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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 #287

Overcoming challenges to livelihoods: Success stories

Hello, and welcome to Farm Radio Weekly. In issue #287, our correspondents’ stories bring slices of African farmers’ lives to your desktop.

Women in Congo-Brazzaville must often engage in petty trading to bolster their incomes, despite holding professional jobs. Urban gardening is one way to maximize the profits from these extra activities.

The Upper Kitete Co-operative in northern Tanzania was founded fifty years ago as part of then-President Nyerere’s village settlement program. But life has changed over the years for co-op members, as population pressure and problems with soil fertility have become more pronounced.

The impacts of war and internal conflict affect farmers across Africa. But survivors of the Lord’s Resistance Army campaign against the Ugandan government are starting to rebuild their lives in a constructive fashion.

This issue’s Script of the Week focuses on a co-operative in Malawi – how it started, its achievements and challenges. It highlights the strengths and the benefits of co-operatives. Read more below.

The secret to success is working together to achieve it!

Let’s get those airwaves buzzing!

the Farm Radio Weekly team

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Congo-Brazzaville: Women of Pointe-Noire grow maize behind their houses (by Blanche Simona Ngokoumounga for Farm Radio Weekly)

Blanche Rosalie leads a double life. She works as a teacher in the morning but is transformed into a farmer in the afternoon. She digs and rakes the soil in her small plot of land and sows maize, harvesting enough to fill a 60-kilogram bag.

Ms. Rosalie is one of the many women in the city of Pointe-Noire who have been inspired by the high cost of maize to grow small plots of the staple food behind their houses.

Before she started to grow her own, Ms. Rosalie traded maize on a small scale. She needed the income to meet some basic family needs, such as buying soap or ensuring that her children eat breakfast regularly. But the business offered poor returns.

Ms. Rosalie purchased 60-kilogram bags of maize from farmers for 10,000 Central African francs ($21 US). She cooked the maize and sold it as a snack. But her profits were insignificant, only 2,000 francs ($4.20 US) on each bag of maize she bought, cooked and sold.

But this changed when she discovered that the ground under her feet was fertile. Ms. Rosalie decided to try growing her own maize to cook and sell.

Encouraged by the initial results, Ms. Rosalie planted a larger area this year, and enjoyed a good harvest. She now earns more from her maize garden than she did from trading. Her costs are low. A small bottle of seeds costs 400 francs (84 US cents). She pays a further 300 francs (63 US cents) for firewood to cook the maize.

She says, “Yesterday I made 5000 francs ($10.50 US). I earned a lot from the barbequed cobs. The neighbours also buy maize fresh from my garden.” By the end of her harvest, Ms. Rosalie had earned a profit of 20,000 francs ($42 US).

Pierrette Ngatala is a nurse who loves to eat Ms. Rosalie’s maize. She explains: “It is fresh and sweet maize, and cheap. I bought four cobs for 100 francs (21 US cents) direct from Rosalie’s garden, whereas it’s twice as expensive at the market. Also, the maize that comes from the villages is often hard and [has] lost its freshness.”

Ms. Ngatala plans to grow maize in her own garden next season. She says: “So far I have planted sorrel, groundnuts and cassava in my garden. I intend to add maize to that, as it is good to eat with cassava leaves and peanuts.”

The Department of Agriculture in Pointe-Noire plans to help farmers who establish co-operatives. Aurélie Niambi is head of the Department of Agricultural Production and Plant Protection. She hopes to educate women on the importance of forming co-ops. She says, “We can then give them free seeds, but as long as they are scattered and limit themselves to their [individual] gardens, it will be difficult to help them.”

Ms. Rosalie has a clear vision for the future. The teacher-farmer plans to rent a plot of land to grow a larger volume of maize, to make even more money.

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Uganda: Landmine victim rebuilds his life (By Geoffrey Ojok, for Farm Radio Weekly)

Andrew Okwera lost a leg after he stepped on a landmine. In March 2003, the Lord’s Resistance Army placed landmines around the camp for internally displaced people where Mr. Okwera was living. Over a thousand people were killed.

Many victims were hacked with machetes. Mr. Okwera’s left leg was wounded by the landmine as he attempted to escape the carnage. Members of the Uganda Red Cross Society took him to the Lira Referral Hospital the following morning. His bone was badly damaged and, once an infection took hold, the leg had to be amputated.

Mr. Okwera stands on his one good leg and balances himself with his hoe in the hot sunshine. The farmer from Barlonyo village in Lira district, northern Uganda, has worked hard to overcome his setbacks. He counts himself lucky. He says, ”I went back into farming five years ago when food scarcity hit this place, in order to tackle my problems.”

Mr. Okwera works in his fields with his wife. He is an experienced farmer and has the knowledge to keep his farm running. Because he realizes that the climate is changing, he planted 30 seedlings of an improved orange tree variety as insurance against the failure of his staple crops.

He says, “At harvesting time, I reaped five bags of maize from one and a half acres of land [two-thirds of a hectare] last season. I then sold it to a private produce buyer and got 300,000 Ugandan shillings [$118 US]. I also harvested three bags of soybeans which I sold for 690,000 shillings [$273 US].”

