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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 #302

New activities, new incomes

Greetings, and welcome to Farm Radio Weekly. Thank you for taking the time to read issue #302. This edition presents three stories about Africans who have improved their fortunes by changing what they do for a living: by branching out into agriculture and livestock, and by selling planting materials.

During the dry season, the level of the Congo River falls, fish become scarce, and it is difficult for fishers to make a profit. But as water levels fall, land becomes available, and an enterprising farmer has found that quick-maturing vegetable crops sell well at the Brazzaville markets.

Families living in squatter camps near Bulawayo have been re-located to new, permanent settlements, but had to leave their livelihoods behind. Now, a new poultry enterprise has started to generate small profits for people who had never imagined themselves as farmers!

Perpetua Okao is profiting from a radio program which highlighted the nutritional benefits of orange-fleshed sweet potatoes. Farmers across northern Uganda call her to order sweet potato planting vines for their fields, and her family is benefitting from the extra cash.

If you want to know more about orange-fleshed sweet potatoes, or your listeners show an interest in the crop, check out our Script of the week below, which features an interview with a Ugandan farmer who talks about her experiences growing the new crop.

So, grab a refreshing drink and kick off your shoes, and enjoy this issue of FRW!

Happy reading!

-the Farm Radio Weekly team

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Congo-Brazzaville: On an island of fishers, the only farmer earns more money than most (by Privat Tiburce Martin Massanga, for Farm Radio Weekly)

It is ten o’clock in the morning. On l’île aux raphias, an island in the majestic Congo River, a fishing village is bustling with activity.

A patch of fine white sand hugs the outskirts of the settlement. Silhouetted against the verdant greenery beyond the sand, a man is almost shouting into his phone: “Hello! Yes, it is me, Célestin, on the phone! Yes. I have tomato, chili and okra plants that will be ready for harvest in two days! How much? And when will you arrive?”

The man with the phone is Célestin Botando. Both fisherman and market gardener, the father of seven is trying to acquaint potential customers with the produce available from his two hectares of vegetables.

Originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mr. Botando is the only farmer in this island fishing community. His tomato, okra and chilli plants grow and mature quickly, and his produce is highly valued in the Brazzaville markets.

He explains, “I ​​chose these plants for reasons of both time and space.” Mr. Botando has only a few months to work his land. During the dry season, the river waters retreat and expose a large tract of land. When the rains return, the island is mostly flooded.

Mr. Botando says, “I can only practice farming between May and September. But that’s enough for me to make a profit.”

For the last two years, he has farmed during the day and fished at night. He is proud of his double life. He lives this way in order to earn enough to pay his children’s school fees and meet the needs of his family in Kinshasa.

Mr. Botando had found it difficult to make ends meet as a fisher because the fish catch drops at the onset of the dry season. But his vegetable sales now offset the seasonal decrease in his income.

He feels fortunate to have an alternative activity during the dry season. He can sell a basket of okra for 10,000 Central African francs [about $20 US], and is able to harvest enough to sell at least 15 baskets a week.

Bonaventure Okombi is the head of the fishing village. He says: “[Mr. Botando] has an advantage in not having to clear his land. He made his fields on land that the river left him. We are proud of his initiative. Maybe it will inspire other fishermen to better occupy themselves at this time of the year.”

Mr. Botando’s niece, Bibi Ilunga, has been helping him since the beginning of the current growing season. She says: “We only have problems when irrigating. We need motorized pumps to make life easier … Can you imagine? We have to water all these plants by hand, morning and evening, and walk quite a way to the river to get the water.”

Ms. Ilunga is disappointed that farming is only an option in the dry season, noting that vegetables bring in more money than fishing. She would prefer it if the farming was year round.

The additional income from his farm helped Mr. Botando to set up a shop which sells goods such as kerosene, soap and canned foods. His only worry is that immigrants from the DRC like himself might be expelled from Congo-Brazzaville. But, he says with a smile, “If we’re not expelled, I think next year I will have more productive fields than these ones here.”

