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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 #307

Farming tales: Beating the odds

Are you sitting comfortably? Welcome to Farm Radio Weekly issue #307! This edition of the Weekly brings you two stories of people who discovered that farming was the key to a profitable and productive life. And there’s the curious tale of the robberies in the night …

The responsibility of providing for the family fell on Said Bacar’s shoulders after his father died. After picking up work wherever he could find it and struggling to feed his mother and siblings, he struck upon a solution – bananas!

Agnes Kandodo had to move to the countryside when she could no longer afford to live in the city. But the Malawian widow chose to farm and has since built her fortune by growing and selling cassava to a ready market.

A Malian radio show host and farmer set a trap in his watermelon field – and caught some thieves! The resourceful presenter had noticed that his crops were disappearing in the night and set out to investigate their fate. Find out how he did it in Mamadou Cissé and the watermelon thieves.

There are two important International Days coming up next week. October 16 is World Food Day, and this week’s Resource section is dedicated to providing information and resources to help you program the Day into your schedule. Our next issue, #308, will be dedicated to the International Day of Rural Women, on October 15. Stay tuned for related stories and resources!

If you want to contribute a story to Farm Radio Weekly, please contact Innousa Maïga (bureauarh@farmradio.org) for stories in French, or Mark Ndipita (bureau.chief@farmradiotz.org) for stories in English. It’s always good to hear from you!

Have a bountiful and safe week,

-the Farm Radio Weekly team

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Comoros: Bananas mean success for new farmer (by Ahmed Bacar, for Farm Radio Weekly)

Every day of the week except Friday, Said Bacar travels nearly five kilometres from his village to his banana field. He tells anyone who will listen about his passion for his half-hectare of vibrant green plants with their golden-yellow fruit.

But Mr. Bacar has not always been a farmer. After his father died, he had to take whatever work came his way, including shoemaking and photography. He even repaired umbrellas, radios and watches. But he barely earned enough to feed the four members of his family – his mother, his younger brother and sister, and himself. There was never enough money left over to enrol his younger siblings in school.

Mr. Bacar says: “I was earning a living doing odd jobs, but I knew that I needed more money to support my family in those difficult times. I thought about it for several months before deciding to embrace agriculture, particularly banana production.”

Mr. Bacar justifies his decision like this: bananas are a staple dish, very much in demand in Comoros, and they generate a good income. They also mature quickly. He explains, “We can start harvesting bananas after six months whereas, for example, cassava and yams can take up to a year.”

Mr. Bacar embarked on his new life in 2012. He sought out his mother’s banana-farming brother, Hakimdine Abdallah. Over the course of a few months, his uncle taught him how to grow bananas.

He recalls: “I carried my uncle’s banana suckers and tools from the village to his field. I dug the holes in which we’d plant the suckers, and all the while my uncle instructed me how best to do it.”

Once he had learnt the tricks of the trade, Mr. Abdallah gave him a field to start his own banana farm. Mr. Bacar invested all of his savings in buying tools such as hoes and machetes, and purchasing banana suckers for planting.

Today, the young farmer has no regrets. He used the profits from selling bananas to build a house for his mother. But that’s not all. He says, “I also paid for my little brother to train as a builder. As for my sister, she is learning to sew.”

Mr. Bacar can sell up to 15 bags of bananas a month, and earns 7,500 Comoran francs [$20 U.S.] per bag. He is recognized as one of the most important banana producers in his village. His mother, Hadidja Soidik, helps out the young farmer by selling the bananas in the market. She says, “Today I am better off thanks to the efforts of my son, and I thank God.”

Mr. Bacar faces challenges such as a proliferation of thieves, but is never discouraged. He is committed to his farm and invests all his energy in it. He is very appreciative of his uncle’s role in his success. He says, “I will never forget the help my uncle gave me.”

For his part, Mr. Abdallah is satisfied to have contributed to his nephew’s success. He recognizes that the young man is hard-working and courageous. Mr. Abdallah says: “I am doubly pleased by Said’s success. Firstly, I am happy that my nephew makes his living honestly. And secondly, I’m glad for my sister that her son’s efforts mean that she has enough to eat.”

