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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 #301

Ebola, pollution and communication

A hearty welcome to Farm Radio Weekly issue #301! In this edition, we present stories about threats and opportunities facing African farmers in their everyday lives.

Sierra Leone is one of the West African countries currently experiencing an outbreak of Ebola. Many farmers are leaving their crops to rot as fear of the disease forces them to abandon their farms.

Tests have shown that the irrigation water used by farmers on their vegetable crops near Bulawayo in Zimbabwe is polluted by high levels of sewage. Will the farmers find other methods to collect water, or will they be forced to grow other crops?

In the second of our two-part series which highlights the writing of our Bureau Chiefs, Mark Ndipita reports on how text messages are being used to supplement extension services. Widow Alice Kachere has improved her harvests and become a lead farmer in her village.

Do farmers in your listening area have problems with their water supplies? Read the Script of the Week below to give yourself ideas on how to raise the subject with your listeners.

Have a safe and peaceful week!

-the Farm Radio Weekly team

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Sierra Leone: Farmers evading Ebola leave crops to rot (Bloomberg)

Brima Kendor is a plantation owner and spokesperson for the local chief in Kissi Tongi, a village in the Kailahun District of eastern Sierra Leone. He says: “Ebola has left with us with a high number of orphans who cannot take care of themselves and family plantations. This is the time to rehabilitate the cocoa farms but we can’t do that now.”

The Ebola outbreak is forcing farmers and their families to flee cocoa, rice and peanut plantations across eastern and northern Sierra Leone. Kailahun District borders both Guinea and Liberia, whose citizens are also experiencing the hemorrhagic fever that has no cure or treatment.

Edmond Saidu is the district agriculture officer in Kailahun District. He says the cocoa harvest will suffer this year and that farmers will likely leave peanuts and rice in the fields.

According to the World Bank, agriculture contributes nearly 60 per cent of the economy in Sierra Leone. But abandoned farms threaten to halt economic recovery in a country struggling to rebuild after a ten-year civil war left its infrastructure in ruins.

More than 900 people have died in West Africa since Ebola was first reported in Guinea in March of 2014, according to the BBC. The World Health Organization, or WHO, believes that the virus will probably spread for four more months in West Africa.

Control of the disease is being hampered by traditional burial practices, poor hygiene and a lack of adequate medical care, according to WHO. Sierra Leone had recorded 146 deaths and 435 confirmed cases of Ebola by the end of July, according to the Ministry of Health.

Henry Yamba Kamara is the managing director of Sierra Leone Produce Marketing Company, the state-owned producer and buyer. He says some international companies have refused to visit the Kailahun area to buy cocoa.

Mr. Kamara says, “The buyers have refused to go in. The outcome will be either the cocoa will rot, or nobody will be there to buy.”

Kailahun District, where most of the Ebola cases have been confirmed, is the largest producer of cocoa in Sierra Leone. Agriculture is the major economic activity in the district.

The district agriculture officer in Kailahun, Mr. Saidu, says: “This is the ploughing season, especially for swamp rice cultivation, and this is also the time for the first harvesting of cocoa in the rains.” But, he says, there is not much activity in the fields at the moment.

To read the full article on which this story was based, Ebola Orphans Flee Sierra Leone Farms as Cocoa and Rice Rot, go to: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-07-25/ebola-orphans-flee-sierra-leone-farms-as-cocoa-and-peanuts-rot.html

The World Bank is working with the World Health Organization, the United Nations and other development partners to support the governments of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea to contain the spread of the Ebola virus. To hear or download an audio clip about the situation on SoundCloud, go to: https://soundcloud.com/worldbankafrica/ebola-tackling-the-outbreak-in-west-africa

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Zimbabwe: Contaminated water forces vegetable farmers to change crops and irrigation techniques (By Vladimir Mzaca, for Farm Radio Weekly)

Killian Moyo earns his living from lettuce, carrots, tomatoes and cabbages. He sells his produce to communities in Bulawayo. But recently he discovered a serious problem: his source of irrigation water is contaminated.

In May 2014, Zimbabwe’s National University of Science and Technology conducted tests on water sources in the Nyamandlovu area of Bulawayo. The tests found that river water was contaminated with bacteria and heavy metals that are harmful for human consumption.

Mr. Moyo lives in the Nyamandlovu area. Like most local farmers, he irrigates his small plot from the Khami River. But he and many other small-scale farmers have been instructed to stop using river water for agriculture. If Mr. Moyo is to continue farming, he will have to find alternative sources of water.

Mr. Moyo was surprised and disappointed by the test results. He says: “This is the worst news ever. My specialty has always been market gardening. It will take a miracle for me and others to pull through.”

People have stopped buying his produce. He explains, “When word came out that our produce is contaminated, prices dropped and people avoided our produce. My tomatoes went bad without finding a buyer.”

A report by the National University of Science and Technology attributes the contamination to raw sewage flowing into the Khami. It is estimated that half of the sewage produced by Bulawayo’s 1.5 million people flows untreated into the river.

