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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 #310

On the ground and in the air

Welcome to Farm Radio Weekly. Issue #310 looks at erosion, entrepreneurs and efforts to educate farmers how to best dry their groundnuts.

Pastoralists and farmers in northern Tanzania are facing serious problems with soil erosion. Long, deep chasms caused by heavy rains and livestock movements are not only ruining farmland, but are dangerous to people and animals.

Soungalo Traoré was repairing a radio one day when he realized the set contained a transmitter powerful enough to broadcast to nearby houses. With some hard work and a little financial assistance, he and a colleague have turned the radio set into a community radio station!

Groundnut farmers often experience aflatoxin problems caused by fungal infections in poorly dried harvests. A project in Malawi used field days and radio programs to spread the message about how to dry groundnut pods more effectively with Mandela cocks.

The Script of the week contains more information about how to prevent aflatoxin in groundnuts. Read about it below and use the script to inform your listening audience how to avoid this unpleasant and toxic problem.

Keep broadcasting!

-the Farm Radio Weekly team

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Tanzania: Cattle trails become dangerous erosion ‘super-highways’ (by Agnes Daniel and Loomoni Morwo, for Farm Radio Weekly)

Jeremiah Chuma stares down into a chasm. He is standing only a stone’s throw from his family home in Ngarash, a village 30 kilometres west of Arusha. The three-kilometre-long and six-metre-deep korongo, or canyon, cuts across his land like a knife wound.

Mr. Chuma is a 49-year-old father of six who grows maize, beans, coffee and flowers on three and a quarter hectares of land. The land in front of his house used to be a passageway for livestock, but has become so eroded that it is dangerous for both people and animals.

Mr. Chuma looks north across the dry, dusty plains toward the green pastures of northern Tanzania’s Monduli Mountains. Over the last 20 years, wind and water have seriously eroded the clay-rich soils. Unfortunately, the environmental devastation doesn’t stop at Mr. Chuma’s doorstep. The korongo continues south, cutting through other farming villages.

Mr. Chuma says the problem was originally caused by locals who gathered their cattle here before moving the herds north to graze in the mountains. He explains, “Over time, the path became over-grazed and the soil started to erode … I give a warning to anyone who comes on my land, and I restrict any cattle from grazing here. Livestock have fallen in and died.”

Pastoralists such as the Maasai suffer financially when they lose animals; their livestock are their livelihoods.

Nestled in the surrounding hills is the village of Lashaine, where Orkeeswa Secondary School students have a bird’s eye view of the environmental impact caused by the many korongo which scar the landscape. Ellie Turner is the school’s geography teacher. She is encouraging her students to take an interest in climate change.

Ms. Turner says: “I’ve spoken to a lot of older people about the climate here. They say it has become much drier and the rains have been less regular … we get short, intense rainfall which [erodes] the topsoil.” The heavy rains wash away the tightly packed clay soil and vegetation, deepening the korongos.

The students visited farming communities as part of their environmental studies. They were tasked with finding out how the villagers are affected by the korongos, and what they are doing to counter the threat.

The students spoke with Martha Lesian in the village of Ngarash. The 42-year-old mother of nine has lost five cows, two calves and part of her farmland to an encroaching korongo.

Mrs. Lesian says, “My farmland has been reduced because of the erosion. I was growing maize on one acre of land. It was enough to feed my family. Now I have to buy two bags of maize every month.”

She told the students that two people have died in the korongo. A girl who attended the village primary school fell in during the rainy season and drowned, and a woman on her way to the market in Monduli took a shortcut through the steep korongo, but fell in and died.

Mrs. Lesian says: “I warn children playing near it to stay away. I also warn people trying to cross it, especially during the rainy season. But many don’t listen.”

Residents in the nearby village of Lashaine have built bridges over the steepest parts of the korongo. Mr. Chuma showed students how he and other villagers have planted minyaa trees and embraced counter-erosion measures such as building soil dams inside the korongo.

He says: “The [tree] roots help bind the soil, thus trapping it and decreasing the depth of [the korongo]. Also, the trees give off an unappealing scent to cattle, discouraging them from coming near.” The community hopes that these efforts will prevent the damage from getting worse.

Agnes Daniel and Loomoni Morwo are students at Orkeeswa Secondary School in Monduli, Tanzania. They were assisted in researching and writing this article by Farm Radio International volunteer, Adam Bemma.

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Mali: From radio repairmen to radio station proprietors (by Meli Rostand, for Farm Radio Weekly)

Twenty years ago, Soungalo Traoré owned a radio repair workshop and employed a young man named Paul Coulibaly as his apprentice. The men lived in Zana, a village 140 kilometres east of Bamako, the capital city of Mali. Though the village is remote, it is now well known, thanks to the presence of Radio Etoile de Zana.

One day, Mr. Traoré sat down in his workshop to repair two radio sets. While working on the first set, he realized that the other radio was broadcasting the same program through its speakers. He was surprised. But after some experimentation, he realized that the set he had been working on contained a broadcasting device – and the second set was receiving its signal.