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Malawi: Widow harvests prosperity with cassava (by Mark Ndipita, for Farm Radio Weekly)

It is a hot sunny day and Agnes Kandodo is busy inspecting the crops in her cassava field. The widowed mother of two uproots a cassava plant and smiles. The tubers look mature, big enough to eat and ready to sell. She puts them in a basket and returns home to prepare the afternoon meal.

Mrs. Kandodo lives in Kumayani, a village about 25 kilometres southwest of Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi. Her cassava has taken her from poverty to prosperity.

Mr. Kandodo died in 2000, leaving his widow almost destitute. Mrs. Kandodo says: “My late husband left me with two daughters. We could [no longer] afford city life and we were forced to move to Kumayani where my late husband [had] bought a piece of land.” The family slept in a chicken coop because there was no house on the land.

Mrs. Kandodo needed a reliable income to support her family. She recalls: “At first I thought of poultry farming, but I realized that feed was very expensive. I then planted cassava because it does not require fertilizer.”

In 2001, there was no cassava within 15 kilometres of her farm and Mrs. Kandodo had difficulties finding planting materials. But, 20 kilometres away, she managed to find a large enough supply to start her plantation. She carried 25 heavy bundles of cassava cuttings all the way to her farm.

After her first harvest, Mrs. Kandodo sold the tubers and replanted her field. She harvested more than enough cuttings to plant her entire plot, which is about the size of a football field. Then she sold the remaining cuttings to farmers who became interested in cassava after seeing how Mrs. Kandodo was profiting from the crop.

David Zakariya started growing cassava in 2004. He also farms in Kumayani. Mr. Zakariya explains: “In 2003, we had poor rains, but Mrs. Kandodo managed to harvest cassava. She sold [tubers] to many people in our area and she never lacked food at her house. This impressed me. [I started] growing cassava because [my] maize had poor yields.”

Mr. Zakariya says cassava is in high demand in the area. He adds, “Buyers come to us and buy cassava right on the farm … we do not [shoulder the] transport costs to sell our cassava.”

Hodges Nkhoma is the government agricultural extension worker in Kumayani. He says, “Climate change has made the weather and rains unpredictable. Hence, farmers should diversify by growing different crops, including drought-resistant crops such as cassava.”

But Mr. Nkhoma warns cassava farmers about mosaic disease. The disease is especially common when planting cuttings that have been used for a number of years. He says: “Farmers should always uproot, bury or burn cassava crops that have signs of disease such as discoloured leaves and stunted growth. Such plants will not produce tubers and may affect others.”

Since 2004, Mrs. Kandodo has been steadily reinvesting her profits in land, and now has 18 hectares. She still grows cassava, but also plants maize and raises chickens, pigs and goats to boost her income. She built a house with solar electricity and can afford to pay for her two daughters to go to school.

What is her secret? Mrs. Kandodo explains, “I sell cassava during the rainy season. It’s easy to harvest by hand, the [cuttings] can be easily replanted and they germinate well.”

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Mali: Mamadou Cissé and the watermelon thieves (by Meli Rostand, for Farm Radio Weekly)

Mamadou Cissé is a broadcaster with Radio Welena in Nossombougou, a remote area 75 kilometres north of Bamako, in southwestern Mali. He has worked at the station for 12 years. Mr. Cissé is the presenter of a farmer program called Biminimissa, or “Pioneer farmers,” and owns a farm in a nearby village. He rotates crops through the seasons, alternating maize, millet and watermelon on his two-hectare farm.

Last farming season, his watermelon yield was so good that thieves began to visit his farm, pilfering the best fruits as they matured. But he noticed a pattern. The watermelons disappeared only when he was presenting an evening program. So he devised a cunning plan. He had always presented his show live on-air. But one day, he sat down in front of his microphone and inserted a cassette into the tape deck. He pressed the record button and began to speak into the microphone. Now the show could air while he kept watch over the farm.

The trap was set. The recorded episode began with Mr. Cissé’s usual introduction. But the broadcaster was seven kilometres away from the studio, keeping an eye on his farm. The thieves listened to Mr. Cissé’s program near the farm, waiting for the right moment, unaware of Mr. Cisse’s whereabouts. At the end of the program intro, they seized their chance. They crept into his field, keeping their eyes open for the best fruits. From his hiding place, Mr. Cissé recognized their voices— a well-known hunter and his wife.