Fortune Musoni is the local catchment manager at the Zimbabwe National Water Authority. He says it could take up to 100 years to decontaminate the area. He explains: “The situation is dire. The river and boreholes close by are affected. About 200 farmers who use this water for irrigation are also affected.”

Mexen Mpofu also farms in Nyamandlovu. Because he suspected there was a problem with the river water, he set up a drip irrigation system. But the system is expensive and has eaten into his profits.

Mr. Mpofu says: “I used to water vegetables and at some stage the leaves would turn yellow. I sought advice and the indication was that the water was the issue. [But] Not all of us can afford drip irrigation.” Mr. Mpofu thinks he will be able to recoup the money he invested in the system, as he will benefit from increased market share as other farmers stop growing vegetables.

Mr. Moyo sought advice from water experts and was told to switch to maize and wheat. But he is not happy. He understands that maize and wheat would not be affected because farmers do not irrigate these crops, but worries that he will make less money. While he can grow vegetables all year round, maize and wheat are harvested only once or twice a year. He fears he will have to lay off some of his workforce.

Mr. Moyo says: “I invested a lot of money into my plot. I will engage water experts to find a lasting solution. There must be a way around this. I am thinking of having water harvesting systems [put] in place.”

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Malawi: Text messages help farmer increase yields (By Mark Ndipita, for Farm Radio Weekly)

For more than a decade after her husband’s death, Alice Kachere and her three children could not grow enough food to feed themselves. The widow, who lives in Chinthedzu, 20 kilometres south of Lilongwe, knew little about farming.

When Mrs. Kachere took responsibility for the family farm after the death of her husband in 2002, she faced major challenges. She says, “Our village stayed without being visited by an extension worker for many years. As I lacked skills in good agricultural practices, hunger never left my house.”

But in July 2012, the situation changed. Agents from an NGO came to her village and recorded the telephone numbers of farmers who wanted agricultural advice via their mobile phones. Mrs. Kachere decided to register her contact details. Soon, she started receiving text messages on her handset.

The information she received quickly helped Mrs. Kachere improve her farming. She now harvests 10 tonnes of maize from a 1.2 hectare plot which used to produce less than one tonne.

Mrs. Kachere credits the text messages. She explains: “Within a year, people noticed a change in my farming skills, and in 2013 I was chosen to be a lead farmer. I now know the good time to plant, how and when to apply fertilizer, and I have adequate knowledge in … weeding, harvesting, storage and packaging.”

As a lead farmer, Mrs. Kachere operates a demonstration plot. There, farmers gather to discuss farming issues such as good agricultural practices, climate change, HIV and AIDS, gender, and farming as a business. She says, “The messages we receive through our mobile phones help us in our discussions.”

Noel Limbani is the coordinator of text-based extension services for the Department of Agricultural Extension Services. He is happy that the project has helped reduce the workload of field extension workers, many of whom must travel long distances to visit farmers.

He says, “We targeted farmers with mobile phones so that they [would] share the messages with other farmers … this has helped a lot in the delivery of extension services.”

Lute Chiotha is an agricultural extension officer. She works with more than 2,500 farmers in the Mitundu area, near the city of Lilongwe. Ms. Chiotha says the text messages have increased farmers’ knowledge and improved the way they share information.

Because farmers face problems related to climate change − including diseases, extreme temperatures and poor rains − they have had to change the way they farm. Ms. Chiotha says, “They need constant advice on farming, and using mobile phones appears to be effective in my area.”

Mrs. Kachere has certainly benefitted. The information in the text messages helped her increase her yields. But she thinks that farmers would benefit if the messages covered more topics. She says: “I am requesting the Department of Agricultural Extension Services to include market and weather information in the text messages. I take farming [to be a] business and, as farmers, we have to be on the lookout for climate change which is affecting production.”

Mrs. Kachere is happy to be receiving extension text messages. Her family’s life has improved since she signed up for the service, her farm is more productive, and she can sell the surplus from her harvests.

She says: “My husband died and left me in a grass-thatched house. But now, I am able to send my children to school, and I have managed to build a house [which has] corrugated iron sheets and electricity.”

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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-Senegal: Cattle tracking technology

Cattle rustling, or raiding, is a common problem for herders in sub-Saharan Africa.

But now, rural Senegalese farmers will be able to keep track of their cattle with radio frequency identification tags and mobile phones.

The new cattle-tracking technology is designed to deter cattle rustlers.

To read the full article, go to: http://www.bbc.com/news/business-28399336

2-Sierra Leone: Radio public service announcements counter misinformation about Ebola virus

The Ebola virus continues to claim lives in West Africa.

BBC Media Action has produced a series of eight public service announcements, or PSAs, which will air on 30 local radio stations in Sierra Leone.

The PSAs provide information on prevention, symptoms, and the importance of not eating bush meat. They also seek to dispel myths about the spread of the disease.

To read the full article, go to: http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/bbcmediaaction/posts/Using-radio-to-respond-to-Ebola-in-Sierra-Leone-

3-Kenya: Harvesting rainwater with rock outcroppings

Residents of Mutomo, a trading centre in eastern Kenya, used to trek over 100 kilometres to fetch water. But now, rock outcrops are being used to create a water harvesting and supply system.