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Zimbabwe: Laying hens change former squatters’ fortunes (by Nqobani Ndlovu, for Farm Radio Weekly)

Vote Munda used to sleep in a bush near the Bulawayo suburb of Trenance. He lived in plastic shelters and survived by panning gold, doing odd jobs or selling scrap metal he scavenged at refuse dumps.

In September 2012, Mr. Munda moved to a permanent shelter. His family was one of the nearly 200 squatter families relocated by the Bulawayo City Council from their squatter camp and to houses in Mazwi new village, a few kilometres west of Bulawayo.

Mr. Munda recalls: “Life was a daily struggle when we started staying at Mazwi, as we had no source of income. There is no gold panning at the village like at the Trenance squatter camp.”

Joel Siziba is another former squatter. He says they had to gather and sell firewood illegally to survive at the new village. Poaching firewood carries a $20 U.S. fine or a sentence of community service.

Mr. Siziba says things were so desperate that they contemplated returning to the squatter camps. There, at least, they could survive on the gold panning that had been their primary source of income.

Albert Mhlanga is the Member of Parliament for the local constituency. He says he was touched by the plight of the former squatters, and managed to get the NGOs World Vision and Masakheni Trust to intervene by helping the squatters start a poultry project.

In late December 2013, the NGOs built three large poultry runs, and in January donated 3,200 laying hens as a start-up.

The project nearly failed. Nearly 1,000 chickens died from disease and from mineral toxicity caused by badly mixed feeds. In the first few months, government veterinary services provided little or no assistance.

But these problems have been resolved and things are looking up. Mr. Mhlanga reports, “We went out of our way to look for experts to teach them proper poultry farming methods.”

The poultry runs are solar-powered to provide artificial daylight in the early morning and evening. Hens require 14 hours of daylight to produce eggs. If day length drops below 12 hours, production decreases and frequently stops.

Mr. Munda says, “This is our new way of life. We sell the eggs to residents at the nearest high-density suburbs.” They sell a tray of 24 eggs for $4 U.S. and share the proceeds amongst the 12 ex-squatters who participate in the project.

Lethukuthula Bhebhe is one of those participants. She says, “I never thought I would be a poultry farmer.” But, says Mrs. Bhebhe, they have to fetch water from five kilometres away. There are no donkey- or ox-drawn carts or even wheelbarrows to ferry the 20-litre jerry cans of water.

She says the poultry farmers need 360 litres of water every day for their laying hens. The project is trying to persuade the donors to sink a borehole for the new farmers.

Mr. Siziba says, “It is not much, but it’s better … this is a legal way of surviving compared to firewood poaching.” He adds, “Things can only get better.”

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Uganda: Farmer profits by branching out into selling sweet potato vines (by Adam Bemma, for Farm Radio Weekly)

Perpetua Okao pulls a ringing mobile phone out of her pocket. She responds to the caller, “Yes, I may still have some vines. How many do you need?”

Mrs. Okao tucks the phone back into her pocket. She explains: “I’m the chairperson of Atego Farmers Women’s Group. We’re not only women farmers. We also have five men in the group. All members grow orange-fleshed sweet potatoes.”

The 63-year-old mother of 10 is a farmer in Atego village, about three kilometres from Lira, in northern Uganda. She grows orange-fleshed sweet potatoes to eat and sell. But she also makes money providing other farmers with the potato vines that are required to plant the crop.

Monica Acan is a broadcaster at Radio Wa, a radio station which targets people in the Lango sub-region, which includes Lira. She is both the host and producer of the Saturday night program, Wa Farmer, which means “Our Farmer” in the local Luo language.

Ms. Acan says: “Perpetua [Okao] is a vine multiplier, which means she grows the crop and [then] sells [the potato vines] to other farmers in the area. She’s the only woman around doing this.”

In July 2013, Farm Radio International and Radio Wa teamed up to launch Poto Wa Tin [Our Garden Today], a program which airs live every Monday evening. It is edited and re-broadcast on Friday afternoons.