Mr. Okwera used the money to buy an ox plough and two oxen. He is confident this will make his farming activities much easier. He also enrolled in Barlonyo vocational school this year. He is learning how to lay bricks and make concrete floors and pillars in order to construct buildings.

The government of Uganda built the vocational school in 2010 with support from Norway. The project was dedicated to the memory of the more than 1,000 people killed by LRA rebels in Barlonyo during the March 2003 attack.

From his success in the fields, and his training at the vocational school, Mr. Okwera has built a three-roomed house in Barlonyo village, where he lives with his family. He says, “[I am] overwhelmed by this turn of events. I am inspired to go into … larger farming.”

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Tanzania: Fifty years of farming cooperatively – an experiment in agricultural production (by Adam Bemma, for Farm Radio Weekly)

Pius Hayuma bends down and uses his bare hands to dig in the soil of his shamba, or small farm. Beans and maize plants are sprouting all over his one and a half hectares of land, which border northern Tanzania’s Ngorongoro forest and the Rift Valley.

Mr. Hayuma, 54, says: “I remember when this land was extremely fertile. We had modern farm machinery here at Upper Kitete village. We used combine-harvesters for our wheat crop and tractors to plough contours into the soil.”

Upper Kitete village was once a model agricultural co-operative. Located in Karatu district, about 160 kilometres from Arusha, it was created by the government of Tanzania under founding President Julius Nyerere.

Tanzania achieved independence from the United Kingdom in 1961. President Nyerere’s vision was to move rural Tanzanians into collective villages to provide better social services. Agricultural extension services were included under the village settlement program.

Antony Ellman is a British agriculturalist. He was involved with Upper Kitete during the first years of its existence. The co-operative was the first of its kind in Tanzania.

Mr. Ellman says: “It began in 1963, eighteen months after independence. I selected the villagers and helped set up the co-operative. I stayed until 1966 and have been back to visit a few times since.”

In 1974, President Nyerere issued a government directive which forced small-scale farmers and pastoralists who had not already collectivized into co-operative villages like Upper Kitete. This created a major strain on the village of 100 households. Upper Kitete grew exponentially; by the mid-1980s, the village housed more than 400 households.

Mr. Ellman says: “Life was improving at Upper Kitete up to this point. [But] The added population caused an organizational and environmental impact which continues to this day.”

Agriculture remains the backbone of Tanzania’s economy fifty years after the Upper Kitete Cooperative Society was established.  According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives, Tanzania’s farmers contribute about 95 per cent of the country’s food supply, over a quarter of economic production, and account for over 75 per cent of employment.

Amon Z. Mattee is a professor at Sokoine University of Agriculture in Morogoro, Tanzania. Professor Mattee says: “A majority of Tanzanians depend on farming for their livelihoods, including their daily food requirements. Without agriculture, most Tanzanians would not survive, as there are no alternative economic activities in the rural areas.”

Today, many farming communities in Tanzania face a common problem. Socialist ideals have given way to a market orientation. Many farmers think the government does not provide them with sufficient resources.

The population has increased but the amount of arable land has not. At Upper Kitete, like much of Tanzania, every possible square metre is cultivated. Soil erosion is becoming a major problem, caused by poor land management. The co-operative’s fields were originally farmed collectively, but were divided up among its members and are now managed individually.

Mr. Hayuma attends village assembly meetings to advise his fellow farmers how to overcome soil erosion. He says: “Last year, too much rain retarded the growth of crops. I encouraged farmers to use ox ploughs to create contours. This prevents waterlogging by reducing the speed of water and letting it flow slowly through [the] shamba [field], instead of washing nutrients out of the soil.”

The recent increase in hillside contours around Upper Kitete is proving beneficial for farmers. This season’s harvest is shaping up to be a good one for the members of the co-operative.

Mr. Hayuma sees a future in which Upper Kitete village is a resource for tourists and farmers from across Africa. He says, “They can visit to learn about the history of agriculture and co-operatives in Tanzania.”

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FRW News in brief

Farm Radio Weekly has a new trial resource for you: Farmer news briefs. These are stories from across the continent which have been adapted from print or online sources and are suitable for use in your regular farm radio program. Read them, edit them, broadcast them, localize them, or simply use them as background info. Want more details? Click the link under the story to see the original article.

Please let us know what you think. Do you want to see Farmer news briefs in Farm Radio Weekly on a regular basis? Email us at farmradioweekly@farmradio.org

1- Kenya: Coffee farmers get disease-resistant seeds

Kenyan farmers are set to benefit from 12 million disease-resistant coffee seedlings. Batian and Ruiru 11 are varieties that are resistant to coffee berry disease and coffee leaf rust.

Kenya’s Coffee Research Foundation, or CRF, is partnering with the Murang’a County government to supply coffee farmers with the two varieties. Four million seedlings will be distributed in October 2014, and another eight million at the start of the March 2015 rains.

A Murang’a County official said CRF will distribute the seedlings to farmers via women’s groups and youth. They hope that these varieties will interest more youth in coffee farming, as the varieties require few inputs.