The thieves reached the middle of the field, tapping watermelons and listening for the hollow sound of mature fruit. Just then, Mr. Cissé turned on his torch and emerged from his hiding place. He declared, “So you are the ones doing my harvest these days.” Taken by surprise, the thieves exclaimed, “This is devilish! How can somebody be on air and on his farm at the same time!”

Before he could nab the couple, they turned their backs and fled, disappearing into the darkness. But the news spread quickly across an amazed village. Ashamed, the couple returned a few days later to apologize, and the thieves and the DJ now live together peacefully in the village.

Having saved his watermelons from thieves, Mr. Cissé earned 400,000 Central African francs (about $800 U.S.) from his harvest. He used part of the money to buy two bulls and a cart to ease his farm work.

In July and August 2014, Meli Rostand conducted research for Farm Radio International at six radio stations in Mali and Burkina Faso, including Radio Welena. His work is part of FRI’s African Radio Research Program Initiative (ARRPA). In 2011, FRI conducted research at 22 radio stations and organizations in five other countries; Meli’s work concentrates on Francophone stations in Mali and Burkina Faso. Through Meli’s research, FRI hopes to get a clearer picture of the conditions under which farmer radio programs are created in Francophone West Africa, of the strengths of the radio stations and the challenges they face, and of how to better support our broadcasting partners.

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FRW news in brief

1-West Africa: Radio informs public about Ebola

Radio Kintoma has been dispelling the rumours that Ebola is a plot by the government to frighten the population.

The community radio station in Voinjama, a Liberian town just south of the border with Guinea, has been broadcasting messages about Ebola since the outbreak began in May.

Mary is a small-scale farmer from northern Liberia’s Lofa Province. She says, “I now believe Ebola is real and it kills people every day.”

Radio Kintoma is providing crucial education on how Ebola is transmitted from one person to another. People have learned to stop burying their own dead, to wait for health workers to come and tend to sick people, and to stop shaking hands and engaging in other everyday social rituals which increase the risk of transmission.

To read the full article, go to: http://www.trust.org/item/20140925093608-a5osu/?utm

2-Nigeria: Ebola and the media

Nigeria reportedly has the eighth largest Internet population in the world – 67 million users. There are also nearly 166 million mobile phone subscribers in a population of 175 million.

With so many Nigerians online, websites such as ebolalert.org and ebolafacts.com have become important channels for providing accurate information to help people stay safe. They complement telephone hotlines and more traditional public health approaches.

According to UNICEF Communications Specialist Geoffrey Njoku, over a six-week period, nearly 60,000 people received more than 3.6 million texts with key messages about Ebola and how to stay protected.

Health Minister Onyebuchi Chukwu has declared survivors of Ebola to be the “safest people to be around,” given their new immunity to the virus.

To read the full article, go to: http://www.irinnews.org/report/100674/ebola-and-the-media-nigeria-s-good-news-story

3-Great Lakes: Experts warn of ‘dire consequences’ as Lake Victoria’s water levels drop further

Climate experts say the rise in global temperature is affecting rainfall patterns over Lake Victoria.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment Report states that increased warming and rainfall in the western Indian Ocean will lead to climate extremes in East Africa.

Professor Hannes Rautenbach from the University of Pretoria says, “The rain belt over Uganda will shift.” The report argues that Lake Victoria, which has been receiving high volumes of rain, will soon experience a 20 per cent drop in rainfall.

This decrease, coupled with increased evaporation due to higher air and water temperatures, will cause a drop in water levels in the near future.

To read the full article, go to: http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/09/experts-warn-of-dire-consequences-as-lake-victorias-water-levels-drop-further/

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Call for applications: Investigative science journalism fellowship for the Global South

SciDev.Net, with support from the Association of British Science Writers, encourages investigative science journalism in the Global South. The organization is currently offering a fellowship which will enable a journalist to carry out a detailed investigation.

The fellowship is open to all science journalists who are employed by or freelance for a media outlet, and are living and working in non-OECD countries.

The fellowship is intended to support a journalist who would otherwise not be able to carry out this work. The successful applicant will receive a cash prize of 3,500 GBP ($5,837 U.S.), a laptop, mentoring support from experts in science journalism, and training and conference opportunities.