He made a thorough study of the system, and was inspired to build a transmitter that could send radio signals over a range of several hundred metres. At first, he was the object of the villagers’ ridicule, but his broadcasts soon captured the attention of the entire village.

This was the birth of Radio Etoile de Zana. The station started with music; villagers paid 25 or 50 West African francs [$0.05-0.10 U.S.] to request songs.

A pastor who lived in Bamako heard about the new radio station while on a trip back to Zana, his home village. He suggested that the two men request assistance from the Association Chrétienne pour la Communication au Mali.

The Association approved their request and equipped the station with modern tools – a transmitter, keyboard, pole, antenna, solar-powered batteries, solar panels and cassette players. In exchange, the station agreed to contribute 10% of its income to the Association. The village got together and contributed a two-room building to house the new station. Radio Etoile de Zana now broadcasts not only to Zana, but to several other villages within its 50-kilometre range.

Mr. Traoré’s former apprentice Paul Coulibaly was appointed Station Manager, thanks to his basic knowledge of French, and he ensures that the station is well-managed. Soungalo Traoré is Director of Programs and Technical Departments. He also hosts the main farmer program, Faso Dembe.

In July and August 2014, Meli Rostand conducted research for Farm Radio International at six radio stations in Mali and Burkina Faso, including Radio Etoile de Zana. 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, while Meli’s work concentrated 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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Malawi: Farmers use Mandela cocks to dry and preserve groundnuts (by Mark Ndipita, for Farm Radio Weekly)

Linesi Banda tries to pick up a sack of unshelled groundnuts at her home in Chiosya, a village 19 kilometres north of Kamwendo trading centre. But the sack is too heavy. She calls her husband to help her carry it out of the house. Together, they load the sack on their bicycle and take it to Kamwendo market.

Groundnuts are always in high demand at this market in Mchinji district, 100 kilometres west of Malawi’s capital, Lilongwe.

Mrs. Banda started growing groundnuts on her two hectare plot in 1995. But as time went by, she wanted to quit. She received very low prices for her poor quality, ungraded groundnuts. Post-harvest losses and infection with aflatoxin ate up her profit.

Mrs. Banda says: “Before 2010. I did not know how to harvest, dry, grade or store my groundnuts, and that was why I was bringing poor quality [produce] to the market.”

She learnt about good management practices in 2010 at a field day organized by Farm Radio Trust and government extension workers, as part of an Irish Aid project. She explains: “I was impressed to learn from other farmers who were drying groundnuts using a Mandela cock in order to avoid aflatoxin [and] loss of weight, and for protection from rain, sun and animals.”

In the Mandela cock method, farmers stack groundnut stalks in a circle on top of a platform, with the pods facing upwards. This allows the pods to dry should they get wet, saving them from aflatoxin infection and other damage.

George Kasokola is the agricultural extension worker for the Kamwendo area. He says: “Aflatoxin was the biggest problem groundnut farmers were facing, but now there is a lot of awareness. We are encouraging farmers through field days and radio to protect the crop – from harvesting, drying, and grading up to storage.”

Scolasitika Six is a groundnut farmer from nearby Kumangilira who also attended the field day. She says: “I learnt many things, including [the] Mandela cock. We were advised to listen to Farm Radio Trust radio programs from Mudzi Wathu community radio and other radio stations, in order to learn more on groundnut farming.”

Mrs. Banda also listened to the radio programs with keen interest. She first used a Mandela cock to dry her groundnut harvest in 2011. She says: “My groundnuts that year had less aflatoxin, and the weight was amazing. I also observed less post-harvest loss because rats, termites and other livestock failed to eat the pods.”

Elasimo Ali is another groundnut farmer who learnt best practices for growing groundnuts by listening to the radio. He says, “With the Mandela cock, I am able to protect my produce and make profits from [only] two acres.”

Now that she is earning a profit, Mrs. Banda is better able to support her family. She says, “Before, I used to earn [$50 U.S.] in a year on [two hectares], but now I get [$800 U.S.] because I always sell high quality groundnuts. I am now able to send my children to school and I have managed to build a house.”

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FRW news in brief

1-Mozambique: Farmers choose cassava over hybrid maize

The Mozambique Institute of Agricultural Research has developed high yielding cassava varieties that resist mosaic disease.

The new, widely adopted varieties are being used by farmers who supply the brewing industry. They are proving more popular than hybrid maize varieties, as farmers consider the cassava better able to withstand tough climatic conditions and a lack of inputs.

To read the full article, go to: http://spore.cta.int/en/component/content/article/278-spore/agriculture-2/10565-cooperatives

2-Uganda: Broadcaster’s conviction spurs call to end cases of criminal defamation

Radio journalist Ronald Ssembuusi has been ordered to pay a fine of $375 U.S. or face one year’s imprisonment, after being convicted of criminal defamation.

In 2011, Mr. Ssembuusi reported on CBS Radio that a former local politician was being investigated in connection with the disappearance of solar panels. Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda is leading calls for the law on criminal defamation to be repealed.

The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights passed a resolution in November 2010 that states: “Criminal defamation laws constitute a serious interference with freedom of expression and impede … the role of the media as a watchdog.”

