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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 #309

Challenges to Africa’s farmers, and finding a niche market

Thank you for scanning your inbox and opening this latest edition of Farm Radio Weekly. In issue #309, we present stories about challenges facing farmers, on both the local and the national scale, and a story from Congo-Brazzaville about a farmer who found the root to success: turnips!

After the death of a parent, young farmers can be adversely affected when inheritance customs divide the family farm into small plots. Some countries have laws which establish a minimum size for farms, but making a living from a tiny plot is tough.

Farmers in Burkina Faso’s Sahel region often find it challenging to grow enough food for the year. Drought-tolerant crops like millet are staple foods in these semi-arid lands, but millet farmers near the northern town of Aribinda are facing a new problem: hungry birds.

There are many landless farmers. Forced to grow on abandoned or unused land, they are constantly at risk of eviction. But one family in Congo-Brazzaville is catering to immigrants with a taste for turnips, and turning profits from the crop into land of their own!

Are you a member of the Barza.fm website? Click the Like button on the Barza Facebook page to receive updates on the site. Read more in the Action section below.

November 2 is the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists. Read the Resource section below for more on the Day. There are links to events and resources which you can use in your radio programming to help mark the Day.

Have a safe and peaceful week,

-the Farm Radio Weekly team

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Africa: Dividing farmland a threat to food security (IPS)

When Kiprui Kibet pictures his future as a farmer, all he sees is the ever-dwindling size of his small plot.

Mr. Kibet farms in fertile Uasin Gishu County in Kenya’s Rift Valley region. He says, “I used to farm on 40 hectares but now I only have 0.8 hectares. My father had 10 sons and we all wanted to own a piece of the farmland.” The family harvested 3,200 bags a year on 40 hectares, but Mr. Kibet produces only 20 bags, and sometimes less.

The United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organization, or FAO, states that a majority of Africa’s farmers now grow food on less than one hectare of land. In Kenya, Uganda and Zambia, the number of people with one hectare of farmland has decreased by 13 to 17 per cent in the last decade. Experts say that subdividing land is becoming a significant threat to food security.

FAO says that small-scale farmers account for at least 75 per cent of Africa’s agricultural output. But according to a 2012 USAID report, 25 per cent of young adults who grew up in rural areas did not inherit any land because there was no land to inherit.

Titus Rotich is an agricultural extension officer in Kenya’s Rift Valley region. He says, “Farmlands are becoming so small that with time, farming will no longer be economically viable … land is only used to set up a homestead, and to grow a few backyard vegetables and rear a few chickens.”

Large-scale land purchases may also be contributing to the problem. Allan Moshi is an expert on land policy in sub-Saharan Africa. He says investors are rushing to East and Southern Africa and buying up huge tracts of land. He warns, “Large-scale land acquisition not only reduces available land for locals, but what is available to the locals still has to be subdivided [because of] land inheritance.”

Isaac Maiyo works for Schemers, an agricultural community-based organization in Kenya. He says, “Small-scale farmers still produce more than big farms. Big farms often lie idle. Investors hoard them for speculative purposes, but food is only rarely grown on this land.“

Some African countries have enacted laws to prevent land from becoming too fragmented. South Africa’s Agricultural Land Act prevents the “subdivision of agricultural land to the extent where the new portions created are so small that farming will no longer be economically viable.” The Kenyan Agriculture Act states that agricultural land should not be subdivided below 0.8 hectares. But many farmers do not know the law exists.

Mr. Kibet says: “We subdivide not based on what the law says, but based on the number of dependents who want a share of available land, particularly where land inheritance is concerned.”

To read the full article on which this story is based, Africa’s Dividing Farmlands A Threat To Food Security, go to: http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/09/africas-dividing-farmlands-a-threat-to-food-security/

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Burkina Faso: Feathered grain thieves force farmers to harvest early (by Nourou-Dhine Salouka, for Farm Radio Weekly)

Farmers in the village of Pém are panicking. For the last few weeks, birds have been ravaging millet fields in and around Aribinda, a town in northern Burkina Faso. Farmer Boubacar Maïga says he first spotted the birds in the fields at the end of September.

The birds may be small in size, but they are causing major damage. They are destroying crops throughout the village, stripping the plants of all grain. Mr. Maïga says, “These birds are a calamity. They attack the millet as the ears are ripening.”

Bassirou Koura also grows millet. He says, “This year I will not harvest a single ear because of the birds.”

Local farmers have tried to prevent the birds from reproducing by cutting down trees to destroy nests. They are also using scarecrows to frighten the birds away. But they have had little success.

Local authorities are advising farmers to harvest their millet early. Mamadou Maïga is the mayor of Aribinda. He says: “There’s nothing we can do to counter these birds. They move constantly and reproduce very quickly. We can only suggest to farmers that they harvest their crops quickly.”

Boubacar Maïga laments, “I have lost a third of my harvest. It could have been worse if I had not gathered it in early.”

