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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 #308

International Day of Rural Women: Celebrate women farmers!

Welcome to Farm Radio Weekly. In issue #308, we bring you three stories which celebrate the role of women in rural communities.

In the first of our two stories from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Miriam Mutokambali is now helping her family recover from the effects of war by selling what she had previously considered a worthless by-product – cassava leaves.

East African banana farmers are responding to the devastating effect of bacterial wilt in different ways. Rosette M’Chentwali uprooted her banana trees and planted vegetables instead. Now she is not only feeding her family, but her village too!

A women’s collective in Kenya discovered a solution to the problem of birds eating their sorghum – sunflowers! The bright yellow, seed-filled plants are more attractive to the feathered thieves than the cereal, and the women are profiting from higher sorghum yields.

October 15 is the International Day of Rural Women. Our Event section features links to help you plan a show about the Day.

This week’s Resource section contains links to clear and concise information on Ebola. Please use the information to prepare informative broadcasts for your listeners.

Keep your airwaves buzzing!

-the Farm Radio Weekly team

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Democratic Republic of Congo: Cassava leaves are ‘green gold’ for woman farmer (by Jacques Kikuni Kokonyange, for Farm Radio Weekly)

After a long day under the hot sun, farmer Miriam Mutokambali walks home from the field with her children. Everyone carries a heavy bundle of green cassava leaves, or sombe.

Mrs. Mutokambali will sell the leaves in the market in Butembo, one of the main cities in North Kivu Province, where the vegetable is very popular.

Like many cassava farmers, Mrs. Mutokambali is pursuing this small but flourishing trade. She explains, “The war ruined our sources of income. By selling cassava leaves, we can survive until we can harvest our other crops.”

Until recently, people living near Butembo did not think of cassava leaves as a staple food. It was difficult to buy cassava leaves in the market. Vendors gave them away free, stuffed inside bags of cassava tubers.

But in recent times, life has been precarious. Many villagers have been displaced by conflicts. They have been forced to turn to foods they previously ignored, such as cassava leaves.

A woman trader at Butembo’s market explains, “Two years ago, we couldn’t give the leaves away. But today we can’t meet the demand.”

The leaves are affordable, even for those with few resources. It costs only 300 Congolese francs (32 U.S. cents) for enough leaves to feed a family of five. Many families not only survive on the leaves, but sell them to restaurant owners.

Angèl Nyirabitaro is a medical doctor. He says cassava leaves are a good source of protein. They are also a rich source of minerals, including iron, which is essential for good health and producing red blood cells.

Nutritionist Musubao Katembo recommends that cassava leaves be included in meals at least three times a week.

Mrs. Mutokambali is delighted to use this information as she travels door-to-door selling the leaves. She makes a good profit. She is able to promote the leaves to potential customers by saying, “You are safe to eat them at every meal!”

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Democratic Republic of Congo: Woman farmer replaces diseased bananas with vegetables (by Adeline Nsimire, for Farm Radio Weekly)

For nearly a decade, Rosette M’Chentwali and other farmers in her village struggled against the dizzyingly fast spread of banana bacterial wilt. Then one day, she decided she was sick of fighting the disease. Mrs. M’Chentwali made the tough decision to replace her bananas with vegetables.

Mugaruka Désiré lives nearby. His bananas are also blighted by bacterial wilt, but he disagrees with his neighbour’s decision. Pointing to Mrs. M’Chentwali’s garden, now dotted with amaranth, he says: “I am poor today because [my bananas] produce nothing now. But I’m not crazy enough to [uproot them] like my neighbour did.”

The decision to uproot her bananas was not one that Mrs. M’Chentwali took lightly. Widowed in 1984, she had fed and educated her four children by selling kasiksi, a local brew made from bananas.

She explains, “When he died, my late husband left me everything to support the family, including his banana plantation. I learnt how to brew kasiksi at my mother’s knee.”

Mrs. M’Chentwali was well known for her high quality kasiksi. She says, “My home was flooded with consumers when it was ready.”

When her bananas became infected by bacterial wilt, production fell to nothing. Mrs. M’Chentwali recalls, “I ​​could no longer produce kasiksi and we were really miserable. Eating became a luxury for my children.”

She had to sell her a large part of her belongings to meet her daily needs. Unable to wait for a treatment for bacterial wilt or a new, disease-resistant variety, she started experimenting with vegetables.

One day, Mrs. M’Chentwali harvested some amaranth from the small plot around her house. She recalls, “We feasted on these vegetables daily, but then I sold some at the small village market to get the money to buy some salt and palm oil.” She realized that growing more vegetables would earn her an income. But she did not have any vacant land near her home.