In a rock catchment, rainwater running off rock surfaces flows down to a reservoir sited below the catchment area via long channels of flat rocks cemented onto the rock surface.

Since 2009, Mutomo has built 40 rock catchment reservoirs. Recently, they introduced tilapia to the reservoirs to help the community feed itself. Despite suffering from poor rainfall, the villagers now have enough water to sustain themselves until the next rainy season.

To read the full article, go to: http://www.trust.org/item/20140728134036-1wlc9/?source=jtOtherNews2

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Call for entries: The African Fact-Checking Awards

Are you a reporter or presenter working for an Africa-based media house? Have you published or broadcast a report that exposed a misleading claim from a public figure or institution?

The African Fact-Checking Awards are sponsored jointly by Africa Check and the AFP Foundation. They were established to honour the work of African journalists who expose misleading claims made by leading public figures and powerful institutions around the continent.

To apply for the awards, individual journalists or teams of journalists must submit an original piece of journalism that investigates a claim made by a public figure or institution in Africa. Your piece must have been published or broadcast (print, online or on radio or television) for the first time by a media house based in Africa between September 1, 2013 and August 31, 2014.

The piece must expose the claim as wrong or misleading, based on the best available evidence. Entries may have been first published or broadcast in any language, but a transcript in either French or English must be presented alongside the original.

The winner will receive a prize of 2,000 euros, and the two runners-up will each receive 1,000 euros. The winners will be announced in November, 2014.

For more information, and for the entry form, go to: http://africacheck.org/how-to-fact-check/the-african-fact-checking-awards/

The deadline for applications is August 31, 2014.

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New publication: Reporting justice: A handbook on covering war crimes courts

The Institute for War & Peace Reporting (IWPR) aims to give voice to people on the frontlines of conflict, crisis and change. Working from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, the organization describes its aims as helping people in the world’s most challenging environments to access the information they need to drive positive changes in their lives – holding government to account, demanding constructive solutions, strengthening civil society and securing human rights.

IWPR works to forge the skills and capacity of local journalism, strengthen local media institutions, and engage civil society and governments to ensure that information achieves impact.

Like any specialized journalism, reporting on war crimes has its own demands and its own rules. Historical background, procedures and law must be understood.

IWPR’s new publication − Reporting justice: a handbook on covering war crimes courts – aims to give reporters the tools to properly report on the trials of war crime suspects or investigate war crimes on the ground.

To download the PDF file of this handbook in English, French or Portuguese, go to: http://iwpr.net/reporting-justice-handbook-covering-war-crimes-courts

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Farmer program e-course registration is open!

Dear radio broadcaster,

Farm Radio International is excited to announce that our Farmer program e-course and competition for radio broadcasters will begin on September 15 — and registration is now open!

This online course will help you make an engaging, entertaining and informative farmer radio program. You will be guided by African e-facilitators and paired up with experienced mentors.

You will learn:

  • How to identify your audience and your audience’s information and communication needs
  • About different types of information and how to address them in your program
  • How to provide opportunities for farmers to speak and be heard
  • How to tell stories
  • How to best serve both women and men farmers
  • How to design a structure for your program
  • How to determine what resources your program needs
  • How to use ICTs to incorporate audience feedback into your show.

At the end of the course, you will submit a program design developed during the course. The top program designs will be selected and winners will receive some exciting prizes!

The Farmer program e-course will take place over 12 weeks, beginning September 15, 2014. The course materials will be available online in English. The e-course and competition is open to radio broadcasters in sub-Saharan Africa who did not participate in the e-course in 2012. You must be involved in producing a radio program at your station and have the support of your station manager to participate in the course.You may take the course individually or as part of a radio station team.

The course costs $50 US for individual broadcasters or $100 US for a radio station team (up to four people). Payment arrangements will be made after registration has been confirmed. A limited number of scholarships are available for broadcasters in need of financial assistance.

You will have to complete an online learning module on the VOICE standards before the e-course begins. Access to the module will be provided once you have signed up for the course.

If you are interested, fill out the sign up form by clicking here. The form requires information about your radio station and farmer radio program. We will review the registration forms and confirm your participation in the coming weeks.

For those who took the 2012 Farmer program e-course and competition but are interested in refreshing their training, please contact us by email at ecourse@farmradio.org.

The course is offered in collaboration with the Commonwealth of Learning and with the financial support of the Government of Canada through the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD).

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Clean water and a clean environment make a better life

This week’s story from Zimbabwe deals with contaminated water and how it is affecting the livelihoods of local vegetable farmers. Our script of the week is a drama that also deals with contaminated water. In this case, the water is a carrier of a disease called schistosomiasis which is having serious effects on a rural village.

The drama tracks an exciting process of discovery in which the source of the problem is finally identified and local people co-operate to deal with it. A village leader and other community members relate the story to a radio host.

http://www.farmradio.org/radio-resource-packs/package-86/clean-water-and-a-clean-environment-make-a-better-life/

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