?

Is it common for farmers in your area to own land, or are they more often tenants?

How does this affect their daily lives and the decisions they make?

Try to get a variety of views and quotes from men and women farmers, government officials and local advocacy organizations.

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Call for submissions: Maternal health

Every year, approximately 287,000 girls and women die from pregnancy-related causes. Are you a health worker on the front lines working to prevent these deaths? Are you a citizen journalist uncovering inequalities in maternal care? Are you an activist fighting abortion policies that endanger women’s lives? Are you a concerned citizen who has witnessed tragedy and is compelled to speak out? Are you aware of innovative solutions to maternal mortality you want to see shared and replicated?

If you have a perspective on maternal health issues in your community, World Pulse wants to hear from you.

World Pulse is partnering with Women Deliver to amplify the voices speaking out for maternal health, midwife training and women’s choices at delivery time.

What maternal health challenges and solutions do you see in YOUR community? Submit your story on maternal health by April 23 and your voice will be represented at the Women Deliver conference. Share your story with their online community and add the tag “Maternal health” to your story to be considered for publication.

To view submitted stories, visit http://worldpulse.com/taxonomy/term/660

Contact editor@worldpulse.com with any questions.

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April 17 is the International Day of Peasants’ Struggles

The international peasants’ movement, La Via Campesina, has been defending and expanding the practice and policies of food sovereignty around the world for 20 years.

Land has become a valuable commodity in international speculative trade. Farmers are particularly affected.

As a part of their continuing campaign, La Via Campesina is calling for a day of mobilization on April 17, the International Day of Peasants’ Struggles, in an effort to resist the commercialization of nature and stop land grabbing.

The organization invites everyone to plan activities such as protests, art exhibitions, direct actions, discussions, film screenings and farmers’ markets, in your village, school, neighbourhood, organization or community.

You can inform La Via Campesina of your plans by sending an email to: viacampesina@viacampesina.org

La Via Campesina invites you to send reports, pictures and videos of your action. The organization will publish them on the new Via Campesina TV channel and create a map of actions around the world on www.viacampesina.org

You can subscribe to La Via Campesina’s mailing list by sending a blank email to: via.17april-subscribe@viacampesina.net

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Save the date: E-discussion for radio broadcasters on farmer value chains starts on April 29!

Agricultural or farmer value chains are a hot topic these days. Radio broadcasters can play a vital role in improving farmer value chains to benefit their farming audiences. If you’re interested in learning more, Farm Radio International, with support from the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) is offering a three-week online discussion for African radio broadcasters on farmer value chains, starting on April 29.

In 2014, Farm Radio International will be offering a scriptwriting competition on farmer value chains, so participating in this e-discussion will give you a head start on your entry!

The e-discussion will introduce farmer value chains, demonstrate the role radio can play in improving value chains that are important to small-scale farmers, and encourage participants to develop ideas for value chain radio programming based on the needs of their farming audiences.

The e-discussion will be offered in English and in French on a new and improved Barza website! Barza is a social networking site for rural radio broadcasters.

Stay tuned for more details on how to log on to the new Barza and be part of the discussion.

Mark your calendars, save the date and tell your friends!

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A community fights malnutrition with local leafy vegetables

This week’s story from Burkina Faso shows how mothers are learning to grow foods rich in nutrients such as vitamin A, iron and zinc. Our script of the week also talks about these micronutrients. Unlike macronutrients such as calcium and magnesium, micronutrients are needed in smaller amounts. But they are essential for good health.

When people suffer from micronutrient deficiencies, we say they have hidden hunger. They may be getting enough calories and not appear malnourished, but their health can suffer greatly. Millions of people, especially those who live in rural areas, eat staple foods like rice, maize, cassava and bananas that fill their stomachs, but may not provide them with enough micronutrients.

Crop breeders have started to develop crops with higher levels of micronutrients, such as orange-fleshed sweet potatoes, which contain much higher levels of vitamin A. But there are many indigenous African leafy vegetables with high levels of vitamins, minerals, and other micronutrients.

While these local vegetables are currently being ignored or underutilized, they have many benefits. Aside from being nutritious, their seeds are readily available, they are well-adapted to local conditions, and many mature in only 40 to 60 days, which means that farmers can harvest them several times a year. This script talks about the journey some Ghanaian villagers took towards wise use of these nutritious traditional foods.


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