She says, “I realized that the land occupied by the sick and unproductive bananas could be used more effectively to grow vegetables.” So she uprooted the banana trees and planted more amaranth and eggplants.

Now she sells her vegetables twice a week at the local market and earns 15,000 Congolese francs, about $16 U.S. Her children are back at school, and eating is no longer a luxury.

Vegetables have changed Mrs. M’Chentwali’s life. She used to slake people’s thirst with kasiksi, now she is a vegetable trader.

But Mrs. M’Chentwali has not given up on bananas. Once the disease problem has been solved, she might renew her banana plantation by planting new suckers. She thinks she might divide her land in two – part for bananas, part for vegetables.

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Kenya: Women plant sunflowers to divert hungry birds (by Sawa Pius, for Farm Radio Weekly)

It was not an uncommon sight in one part of western Kenya ― women standing in their fields, throwing stones at birds. The women were members of the Namulo smallholder farmers’ group. And the birds were feeding on their sorghum.

The women had experimented with many methods of stopping the birds, but every one had proved labour-intensive, expensive and time-consuming. Hiring people to scare off the birds cost $85 U.S. per season.

But last year the women found a cheap and convenient solution – sunflowers!

Regina Khayundi is a founding member of the Namulo women’s group, based in the Nzola area of Bungoma County in western Kenya. She says they formed the group to save money and fight hunger, adding that land is scarce and that it is easier to rent land as a collective.

The women grow the gadam variety of sorghum because it matures early and yields well. This variety is particularly prized by Kenyan brewers for its sweetness. Unfortunately, its flavour also makes it very popular with birds.

When the women noticed that the birds liked sunflowers, they decided to take action. They planted sunflowers between the rows of sorghum in their half-hectare plot. When the two crops matured, the birds feasted on the big yellow sunflower heads and ignored the sorghum.

Lydia Barasa is another member of the women’s group. She says the sunflowers are a great distraction for the birds, and help the women protect their investment in sorghum. She adds: “We only spent 1,200 Kenyan shillings [$15 U.S.] to buy four kilograms of sunflower seeds to plant on this [plot], and the profit is overwhelming because our sorghum is not eaten at all by birds.”

Mrs. Barasa adds that sorghum is very productive and has a ready market, fetching more than maize in local markets. She says, “One 90-kilogram bag of maize is sold at 1,800 shillings [$20 U.S.], while a bag of sorghum sells for 4,000 [$44].”

The women’s group harvested 45 bags of sorghum from their half-hectare. Not only was their yield greater, they did not need to spend money on scaring birds away. The women will have enough food to eat, and more income than if they had grown maize.

Priscilla Onyango is another member of the Namulo group. She says, “[This] sorghum has chased hunger from my family. I encourage other farmers to use sunflowers and embrace gadam sorghum.”

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FRW news in brief

1-Kenya: President Kenyatta to step down while appearing before ICC

Uhuru Kenyatta will temporarily step down as president of Kenya during his hearing at the international criminal court.

The African Union passed a resolution granting immunity from international tribunals for sitting presidents. But Mr. Kenyatta said he would invoke a hitherto unused article of the Kenyan constitution that allows the deputy president, William Ruto, to temporarily become president.

Mr. Kenyatta faces charges of crimes against humanity. It is alleged that he helped instigate violence that followed Kenya’s December 2007 presidential election, when more than a 1,000 people were killed. Mr. Kenyatta maintains that he is innocent of all charges.

To read the full article, go to: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/oct/06/kenyan-president-uhuru-kenyatta-attend-international-criminal-court

2-Uganda: Farmers uproot cassava in fear of floods

Persistent rains have caused flooding in the Alebtong District of central Uganda, washing away crops. Farmers have begun uprooting their cassava, fearing it might rot in the ground.

The chairperson of the Alebtong District disaster preparedness committee, Mr. Richard Alioka, said the district might be hit with food shortages.

Residents are also worried about diseases, especially cholera, as several streams and wells have been contaminated.

Bishop Tom Ibrahim Okello, the president of the Uganda Red Cross Society, said people should not sit back but plant new gardens. The Society has been distributing relief items, including blankets, mosquito nets, jerry cans, cups and bars of soap.

To read the full article, go to: http://www.monitor.co.ug/News/National/Residents-uproot-cassava-in-fear-of-floods/-/688334/2453470/-/f3fyxp/-/index.html

3-Cameroon: Dire conditions for Nigerian refugees

Thousands of Nigerians who fled Boko Haram attacks are crowded into the Minawao refugee camp in Cameroon’s Far North Region. According to relief agencies, they are living in increasingly squalid conditions and at risk of contracting measles and other diseases.