At the end of each program, Ms. Acan reads Mrs. Okao’s phone number on air, as well as those of three other vine multipliers in the region. Ms. Acan says: “On the show, I promote orange-fleshed sweet potato, its nutritional aspects, the agronomic practices, as well as marketing and value addition of the crop. It airs in the evening so women farmers returning from the fields can tune in to listen.”

Orange-fleshed sweet potatoes, like carrots, pumpkins and other orange-fleshed foods, are rich in beta-carotene, a compound that the body converts to vitamin A. Vitamin A is important for human growth and development, and also helps maintain the immune system and good vision.

Mrs. Okao feeds the fleshy orange potatoes to her children. She is convinced that they benefit from the sweet, tasty tubers. She advised a friend that the woman’s sick baby twins would benefit if the mother added the nutritious potatoes to her children’s breakfast porridge.

Mrs. Okao reports: “I’m happy to say the twins are both very healthy now. Besides porridge, you can also make bread and juice with orange-fleshed sweet potatoes.”

Mrs. Okao flips through a ledger book with the names and details of farmers who have purchased bags of vines from her, some on numerous occasions. She receives calls from all across northern Uganda. Farmers from as far away as Pader, Kitgum and Gulu have purchased vines.

Mrs. Okao says: “Since I started vine multiplication last year, I have distributed orange-fleshed sweet potato [vines] to 380 farmers. It has improved my household income. I was able to buy pigs and a cow and pay my oldest son’s school fees at a teacher’s training college.”

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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-Sierra Leone: College radio informs listeners about Ebola

Sierra Leone is now at the epicentre of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Access to affected villages has been hampered by rain and poor roads, but also by rumour and fear.

Radio has an essential role to play by providing accurate information in local languages, and engaging local leaders to help people understand how to avoid spreading the disease.

Independent radio stations have been quick to mobilize in response to the outbreak. They are working together to produce and broadcast programming that responds to the acute need for more information on Ebola.

At Cotton Tree News-Radio in the capital, Freetown, a team of professional and student journalists are reporting on Ebola and hosting live debates which bring together decision-makers and members of national and local governments.

To read the full article, go to: http://hirondelleusa.org/news/ebola-virus-college-radio-in-sierra-leone-fights-against-misinformation/#.U9o33bcgkNU.twitter

2-Guinea: Discouraging bushmeat consumption

Medical teams struggling to curb Ebola in West Africa are discouraging people from eating bushmeat, as some believe this may have caused the outbreak.

A number of factors have contributed to the spread of Ebola, including poor knowledge and superstition, especially in rural communities; cross-border movement; and poor public health infrastructure.

But some rural communities are determined to continue their traditional practices. A resident of Nongoha village in Guéckédou says, “Animal husbandry is not widespread here because bushmeat is easily available. Banning bushmeat means a new way of life, which is unrealistic.”

To read the full article, go to: http://www.irinnews.org/report/100428/ebola-softly-softly-on-bush-meat

3-Africa: Stigma of AIDS still a major barrier to addressing disease

Though West Africa’s massive Ebola outbreak has been dominating the global health spotlight, HIV and AIDS remain enormous issues in Africa.

Uganda’s anti-LGBT environment may explain the nation’s significant increase in new HIV infections, a trend that − with the exception of Angola − has been reversed in most other African nations.

Dr. Deborah Birx is the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, leading all U.S. government international efforts in HIV and AIDS relief. She says, “The AIDS pandemic in southern Africa is the primary cause of death for adolescents, and the primary killer of young women.”

U.S. President Barack Obama recently pledged $200 million U.S. to 10 African countries to help double the number of children on life-saving anti-retroviral drugs.

To read the full article, go to: http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/stigma-still-a-major-roadblock-for-aids-fight-in-africa/

4-Mozambique: Coping with HIV and AIDS?

Mozambique is struggling to contain the HIV epidemic, with one in ten of its 24 million people infected.