To read the full article, go to: https://www.ifex.org/uganda/2014/10/20/ssembuusi_sentenced/

3-Kenya: Warmer days a catastrophe in the making for pastoralists

Extreme weather events and more frequent and prolonged dry spells are making life difficult for pastoralist communities.

The recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report predicted that temperatures in Africa, particularly in the more arid regions, are likely to rise more quickly than in other land areas.

Dr. George Keya, assistant director for Range and Arid Lands Research, said that if the short rains fail this year, “We will be facing a catastrophe in arid and semi-arid areas where pastoralists live.”

To read the full article, go to: http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/10/warmer-days-a-catastrophe-in-the-making-for-kenyas-pastoralists/

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Call for applications: Environmental journalism grants

The Society of Environmental Journalists (SEJ) is accepting applications for grants to support environmental reporting and entrepreneurial ventures around the world. The grants provide incentives and support to journalists reporting on environmental issues and struggling financially to complete a project.

The $3,500 U.S. grants cover expenses such as project-related travel, training, research materials, environmental testing and other direct expenses related to completion of a project.

Both SEJ members and non-members can apply for the grants, as long as their work is within the field of journalism. Non-members must pay a $40 U.S. application fee, which can be offset against a year’s membership fees.

The deadline to apply is November 15, 2014.

For more information, go to: http://www.sej.org/initiatives/fund%20for%20environmental%20journalism/overview

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Community seed banks: Junior Farmer Field and Life School − Facilitator’s guide

Farmers and their families have been saving seeds for millennia. Seed saving has allowed farmers to cultivate a large number of local varieties which are adapted to different environmental conditions, including shortage of water, strong winds, and limited soil nutrients.

Community seed banks can help farmers access seeds for the next planting season, or can act as an emergency seed supply when crops are damaged or destroyed. In view of the growing impact of climate change on agricultural production, planting local varieties with a high degree of genetic diversity is critically important. Such varieties can better withstand and adapt to environmental stresses and changes.

This 30-page handbook from the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization contains useful information for farmers and community leaders who want to encourage young people to create their own local seed bank.

The guidebook can be downloaded free from the FAO website: http://www.fao.org/publications/card/en/c/25948b52-993f-4da9-a682-d44c952376df/

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Fill out the survey for Pack 99 and you could win $50 U.S.

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 (.docx).

Voices 99(PDF)
Table of contents
Introduction to cassava value chain
Processing cassava brings wealth to farmers
Cassava is wealth: New harmonized standards for processing cassava flour in East and Central Africa
It’s better to sell together: The benefits of collective marketing
Mother of twins: New maize variety enriches and nourishes Ugandan farmers
Farmers learn about compost manure on the radio – with great results!
Ethiopian farmers learn new practices to prevent pest damage in chickpeas and lentils
Rwandan farmers show that sweet potatoes can be a profitable crop to grow and to process into other foods
How to find useful and reliable information about farming on the Internet
How to establish and manage successful radio listening groups

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 November 15th. Tell your colleagues to fill it out too! Fill out the survey here.

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A friend in need is a friend indeed

This week’s story from Malawi talks about using Mandela cocks to dry groundnuts in the field. In October 2013, FRI distributed a series of scripts on groundnut production, including A friend in need is a friend indeed.

A friend in need is a friend indeed is a four-episode drama that includes a fictional interview with an agricultural scientist after each episode. The drama and the interviews focus on farming practices that reduce aflatoxin contamination in groundnuts. Aflatoxin is a toxic, highly carcinogenic substance that is produced by microscopic organisms called fungi (named “germs” in the drama). The fungi infect groundnuts, as well as maize and other crops, and cause the foods to rot. The fungi produce aflatoxin as part of the infection process.

The drama highlights the steps farmers can take to prevent aflatoxin contamination in groundnuts. The first episode concentrates on finding aflatoxin-free groundnuts to plant. Later episodes focus on ways to prevent aflatoxin contamination in the field and post-harvest, including using Mandela cocks.

Episode 1: http://barza.fm/radio-resource-packs/package-97-growing-groundnuts/a-friend-in-need-is-a-friend-indeed-keeping-your-groundnuts-free-from-aflatoxin-contamination-part-i-charity-begins-at-home/

Episode 2: http://barza.fm/radio-resource-packs/package-97-growing-groundnuts/a-friend-in-need-is-a-friend-indeed-keeping-your-groundnuts-free-from-aflatoxin-contamination-part-2-dodging-a-blow-depends-on-whether-you-see-the-blow-coming-quickly-enough/

Episode 3: http://barza.fm/radio-resource-packs/package-97-growing-groundnuts/a-friend-in-need-is-a-friend-indeed-keeping-your-groundnuts-free-from-aflatoxin-contamination-part-3-a-good-thing-does-not-come-without-labour/

Episode 4: http://barza.fm/radio-resource-packs/package-97-growing-groundnuts/a-friend-in-need-is-a-friend-indeed-keeping-your-groundnuts-free-from-aflatoxin-contamination-part-4-when-its-yours-you-are-free-to-open-and-see-it-any-time-you-want/

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