Applicants should apply in English using the application form on the SciDev.Net website. The application should be emailed with a copy of your CV and two examples of published or broadcast investigative work (in any language) to: award@scidev.net.

An application document and further information on eligibility criteria is available. You can access the application form and other documents at: http://www.scidev.net/global/content/announcements_notice.4E56778E-D464-4A93-9F9AB3C65149FC11.html

The deadline for applications is 5 p.m., British Summer Time (4 p.m. Greenwich Mean Time), October 10, 2014

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World Food Day 2014 focuses on family farming

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations marks World Food Day each year on October 16, the anniversary of the day on which the Organization was founded in 1945.

The UN General Assembly has designated 2014 as the “International Year of Family Farming.” This is a strong signal that the international community recognizes the important contribution of family farmers to world food security.

The theme of the 2014 World Food Day is Family Farming: Feeding the world, caring for the earth. This theme was chosen to raise the profile of family farming and smallholder farmers. It focuses world attention on the significant role that family farming plays in eradicating hunger and poverty, providing food security and nutrition, improving livelihoods, managing natural resources, protecting the environment, and achieving sustainable development, especially in rural areas.

See the FAO World Food Day website for more information and useful links for preparing programs and events for the day. Go to: http://www.fao.org/world-food-day/home/en/

More resources are available at this address: http://www.fao.org/world-food-day/resources/en/

An infographic highlights information relevant to the Day. You can find it here: http://www.fao.org/resources/infographics/infographics-details/en/c/230925/

You can follow FAO’s World Food Day Twitter account here: https://twitter.com/FAOWFD

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Radio Gbarnga at centre of efforts to inform Liberians about Ebola

As West Africa experiences the largest ever outbreak of Ebola, misconceptions abound. Many in Liberia, afraid of the health authorities, care for their sick relatives at home, thereby exposing themselves to the virus.

Jefferson Massah and Radio Gbarnga are working to counter misconceptions about Ebola with better information, communicated through the radio.

Mr. Massah is a radio broadcaster from Bong County in north central Liberia. Through training programs with Farm Radio International, he has learned about the power of radio to inform and engage an audience. With his team at Radio Gbarnga, Jefferson is making sure Liberians can recognize Ebola, understand it is an often fatal disease, and know where to turn for help.

Radio Gbarnga and other radio stations in Bong County have joined the social mobilization team of the local Ebola task force. The team meets three times a week to receive updates on the situation, and then Radio Gbarnga uses this information to keep their audience up-to-date with the latest news. The station also conducts interviews with local health authorities and international organizations working in their community.

A recent broadcast aired information on a new treatment centre and updates from Save the Children and the Red Cross. Here is an excerpt from that program:

“Welcome to Ebola Situation Report, a radio production on Radio Gbarnga to provide updates about the Ebola situation in central Liberia. Coming up on Ebola Situation Report today, the leadership of Bong County embarks on a search for a temporary centre to contain Ebola patients, while a 40-bed quarantine treatment centre is under construction by the British charity Save the Children…. Nearly all health centres now abandoned by both patients and health workers in Bong County. We will speak with the officer in charge of a community clinic in Kpaai district. What is the Liberian National Red Cross Society doing in the fight against the Ebola virus? …

I am Jefferson Massah with the Ebola Situation Report.“

Radio Gbarnga also incorporates messages on Ebola prevention into its news and current affairs programs, and one hour a day is dedicated to listeners calling in to provide updates on the situation in their communities. The radio station team has extended its broadcast day by an additional two hours to ensure their community receives the information it needs.

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It’s better to sell together: The benefits of collective marketing

This week’s story from Malawi introduces a woman who has done well as a cassava farmer. Our script of the week profiles Tanzanian farmers – and processors – who have benefited from group marketing of cassava.

In Tanzania, cassava has undergone a personality change of late. Cassava was considered a subsistence food, and a food strongly associated with a particular culture and particular customs.

But now, cassava is ubiquitous. You can find cassava flour, raw cassava tubers and fried cassava snacks everywhere ― in markets, on the roadside, in supermarkets, and in the hands of female vendors in traffic jams.

This script looks at the cassava value chain, the challenges of positioning cassava in the marketplace, and how collective marketing is helping both cassava producers and cassava processors.


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