Only 60 per cent of Mozambicans have access to health services. There are an average of five doctors and 25 nurses per 100,000 people in Mozambique. In neighbouring South Africa, the ratio is 55 doctors and 383 nurses.

Recently, the United Nations ranked Mozambique 178th of 187 countries in terms of human development. Life expectancy is only 50 years, 70 per cent of the population live in poverty, and an estimated 56,000 women are newly infected with HIV each year.

To read the full article, go to: http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/how-mozambique-is-coping-with-aids/

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Farmer program e-course: spots are going fast! Sign-up as soon as possible

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 and spots are going fast!

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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Orange sweet potato

This week’s story from Uganda talks about orange-fleshed sweet potato (OFSP). Our script of the week also talks about growing OFSP.

Most African economies are heavily dependent on agriculture. But many farmers are leaving agriculture to venture into other work. Their reasons for leaving vary, but include challenges such as climate change, pests and diseases, decreasing soil fertility, and fluctuations in market prices for their products.

Agricultural researchers are working on ways to make agriculture more viable for small-scale farmers. One type of research involves breeding new crops which offer specific benefits to farmers. Among these is the orange-fleshed sweet potato. Farmers in several countries have started growing this crop with getting good results.

Orange-fleshed sweet potatoes contain lots of vitamin A, which is vital for human health. The fresh roots can be made into cakes, breads and other edible products. Foods made with the fresh root retain vitamin A, which is partially lost when the root is ground into flour. Orange-fleshed sweet potato varieties grow more quickly than traditional African varieties and have a comparable yield.

Our script of the week features an interview with a Ugandan farmer who talks about her experience growing orange-fleshed sweet potatoes.


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Call for entries: Haller Prize for Development Journalism

The philosophy of Dr. Rene Haller and the Haller Foundation is to promote and share knowledge. That same motivation led to the establishment of the inaugural Haller Prize for Development Journalism.

There are many crucial development issues that merit closer scrutiny or wider exposure, but tend to be under-represented in the media. The Haller Prize aims to highlight some of these issues by exposing the failings of the media and encouraging best practices. The Prize was conceived as a force for positive change in sub-Saharan Africa.

Nationals of sub-Saharan African countries who reside in the region are invited to submit an unpublished article of up to 1,000 words in length which focuses on any aspect of development in sub-Saharan Africa. The article must be submitted in English.

Possible topics include: the success or failure of a charity- or donor-funded program; a specific issue (e.g., the impact of oil or gas exploration); the role of civil society and grassroots organizations; the positive or negative effects of upscaling in agriculture, and; technologies which improve people’s access to banking, agriculture or health services.

The deadline for entries is midnight, Greenwich Mean Time, on Friday, September 19, 2014. If you would like more information about the Haller Prize, email:  prize@haller.org.uk

The article must be submitted via an online form found at this address: http://haller.org.uk/haller-prize/about-the-prize/

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Climate change in Africa: A guidebook for journalists

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has produced a guidebook for journalists who report on, or who wish to improve their reporting on, the changing climate in Africa.

Climate change poses a clear danger to lives and livelihoods across Africa. Journalists have critical roles to play by explaining the causes and effects of climate change, describing what countries and communities can do to adapt to the likely impacts, and reporting on the actions that governments and companies take, or do not take, to respond to these threats.

Research on public understanding of climate change and surveys of journalists show that, across Africa, the media can do more to tell the story of climate change. UNESCO produced this guidebook to address this gap in reporting on the complex phenomenon of climate change.

The authors of the guide represent organizations that have trained hundreds of journalists around the world to report more effectively on climate change. They consulted 44 journalists from 17 African countries and 38 climate change specialists, who provided their insights on what was missing from African media coverage and how this book can help fill those gaps.

For more information and to download the guidebook in English or French, go to: http://www.unesco.org/new/en/communication-and-information/resources/publications-and-communication-materials/publications/full-list/climate-change-in-africa-a-guidebook-for-journalists/

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