Other farmers do not believe in harvesting early. Boureima Dicko asks, “What’s the point of harvesting unripe ears? An early harvest might only lead to a cartload of grain.” Mr. Dicko chose to abandon his field. The 50-year-old farmer says, “Aside from using the stalks as hay for my horse, I do not know what else to do.”

Local farmers are preparing for famine. Mr. Boubacar says, “We are used to disasters, but this is beyond anything I have experienced. We will starve this year if no one comes to our aid.” He does not know how he will feed his family of ten. His son, Ousmane, says, “I’m going back to Segou in Mali because there is nothing to do here. I’ve lived there before.” He hopes to find work in Mali again.

The coming months will be difficult for those in the area. The mayor, Mamadou Maïga, says: “In years of plenty, crops in the Sahel only provide enough food for eight months. This year, the harvest will be exhausted after three months. It is necessary that the government implements programs quickly to distribute grain or sell it at subsidized prices.”

The mayor has already instructed the regional head of agricultural technical support to tour the area and report on the situation. But it is not only Pém that is affected. People in the nearby villages of Bossou, Koutougou and Nassombou are experiencing the same misfortune. Boubacar Maïga says, “As we are not the only ones affected, I hope the government will hear our call.”

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Congo-Brazzaville: Turnips are ticket to profit for market gardener (by Privat Tiburce Martin Massanga, for Farm Radio Weekly)

The sun slips behind dense foliage as the day draws to a close, but a few golden rays penetrate the dense canopy of trees. The sun’s rays illuminate a large clearing planted with fruit trees and beds of vegetables. Despite the lateness of the hour, people are still at work.

Joseph Claude Milongo is operating a noisy, motorized water pump that provides a steady stream of water to the dozens of vegetable beds in his field.

His fellow gardeners refer to him as the “Turnip man.” Mr. Milongo earned his nickname because he is the only farmer in the area who grows turnips. The vegetable was introduced to Congo-Brazzaville about four years ago by Chinese settlers, who eat a lot of turnips.

Mr. Milongo explains: “The turnip is a very attractive plant. It can be grown throughout the year, whatever the season.” Turnips do not need a nursery bed because the seeds can be planted directly in the soil. An added bonus is that farmers do not need to dig over seedbeds, which saves time, money and labour. Mr. Milongo adds, “After 45 days they are ready to harvest. We sell both the leaves and the roots.”

He grows turnips to increase his income. His dream is to own his own small farm very soon. He says: “After 15 years of farming, it’s [only] now that I am making good profit margins. [After I have paid for] seeds, manure, soil preparation and so on, I have enough left over to live on and plan other projects.”

Unlike tomatoes, eggplants or endives, turnips are easy and cheap to grow and hardy. Most of Mr. Milongo’s buyers are West African, Chinese and Arab immigrants.

He says: “I can buy a box of [turnip] seeds for 5000 Central African francs [$9.60 U.S.]. I plant them in amongst the tomatoes, eggplants and peppers in ten seedbeds, 20 metres long and one metre wide. I also grow seven beds which have only turnips in them. From that, I earn 250,000 francs [$480 U.S.] after 45 days.”

Mr. Milongo used his profits to buy land near the town of Ngabari. He hopes to one day set up a small family farm there.

He has been desperate for several years to own his own farm. Like many other small producers, he has squatted on derelict land near Brazzaville. But he was constantly in fear of being expelled from the site.

The 50-year-old father of six works with his wife, Patricia Kiembé. Her main role is selling their produce at the market in Brazzaville, where she maintains good prices and good relationships with their customers. She says, “It was I who convinced my husband to grow turnips.”

The couple discovered the crop at a nearby Chinese-owned farm. Mrs. Kiembé observed that people at the market were interested in turnips for their therapeutic properties – the vegetables are thought to be good for the heart and intestines. There was strong demand from the Chinese community, both for food and as part of traditional medicines.

So they seized their opportunity. The couple bought the water pump with their first-year profits. Mrs. Kiembé adds, “Slowly but surely, our situation is developing for the better, and soon we will have our own farm where we can start to raise pigs.”

Mr. Milongo believes they are off to a good start. But he still faces huge difficulties, especially in the dry season when he cannot draw water from the wells. Sometimes he has to wait hours before he can resume irrigating. But despite these challenges, Mr. Milongo is full of confidence. He concludes: “If I can continue to generate these profits, in two or three years I’ll have my own farm.”

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FRW news in brief

1-Somalia: Radio station turns words into action

Like many African countries, Somalia is a predominantly oral society. This means that radio can be a powerful communication tool.

The many radio stations in Somalia compete for listeners, but Radio Ergo is the country’s only dedicated humanitarian radio service. Over the past three years, Radio Ergo has created a niche by making a positive difference in the lives of people across Somalia.

Radio Ergo’s programming is varied. Every day, listeners can tune in to dramas, talk shows, and interviews with experts on a range of humanitarian issues, including health, education, displacement, and weather warnings which, for example, give people time to move safely to higher ground.

To read the full article, go to: http://www.unocha.org/top-stories/all-stories/somalia-ocha-founded-radio-station-turns-words-action

2-Uganda: Rising temperatures mean pests and diseases more damaging to coffee

Coffee is Uganda’s single largest export earner. The East African nation is the largest exporter of coffee on the continent; Ethiopia consumes more than half of what it produces.