The UN Refugee Agency, or UNHCR, says the population of the camp has risen from 6,000 to 15,000 over the past four weeks, and services are severely strained.

Camp manager, Muhamat Alhidi, says, “The population has reached a level where more urgent actions need to be taken to build more tents and provide sanitation facilities such as toilets and new wells.”

To read the full article, go to: http://www.irinnews.org/report/100689/dire-conditions-for-nigerian-refugees-in-cameroon

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International Day of Rural Women: October 15, 2014

The first International Day of Rural Women was observed on October 15, 2008. This Day, established by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 2007, recognizes: “the critical role and contribution of rural women, including indigenous women, in enhancing agricultural and rural development, improving food security and eradicating rural poverty.”

Rural women play a crucial role in the economy. In most parts of the developing world, they grow crops and raise livestock, provide food, water and fuel for their families, and engage in off-farm activities to diversify their families’ livelihoods. They also care for children, older persons and the sick.

For resources to help you mark the Day on the radio, go to the UN webpage: http://www.un.org/en/events/ruralwomenday/

To mark the occasion, the Women’s World Summit Foundation has organized an annual worldwide empowerment and educational campaign since 1997. Celebrations and events take place in more than 100 countries around the world. Find out more at their website: http://www.woman.ch/index.php?page=women_15Oct&hl=en_US

There is also a Facebook page dedicated to the event: https://www.facebook.com/pages/International-Day-of-Rural-Women-October-15/201077766627602

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Ebola: Key facts

The World Health Organization has published several pages of information about the Ebola virus on its website, including measures to prevent its spread. This information can be used to prepare programs to raise awareness among your listeners.

The underlying message is this: the risk of Ebola transmission is low. Infection requires direct, physical contact with the bodily fluids (vomit, feces, urine, blood, semen, etc.) of people who are infected with Ebola.

To protect yourself, your family, and your community from Ebola, go immediately to the nearest health facility if you develop symptoms of Ebola. These include high fever, body aches, joint pain, vomiting, diarrhoea, and heavy or uncontrollable bleeding. Isolation and professional treatment increase a person’s chance of survival.

A fact sheet is available here: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs103/en/

Advice concerning hand washing, what to do if you are travelling, and food safety is available at this address: http://www.who.int/csr/disease/ebola/what-you-need-to-know/en/

There are several up-to-date information resources on this page: http://www.who.int/csr/resources/publications/ebola/en/

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Farm Radio Resource Pack 99 now online

Pack 99 is entitled: Cassava: The post-harvest value chain. Four of the ten items present information about post-harvest activities in cassava, especially processing and marketing. Two items are broadcaster-how-to docs, three focus on beneficial farming practices, and one item focuses on sweet potato processing in Rwanda. Lots of food for thought!

Like Pack 96 on growing cassava, this Pack focuses on cassava in Tanzania. But the information will be useful – with appropriate local adaptation – for all cassava-growing areas in Africa.

The feature article in Voices introduces each item in the Resource Pack. Voices also presents an article on knowing your audience, and profiles two exciting Farm Radio International projects in Tanzania – a farmers’ poll called Paza Sauti, and Radio Boda-boda! Find out more by clicking on the links below.

You can read the full Voices online here: http://farmradio.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/Voices-99.pdf

You can read the full Farm Radio Resource Pack online here: http://www.farmradio.org/radio-resource-packs/pakage-99-cassava-the-post-harvest-value-chain/

Farm Radio International wants to hear from our broadcasting partners! We are conducting a survey to find out more about the broadcasters who use Farm Radio Resource Packs. Just by filling out a short survey, you could win $50 US in mobile credit! Please submit your feedback by October 20. Tell your colleagues to fill it out too! Fill out the survey here.

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Sekedo, a drought-resistant sorghum for Karamoja

This week’s story from Kenya talks about women who are planting sunflowers to lure birds away from their sorghum. Our script of the week talks about another group of farmers who changed their sorghum-growing practices ― by planting a new drought-resistant variety.

The region of Karamoja in northeastern Uganda is a semi-arid savannah. It has an unreliable rainy season, which appears to be getting more unpredictable as the climate changes. Drought and hunger are recurrent features of life in Karamoja. Most farmers rely on livestock, while sorghum and millet are the main staple crops.

This script features a farmer in Karamoja who grows a new, quick-maturing sorghum variety called Sekedo. Planting Sekedo may help farmers in Karamoja adapt to the shorter and more unreliable rainy season.


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