To read the full article, go to: http://www.africanfarming.net/crops/agriculture/crf-to-supply-more-than-12mn-coffee-seedlings-to-farmers

2- Tanzania: Zanzibari women farm the sea

Women in Zanzibar have earned their livelihood for many years by gathering seaweed from the shores of the Indian Ocean.

Seaweed is used in cosmetics, lotions, toothpaste, medicines and food. But now the women, who have transformed their lives and supported their families with seaweed, are threatened by rising sea temperatures. Many say the seaweed is dying, and have stopped harvesting.

Zanzibar is the world’s third largest exporter of seaweed. The Tanzanian government says the sector employed 23,000 people, 90 per cent of whom were women.

The government of Zanzibar is conducting research on the causes of seaweed mortality and how to address them.

To read the full article, go to: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-26770151

3- Central African Republic: UN agencies call for action on CAR crisis

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, or FAO, and the World Food Programme, also known as WFP, released a joint report which calls for urgent humanitarian action over the next 18 months in the Central African Republic.

The reports say that the conflict which started December 2012 is the main reason for the loss of food and cash crops, and is a serious challenge to livelihoods. As a result of the conflict, over one and a half million people are in urgent need of food aid.

Since early 2013, disruption of trade, loss of purchasing power and unemployment has made food supplies even more difficult to access in the CAR.

FAO provided agricultural inputs to 75,000 households in time for the planting period which started in April.

WFP has received only one-third of the funding required to help feed one and a quarter million people. Both agencies are calling for funding to provide life-saving assistance during the current rainy season and the subsequent lean season, when the need for food assistance will peak.

To read the full article, go to: http://www.trust.org/item/20140407083826-oo4fv/

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Call for applications: Maternal health reporting fellowship

The Maternal and Child Health Reporting Fellowship is a joint program of the UN Foundation and the International Center for Journalists. The program will send nine journalists on a reporting trip to South Africa and Mozambique. The fellows will be in Johannesburg during The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health Conference, to be held June30 – July 1.

The reporting tour will offer fellows the opportunity to conduct site visits to villages, clinics and schools to speak with women, children and health professionals about the everyday issues they face.

Fellows will depart from their home countries on June 29 for South Africa and return on July 8 from Mozambique. The fellowship covers all costs, including airfare, visas, accommodations, ground transportation and meals.

Journalists who are fluent in English and work full-time at a media organization can apply. The deadline for applications is May 12.

For more information, go to http://www.icfj.org/our-work/maternal-and-child-health-reporting-fellowship

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Defending Human Rights: A resource book

Five years ago, the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project published the first edition of a handbook called Defending Human Rights. Since then, new challenges have evolved to shape the context in which human rights activists work. In response, the organization has now released a second, revised, edition.

The 77-page document covers subjects ranging from international and regional instruments for the protection of human rights defenders, to approaches to security in human rights work, to coping strategies for trauma victims.

It also includes information on advocacy campaigns and social media, as well as strategic policies for defending women and sexual minorities.

Four appendices include various documents (resolutions, declarations, etc.) on the protection of human rights defenders, resources for human rights defenders, resources on international and regional mechanisms, and a list of organizations that work with defenders of human rights.

The free handbook is available to download as a PDF document in English, French, Swahili, Somali, Amharic and Arabic at this link: http://www.defenddefenders.org/resource-book/

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Farm Radio Resource Pack #98 is now available for download!

The Pack is entitled: Groundnuts: The post-harvest value chain. Four of the six items offer information about post-harvest activities in groundnut production, including drying, storage, processing and marketing. Two items are entertaining dramas, offering a side of humour along with tasty information! We hope your audience will “eat them up”!

We have sent a hard copy of the Pack via mail to many of FRI’s partner radio stations, but anyone is welcome to read the scripts online, and to use or adapt them for their local audience.

You can access the Pack here: http://bit.ly/FRIpack98

You are also welcome to download the latest issue of FRI’s Voices newsletter, which accompanies the Resource Pack, though this link: http://farmradio.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/Voices-98.pdf

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Many heads are better than one: The story of Ngolowindo Co-operative

Like the co-operative featured in this week’s story from Tanzania, the co-op in our script of the week has been in existence for some time, in this case since 2001.

The script focuses on Ngolowindo Co-operative in Malawi – how it started, its achievements and challenges. It highlights the strengths and the benefits of co-operatives. If broadcast on your station, the script could encourage co-operatives, clubs, associations and individuals to learn how to reduce some of their fears and problems and maximize their profits, while remaining sustainable.

The script touches on a major problem faced by many co-operatives: financial worries. It also talks about business plans for co-operatives.

Here’s one tip from the script: A good co-operative business plan should ensure that rates paid for electricity and rates charged on loan repayments are covered by the costs of equipment depreciation. This will ensure that, for example, pumps can be replaced as necessary. Also, when equipment is donated, it is especially important to ensure that co-operatives thoroughly consider how they will sustain it, including the costs of maintaining and replacing these assets. Perhaps the co-operative could obtain a long-term loan and ensure that loan repayment rates are set so that the co-op can cover the loan and other overhead costs.


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