The Uganda Coffee Development Authority estimates that 85 per cent of Ugandan coffee is produced by small-scale farmers, the majority of whom own fields of half a hectare to two and a half hectares. The coffee sector employs three and a half million people.

But all is not well in the Ugandan coffee business. Dr. Africano Kangire from Uganda’s National Coffee Research Institute says that warmer than usual weather may be creating a breeding ground for pests and diseases.

To read the full article, go to: http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/09/as-uganda-heats-up-pests-and-disease-flourish-to-attack-its-top-export-crop/

3-Kenya: Farmers back referendum for more local aid

A growing number of impoverished Kenyan farmers are calling for a referendum to review the country’s constitution. They hope to improve their position under the country’s system of county governance.

Implemented in 2010, the Kenyan constitution devolved power to the county level, enabling counties to raise funds through their own levies. But according to lobby groups, the central government still oversees how the money is spent.

Isaac Ruto is the chairman of the council of regional governors, which supports the referendum campaign. He says, “The call for a referendum is because resources are not reaching marginalized Kenyans in various parts of the country.”

To read the full article, go to: http://www.trust.org/item/20141020082634-rjw65/

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Call for nominations: Freedom of Expression Awards

Journalists, digital activists and other free speech advocates can be nominated for the Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Awards. These awards honour individuals who speak out in dangerous and difficult conditions.

Index invites the public, NGOs, and media organizations to nominate individuals in four categories: campaigner, digital activist, journalist and artist.

Winners will be flown to London, England to attend the award ceremony in March 2015. In addition, they will be invited to join a fellowship training program which will help them maximize the scope and impact of their work for free expression.

The deadline for nominations is November 20, 2014. To nominate someone in any of the categories, go to: http://www.indexoncensorship.org/freedom-expression-awards-2015-nominations/

For more information, go to: http://www.indexoncensorship.org/awards2015

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International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists: November 2, 2014

The United Nations General Assembly has proclaimed November 2 as the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists. The date was chosen to commemorate the assassination of two French journalists in Mali on November 2, 2013.

Why is there an International Day of Commemoration?

  • 593 killings of journalists were condemned by UNESCO between 2006 and 2013. In 2012 alone, the UNESCO Director-General condemned the killing of 123 journalists, media workers, and social media producers of public interest journalism
  • Less than 6 % of the 593 cases have been resolved
  • 94% of killed journalists are local correspondents
  • 41% of killed journalists worked in the print media
  • Only one in 10 cases of crimes against journalists, social media producers and media workers has led to a conviction

These figures do not include the many journalists who suffer non-fatal attacks on a daily basis, including torture, forced disappearances, arbitrary detention, intimidation and harassment in both conflict and non-conflict situations. Women journalists also face specific risks, including sexual attacks.

When attacks on journalists go unpunished, it sends the message that reporting the “embarrassing truth” or “unwanted opinions” will get people in trouble. Society as a whole suffers from this impunity. The kind of news that is silenced is exactly the kind the public needs to know.

You can read the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity here: http://www.unesco.org/new/en/communication-and-information/freedom-of-expression/safety-of-journalists/un-plan-of-action/

For more information about the Day, go to the UNESCO website where you will find news of events and further resources: http://www.unesco.org/new/en/unesco/events/prizes-and-celebrations/celebrations/international-days/int-day-to-end-impunity/international-day-to-end-impunity-2014/

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Have you liked Barza on Facebook?

Did you know that Barza, our online community for African farm radio broadcasters, has a Facebook page?

We invite all of our Farm Radio Weekly (FRW) readers to “like” the Barza page. It’s easy! Go to: https://www.facebook.com/barzaradio?ref=hl and press on the like button.

That’s where you’ll also find posts with the latest issue of FRW, and posts about upcoming changes to Barza.

After you like the Barza Facebook page, we encourage you to click on the arrow pointing downward on the like button and then click on “Get notifications.” By doing this, you’ll ensure that you receive notifications from Facebook every time we post something on the Barza page.

We look forward to interacting with you on Facebook.

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How to find useful and reliable information about farming on the Internet

The huge amount of information now available on the Internet is creating new opportunities to find specific and reliable information. But it has also brought new challenges.

How can a broadcaster avoid getting lost in such an enormous volume of information? How can broadcasters ensure the reliability of the information they find? What websites regularly publish reliable information on farming-related topics? How can broadcasters rewrite this information in language that is understandable by farming audiences? And what can broadcasters do about conflicting information?

This guide is divided into five parts. Part one briefly describes strategies for finding, organizing and sharing information or “content” on the Internet.

Part two suggests some methods to help you ensure that the information you find on the Internet is reliable.

Part three provides a list of organizations and websites that are known to provide reliable information.

Part four offers advice on how to deal with conflicting information.

The guide closes by offering practical advice on how to translate technical farming language into words and phrases that are understandable by farmer audiences.

Click here to download the file as a Word document.

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